The Eighties Fever: ‘Friday the 13th Part 2’ (1981)

What happens when you review thirty year old films from the perspective of someone who gets classified as a millennial, but wouldn’t really consider himself one? With both popular and obscure films on the list, it’s a mixture of new insights into old films, all while celebrating what might just be the greatest decade ever. This is The Eighties Fever.

Viewing: First Time

In my review of Friday the 13th, I mentioned how despite everyone calling it a blatant Halloween ripoff, I think it falls closer to ripping off Psycho. After all, the main killer’s psyche is fractured and she is almost slipping into the mind of Jason to do her killings. Well, Friday the 13th Part 2 decides to just say, “Fuck it, let’s just go full steam ahead on the killer having repressed mommy issues.”

I went into this movie knowing that Jason Voorhees was actually going to be the killer, and that he was going to be wearing a sack on his head instead of his iconic hockey mask. I didn’t know anything else except that it was probably going to involve Camp Crystal Lake and feature sexually active teenagers. Basically, I won Friday the 13th Bingo.

New counselors. Different camp. Same lake. That’s the tagline I thought of while watching Part 2. You can set it at a different camp and have a whole new set of counselors, but that lake is what connects it all. But before I dive into the meat and bones of the film, I want to take a look at the opening fifteen minutes, and why this film actually feels like a second part of a narrative.

Part 2 opens on a small town street and immediately I thought, “Oh, so they do rip off Halloween.” That alone made me think I was getting a radically different followup where Jason kills a bunch of teenagers in a town ala Michael in Halloween. We cut to Alice (Adrienne King; who gets third billing despite only showing up at the beginning, mind you) who is having vivid night terrors of her time at Camp Crystal Lake. Unfortunately, for the viewer, that means having to rewatch the ending of the first film for no reason whatsoever except to remind us that “oh, yes, this did actually happen.” Of course, I dismissed this talking down to your audience when Alice opened her fridge and saw the head of Mrs. Voorhees. I then understood why they had to remind the audience what happened in the last film, or probably everyone would have been wondering who’s head was that.

And then things get interesting. Jason appears and rams an ice pick into Alice’s head killing her. Before that moment I was unsure whether Part 2 was setting up the cliche where the main heroine avoids death in every film and is “safe” or whether she was going to be killed off in the opening to pave the way for a new set of characters. I had hedged my bet on the former, but was pleasantly surprised that it went the latter. In fact, Alice’s death holds some weight to the narrative that follows. Paul (John Furey) uses Alice’s death to stoke the fire that Jason is still alive.

And alive he is. And wearing a sack on his head. Which I wondered for the whole film why that was until I saw that mangled face of his. Which led me to wonder how almost drowning and then living in the woods for thirty years would deform someone that badly. And then I looked it up and realized that Part 3 just retcons that reveal away as a dream. So then I just gave up and admitted that the sack look is actually pretty badass. I would go as far as to say it is a better look than the hockey mask. All you have is one eye staring back at you. It’s haunting.

Now just because Jason knows how to dress himself to look like a horror figure, doesn’t mean he knows how to kill like one. In my mind, a killer should kill the body and then erase all evidence of the killing. Just like Norman Bates does in Psycho. However, Jason just follows his mom’s methods and leaves blood everywhere or strings them up against the back of the door or just leaves them lying around. It’s almost as if they want everyone to know there is a killer loose before they actually get to kill everyone! That’s literally what runs through my mind watching these two films and seeing the Voorhees just not give two shits about cleaning up after themselves.

If gratuitous violence is one thing Friday the 13th is known for, let’s talk about the other: teenage sexuality. This film really ramps up the horniness of their characters. Discount Kevin Bacon (Bill Randolph‘s Jeff) and his girlfriend get it on; Wheels (Tom McBride‘s Mark) and Vickie (Lauren-Marie Taylor); Square Wheels (Russell Todd‘s Scott) and Super Hot 80s Athletic Model (Kirsten Baker‘s Terry); it seems that everyone just wants to get it on. And then on a slightly connected note, there’s all this talk about menstrual cycles and looking out for bears leading me to think that was foreshadowing for a bear showing up and mauling Jason!

The actual ending involves some weird psychological mind play between Ginny (Amy Steel) and Jason. It’s an interesting end for a horror film. Too bad that’s not the whole ending. Instead we get another pointless tacked on ending where Jason appears unmasked leaping from a window attacking Ginny, which then cuts to her getting wheeled into an ambulance. Paul’s fate is left ambiguous. Jason actually appearing is left ambiguous. It’s basically a rehash of the first film’s ending. It works, but its sort of a letdown.

That being said, Part 2 is definitely the superior film. I think of it as the Catching Fire to The Hunger Games where Catching Fire is essentially a much better remake of the the first film while still acting as a sequel. Part 2 accomplishes all of that, with slightly worse acting. Okay, really only Discount Kevin Bacon’s girlfriend was terrible, I mean she was just reading off her lines one after the other with no real emotion. Otherwise, I enjoyed actually seeing the killer on screen instead of just shaky cam. The ending is a tad better, and I am all for horror sequels that actually connect to the original. Fingers crossed that this slight uptake in quality continues as we move along into Part 3.

Grade: 8.1/10

Side note: I love these trailers. I want whoever edited them to have gotten a nice Christmas bonus.