After FRIDAY THE 13TH became the surprise sleeper hit of 1980, Paramount became antsy for a quick sequel to rush into theaters less than a year after the release of the first film. Even though FRIDAY THE 13th's denouement seemingly left the story with nowhere to go, screenwriter Ron Kurz (EYES OF A STRANGER) and director Steve Miner (a long-time associate of Sean Cunningham, who directed the first film) crafted an even better horror film than the trendsetting original. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is better directed and contains more and better shocks. The gore is less (makeup effects whiz Tom Savini was replaced by Carl Fullerton, who likely went easy on the red stuff with an R rating in mind), but the murders are more interesting. Plus, plucky actress Amy Steel, who plays Final Girl Ginny Field, is a sharper (heh) and more sympathetic lead than F13's drippy Adrienne King. Even though the story is more or less a retread of the first film, the final half-hour really is a barnburner, a suspenseful, even scary ride that kept me in suspense right down to its final shock.
PART 2 takes place, not at Camp Crystal Lake, but at the next summer camp down the road, where--gee whiz--more teenage counselors gather to prepare for the camp's grand opening and the arrival of this year's kids. Once again, the counselors are bumped off one by one in variously bloody ways--a machete to the face, throat slashing, really any sharp instrument will do. The killer is the deformed, psychotic and presumably indestructible Jason Voorhees (credited to Warrington Gillette), who rips and tears his way through the cast out of revenge for his dead mother, whose head he keeps on the mantel inside his dilapidated shack.
There's little more to add, other than that PART 2 offers, besides a higher body count, a bit more nudity than the original (thanks to the pneumatic Kirsten Baker), another terrific Harry Manfredini score and Connecticut locations. Miner does a good job keeping the terror well-paced, and earned the right to direct the next sequel too. Though Gillette contractually receives screen credit for portraying burlap-bagged Jason Voorhees, the actor notoriously balked early in production at the extensive makeup and stuntwork involved with the role. Outside of the tense (off- and on-screen) climax, little of Gillette’s performance is in the film. Stuntman Steve Daskawisz does most of the heavy lifting as Jason, even becoming injured during a fight scene when Amy Steel smacked his arm with the sharp side of a machete. Adrienne King briefly but memorably reprises her role from the original F13, Betsy Palmer appears in archive footage and Walt Gorney is back as Crazy Ralph.
Though not as financially successful as its predecessor, FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2 did well enough to lead to a third movie, which was lensed in 3D and released during the summer of 1982.