Starring: Amy Steel, John Furey, Kirsten Baker, Stu Charno, Walt Gorney, Betsy Palmer
Rated R (probably for Horror Violence, Language, and Sexuality/Nudity)
Who knew that an entry in the mega-popular but much maligned "Friday the 13th" slasher franchise could actually be good? Now, I'm not talking masterpiece level, but for a low-budget gorefest, it has enough thrills and chills to make it worthwhile for horror fans.
The plot is essentially the same as the first one (come to think of it, it's the same as just about every other slasher movie, give or take a few details). Five years after the events in the first film, a guy named Paul (Furey) has decided to open up a new camp next to the old Camp Crystal Lake. Two weeks before campers arrive, the counselors show up for training. On the last night before they get to work, the majority go into town for one final night of partying while a select few remain behind. They pair up for some hanky panky and end up on the wrong end of Jason Voorhees's rage.
I remember when I was at Camp Minawanca as a kid, there was a section of camp that, like Camp Crystal Lake, was rumored to be abandoned because of a past murder spree. Of course we all knew it wasn't true (there weren't enough campers to fill up those cabins, although I did stay there another year), but it was fun to believe it in the moment. Think about it: a bunch of unused cabins in an out of the way section of camp...it was definitely a little spooky.
I got a little of that feeling from time to time while watching this flick, and one of the keys to success for any horror movie is to tap into our deepest fears. Take "The Descent" for instance, which superbly created the feeling of claustrophobia and desperation. Or "Saw," which tested our personal morality and fear of severe pain. Even "Child's Play" used our nostalgia for childhood toys as a jumping point for a homicidal doll. It's surprising that a movie with such a generic pedigree is able to tap into that.
One reason is that the film is directed by Steve Miner. Known primarily as a director for hire, Miner knows what he's doing. "Halloween: H20" is a lot of fun and "Lake Placid" is an underrated B-movie homage. Miner knows how to use editing and lighting to create atmosphere and set up some decent shocks and suspense. He can also direct actors, since more than a few of the horny teens populating this movie display some degree of personality. At least, as far as that goes in a movie like this.
Horror movie fans expect a few things from a slasher movie like this: tension, sex and nudity, cheap shocks, and of course, a generous helping of blood and gore. Since this film supplies all in acceptable amounts, I'm giving it a mild recommendation.