Paramount // 1981 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // June 16th, 2009
The day you count on for terror is not over.
One's opinion on Friday the 13th Part 2 is heavily dependent on one's age in 1981, the year the film was released. For old fuddy duddies, who aren't amused by an ice pick driven into a young women's skull, the movie is too gory. For those under thirty, who have cut their teeth on the torture porn of the Saw movies, Friday the 13th Part 2 is at best a curio, an artifact of a simpler time when machetes to the face was considered creative. But if the 1980s were your formative years -- as they were for me -- this should be right in your Goldilocks Zone.
That isn't to say the film doesn't have major deficiencies -- I mean, Jason Voorhees isn't even wearing his ol' time hockey mask. Instead, he dons a soiled pillowcase, which somehow never gained iconic status. The pillowcase is actually an apt metaphor for the entire movie, which is as nondescript and rote as any horror film I've ever seen. There are cursory allusions to Jason's backstory and his desire for revenge, but really this film is just a series of oversexed, mouthy teenagers being offed in both creative (lovers getting speared like a club sandwich) and not-so-creative ways.
That said, the film has two saving graces: one is the competent direction of Steve Miner, who went on to become a veteran television director, his career including ten episodes of The Wonder Years. Miner doesn't reinvent the horror genre, but he has created a visually interesting film and mined all the scares he can out the script. Additionally, with some credit to Miner and a lot of credit to time, Friday the 13th Part 2 almost perfectly embodies 1980s pop culture kitsch; that mixture of earnestness, lazy humor, and horrible fashion which somehow seems precious and endearing in retrospect. How can anybody who came of age in that decade not love the scene of two teenagers flirting over a Mattel handheld video game?
While this is hardly an example of great cinema, it's about as good as you could expect a horror sequel from the 1980s to be. You'll laugh (or at least snicker), get nostalgic, and might even experience a few scares. That's enough to earn a recommendation.
One other great asset is the surprising quality of the picture and sound of this low-budget flick on Blu-ray. Friday the 13th Part 2 was already remastered earlier this year for a rerelease on DVD, and this Blu-ray uses the same hi-def master, improving what was already a solid transfer. Though there are trace amounts of speck, the picture is mostly clean, bright, and vivid in the daytime, with solid and consistent blacks in the night. While it's still evident that this is a low-budget film from almost thirty years ago, for someone who grew up watching this on VHS, the new print is a revelation.
The sound has been remixed into a Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 Surround, which is nice, but doesn't have much source material to show off. The sparse score (as most good horror movie scores are) isn't greatly helped by the upgrade, nor the dozen or so shock music cues or teenage screams.
The extras on the Blu-ray mirror those on this year's Deluxe Edition DVD, though they are presented in HD. Unfortunately, there is nothing substantial -- such as a commentary track or cast interviews -- that is specific to this film. Instead we have one strong featurette, "Inside Crystal Lake Memories" -- which helpfully details some of the deleted gore from the movie, and its cheesy (even for a 1980s horror movie) alternative ending -- and a few others on the Friday the 13th series as whole. "Horror Conventions" and "Jason Forever" are both featurettes on conventions, with "Jason Forever," a panel discussion in which many actors who have played Jason share their stories, probably being of more interest.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Short film