After the wild success of Friday the 13th, a sequel was immediately churned out to compete with the Friday/Halloween imitators that were steadily flooding the market, with the logic being that a sequel to one of the films that started it all would be the obvious choice of the masses. This theory proved valid, even though said sequel lacked much of what made the first film so effective, and would be the start of what would be a long and gradual decline in both quality and substance (albeit not entertainment value).
It has been five years since the massacre at Camp Crystal Lake in which Pamela Voorhees slashed her way through a group of counselors on behalf of her dearly departed son, Jason, who had drowned in the lake decades before. Across the lake from "Camp Blood", a new group of counselors are being trained for their summer duties, including the snarky Ginny (Amy Steele), her beau Paul (John Furey), and a collection of nubile young flesh primed and ready for all manner of axing, knifing, crushing, strangling and slicing at the hands of Jason, who is now all grown up and wearing a potato sack on his head.
Friday the 13th Part 2 changes up the formula of the first film as we now know who the killer is. This, of course, lessens the suspense, but ups the camp value, and, as a result, makes for more of a slasher romp than its predecessor. This is where audiences first began cheering for Jason over the various caricatures director Steve Miner placed in his path, and, where Sean S. Cunningham's film provided the blueprint for the series (and the genre as a whole), Miner's sequel would go on to define it, for better or worse.
This is also one of the more controversial entries in the series amongst horror aficionados, as it is this film that many claim ripped off Mario Bava's classic, Bay of Blood (aka; Twitch of the Death Nerve). After seeing Bay of Blood for myself, I can attest to the similarities, especially in a few of the films kill scenes which are inexplicably comparable to Bava's. Cunningham and Miner are on record as saying they were completely unaware of Bava's movie, of course, so they insist that any similarities are completely coincidental, but I'd recommend comparing the two, yourself, and coming to your own conclusions.
Potential plagiarism aside, Friday the 13th Part 2 is goofy fun, sporting some pretty gruesome killings, a lot of superfluous nudity, and is light years better than a lot of the slasher films of its era (including most of the other installments in the Friday series). Steel makes for a great "girl next door" type heroine, and this is probably the most threatening Jason in the entire series, as this model is more human (he runs, hides, cries out in pain, etc) than the later "zombie" style versions. I also favor the potato sack look over the now-iconic hockey mask, as it just creeps me the hell out, but I'm also afraid of spiders, gas stoves, and Lady Ga Ga, so make of that what you will.
Friday the 13th Part 2 arrives on Blu-ray with a neatly framed 1.78:1 1080p transfer that features a fair amount of cinematic grain, but is otherwise clean as a whistle. Daylight and indoor sequences look downright gorgeous, with a surprising amount of depth and detail, but the image falters somewhat when the lights go out. Blacks aren't quite as inky as one would like, and I noticed some banding in the night skies. There's a grain spike in the darker sequences, as well, and detail takes a bit of a hit. Still, this is just pickin' nits. I've never seen the film look better, and I was thoroughly jazzed by the overall image quality. It's not perfect, but it's as close as this film is likely to get.
The audio doesn't fare as well. The Dolby True HD 5.1 track is serviceable, but it lacks the immersive quality we've come to expect from multichannel HD audio, and this is, of course, due to the fact that the folks responsible for this disc were working with an already troublesome mono source track. Harry Manfredini's score fares well, displaying a nice organic quality, but bass is somewhat lacking, and dialogue, while crisp and clear, borders on tinny. It's what I expected, to be honest, so I'm not disappointed.
Paramount is really making up for those old barebones DVD releases lately, packing in loads of great features into their Friday the 13th reissues. This set is no exception, as it offers up a few welcome goodies including:
Inside Crystal Lake Memories (HD): A look at one of my favorite coffee table books, author Peter Bracke's mammoth testament to all things Friday the 13th. It's a bit of a fluff piece, but Bracke's extensive knowledge of the subject matter and wry sense of humor show why this book is definitely worth seeking out!
Friday's Legacy - Horror Conventions (HD): This feature looks at the convention circuit, with a recent Screamfest serving as an example of Friday fandom in full gear. Interviews with the likes of Tom Savini and Betsy Palmer, as well as fans and convention organizers, show how deep the love for this series runs amongst the faithful, even if it's all a bit...well...sad.
Lost Tales From Camp Blood (HD): I'm not a big fan of these cheaply made, poorly acted, made for DVD shorts, but this is part two of them. I'm guessing they'll be included on every F13 Blu-ray from here on out, but the connection to Friday the 13th is vicarious at best. I appreciate the effort, but I'd rather get a commentary track or some of the deleted material/outtakes that are floating around out there.
Jason Forever (SD): This gathering of Jasons features Kane Hodder, Ari Lohman, Warrington Gillette, and C.J. Graham, each discussing their experiences behind-the-mask. It's an entertaining short, and nice to see these guys in their decidedly less menacing "street clothes".
Rounding out the extras is the film's trailer (HD)
Friday the 13th Part 2 is more in line with the rest of the sequels in the series and, therefore, a little more accessible to fans looking for the simple (yet effective) scares of a stalk-n'-slash thriller. That being said, this film is actually the most polished and refined of the original series, with excellent production values, and features some of the franchise's most iconic and enduring images. It didn't really hit me until watching this Blu-ray just how good this film actually is! Friday the 13th Part 2 looks and sounds better than ever, and, while the extras aren't up to snuff with those of the original Friday the 13th BD, the package, there's enough here to make upgrading from the recently released DVD much more palatable. Recommended!