Director Miner (who'd been the production manager on the original FRIDAY THE 13TH) frames this virtually plot-less body count sequel with a stylish opening and suspenseful ending, but the middle portion, more or less a collage of progressively tiresome, censor-trimmed, stalk-n-slash scenes, bogs this entry down a bit. Not that it mattered any: While this did roughly about half the business of the original in theaters, 21 million in ticket sales was certainly nothing to sneeze at, especially 21 million on a modest 1.25 million budget. Likely because of pressure from slasher-hating moralist critics of the day, Paramount still tried their best to distance themselves from these "disreputable" films; even attempting to end the series prematurely with the "Final Chapter" in 1984, but the lure of the almighty dollar ended up winning out in the long run and rendered what anyone had to say null and void. You'd have to be the worst businessperson in the world to give up on something that was consistently returning 10 - 20 times the initial investment each and every time, right? Looking at Paramount's other releases for 1981, Friday 2 was actually their second most profitable film of the year behind only Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark. Other major releases from the studio, like Warren Beatty's heavily-promoted Reds (which made 40 million but on a 35 million budget), couldn't even compete.
As Part 2 opens, Alice (Adrienne King), the sole survivor of the first massacre at Camp Crystal Lake (aka "Camp Blood") is being haunted by memories of barely surviving that terror-filled night. But someone is watching, as we can tell from an unidentified foot crashing down in a puddle of water in front of her apartment and lots of POV camerawork. Before we know it (and after a cliched cat-jumping-in-from-window false alarm), the mystery assailant sneaks in and sticks an ice pick into her head. By now, we all know the killer is Jason, hulking undead son of psycho mommy Mrs. Voorhees. After getting revenge on the woman who made his mama lose her head, Jason decides to follow in dear dead mum's footsteps by going back to camp to hack away at a new batch of dope-smoking, oversexed twenty-something counselors "five years" after the events in the original. The young olks in this entry are opening up a camp near where Camp Crystal Lake was, but that turns out to be close enough.
After our collection of ill-defined knife fodder filters into the counselor training center, owner Paul Holt (John Furey) decides to rally the troops by informing them that "...being a camp counselor isn't the greatest summer job like everybody thinks it is." Although he turns out to be correct in this particular instance, it's probably not in the way everyone was expecting. Later that night around a campfire, Paul decides to make everyone further question their seasonal career choices by telling them all about the legend of Jason, how his body was never recovered from the lake, how the sole person who could vouch for his existence mysteriously disappeared and how this "demented creature" is rumored to still be lurking in the woods. Nice! That may be even worse than his previous warning to all the chicks that if they don't keep clean during their menstrual cycles they'll get mauled by bears. If only poor Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney) hadn't been garroted before he could issue his obligatory "death curse" forecast of doom...
So following a strenuous first day of training, which consists solely of jogging, hiking, eating hot dogs and swimming, Paul offers everyone the opportunity to go into town one last time to get drunk. Some take him up on that offer. Others probably wish they had. Jason, still one entry away from getting his trademark hockey mask, then prowls around and kills all the stragglers off. A cop gets a hammer to the back of the head, a peeping tom gets his throat slashed with a machete while hanging upside down, a guy in a wheelchair gets a machete to the face and then rolls backwards down some stairs and a lovemaking couple get skewered together with a spear; one of several instances of the director, er, "paying homage" to Mario Bava's BAY OF BLOOD (1971). After the supporting cast has been adequately trimmed down, a few others head back to camp to face off against the killer. Our heroine this time out is Ginny (Amy Steel), a child psychology major who may want to keep her career options open if she continues using phrases like "frightened retard."
Overall, I had pretty mixed feelings about this one. The opening recap bit with King (minus the over-done flashback footage) was a decent starter, the last 15 minutes feature some of the best jump scares of the entire series and it's interesting seeing Jason wearing a tater sack over his head instead of the hockey mask, even though they clearly just copied this look directly from The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976). Once Jason is finally unmasked at the end, the make-up design (courtesy of fx man Carl Fullerton) is also one of his scariest looks. The rest? Well, I can't say gratuitous killer POV shots stalking a mostly dull cast resulting in unimaginative and near-bloodless murders exactly wowed me. Just like with the original, there had to be slight trims on some of the death scenes to secure an R rating. However, I don't think second-long snips here and there (less than 50 seconds was excised) really could have hurt the film a whole lot since they never interfere with the flow or coherence and none of the murders were all that gory to begin with.
Betsy Palmer ("Mrs. Voorhees") is seen in flashback footage from the first movie and a few seconds of new footage (she was hired for just a day's worth of shooting). The cast also includes Kirsten Baker (who provides all of the nudity during a skinny dip scene), Stu Charno (from Carpenter's CHRISTINE), Lauren-Marie Taylor (from the slasher Girls Nite Out), Russell Todd (Chopping Mall), Marta Kober. and Muffin the dog. Jason is played by both Warrington Gillette and an unbilled Steve Dash. Harry Manfredini did the score again and screenwriter Ron Kurz also wrote a novelization for the film, which was published in 1988.
Le tueur du vendredi = The Killer Friday [France]
Øksemorderen = Axe Murderer [Denmark]
Freitag, der 13. - Jason kehrt zurück = Friday the 13th: Jason Returns [Germany]
L'assassino ti siede accanto = The Murderer Sitting Next to You [Italy]
13. Gün = 13th Day [Turkey]
Since there's a huge following for these films and many fans want to know every last detail about them, there are numerous exhaustive books and documentaries about the series, most notably the 320-page "Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th" book, which was itself turned into a 400 minute (!) documentary in 2013. I'm sure it puts the 90 minute documentary His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th (2009), released a whole 4 years earlier, to shame.