I always have fonder memories of Friday the 13th Part 2 than I do of the original. It feels like this is where the series begins good and proper. It’s the first one to feature Jason as the killer and is also the first one to be consciously produced to please a fanbase. After the unexpected financial success of Friday the 13th, Paramount happily agreed to distribute a sequel and this is the result.
I actually think Part 2 was the first Friday the 13th I ever saw but it’s been many, many years since I laid eyes on it. Sadly, looking at it today I’m surprised at how little it improves on the original. It’s a better film technically and has more of an identity but most of it remains mindless and plain. An unfortunate run-in with the MPAA would also mean much of the intended gore and brutality was trimmed away making this one of the tamer films in the Friday franchise.
That being said, the things I like I like a lot. I really enjoy Jason’s crude appearance here – the dungarees, sack and pick-axe are iconic in their own way – and the simplistic way he is introduced. The original film’s director Sean S. Cunningham famously left the franchise because he found the idea of promoting Jason to the main antagonist nonsensical (remember Jason was only featured as a child in part 1). The film never really justifies Jason’s return (like, what the hell has he been doing all these years?) but in all honesty it’s something we just accept now. He first shows up here as a pair of feet splashing through a puddle in a suburban neighbourhood before he finally offs Alice, the heroine of the previous film. I like the idea of Jason searching for her in the yellow pages and catching a bus to avenge his mother’s death. You would think a Jason v. Alice face/off would be the crux of the sequel but it is instead truncated into the pre-credits kill. Weird. But then again storytelling was never the strong-point of these movies.
The kids in Part 2 are better than the first bunch. There’s no Kevin Bacon but I think this film’s final girl, Ginny (Amy Steele), is one of the best the series ever had. The image of her holding up a pitchfork to camera ready to defend herself is one of the franchise’s defining moments as far as I’m concerned and when I think of a “final girl”, that shot is one of the first my brain jumps to. So cool. The final jump-scare is a good one too. Seeing Jason’s horribly disfigured face smashing through that window really struck a nerve with me the first time I saw it and the slow motion makes it even more hallucinatory. Sure the whole film is a beat-for-beat re-tread of the original but I prefer the way they come across here. This thing is just far more memorable than the original which, again, might be down to me seeing it first but I suspect it’s also because the film is overall better made.