After the Camp Crystal Lake massacre, sole survivor Alice Hardy is recovering from her traumatic experience. In her apartment, she is prepared for another murderer and gets a jump scare when her cat jumps through the window. As Alice opens the refrigerator to get her cat some food, she finds the decapitated head of Pamela Voorhees in her refrigerator and is murdered by an unseen adult Jason Voorhees with an ice pick to her temple.
Five years later, camp counselor Paul Holt hosts a counselor training camp near Crystal Lake. The camp is attended by Sandra Dier, her boyfriend Jeff, troublemaker Scott, tomboy Terry, wheelchair-bound Mark, sweet-natured Vickie, jokester Ted, and Paul's assistant Ginny, as well as other trainees. Around the campfire that night, Paul tells the counselors about the legend of Jason to scare people from entering Camp Crystal Lake. As Ted appears with a mask and a spear, Paul reassures everyone that Jason is dead and that Camp Crystal Lake is off limits. That night, Crazy Ralph wanders onto the property to warn the group but is garroted from behind by Jason.
The following day, Jeff and Sandra sneak off to Camp Crystal Lake upon finding a dog corpse, before getting caught by the sheriff and return to the camp. Later, the sheriff spots Jason (revealed to be wearing a burlap sack over his face) and chases him into the woods. When he finds a rundown shack, he enters before getting killed by Jason with a hammer.
Back at camp, Paul offers the others one last night on the town before the training begins, but out of the named counselors, only Ginny and Ted accept his offer. Jeff and Sandra are forced to stay behind as punishment for sneaking off to the campsite. At the bar, Ginny muses that if Jason were still alive and witnessed his mother's death, it may have left him with no distinction between life and death, right or wrong. Paul dismisses the idea, proclaiming that Jason is nothing but an urban legend. At the camp, Jason begins to murder the remaining camp counselors. Scott has his throat slit with a machete while caught in a rope trap. Terry returns to cut him down and is killed off-screen. Mark is killed with a machete slammed into his face and falls down a flight of stairs. Jason then moves upstairs and impales Jeff and Sandra with a spear as they have sex and stabs Vickie with a kitchen knife.
Later, Ginny and Paul return to find the place in disarray. In the dark, Jason ambushes Paul and he then chases Ginny throughout the camp and into the woods, where she comes across his shack. After barricading herself inside, she finds an altar with Pamela Voorhees' head on it, surrounded by a pile of Jason's victims (the sheriff, Terry, and a decomposing Alice) with his mother's machete placed on the altar. Ginny puts on Pamela's sweater and tries to psychologically convince Jason that she is his mother. The ruse fails when he spots his mother's head on the altar and he attacks Ginny. Paul appears and attacks Jason, but is quickly overwhelmed. Just as Jason is about to kill Paul with a pickaxe, Ginny picks up the machete and slams it down into his shoulder, seemingly killing him.
Paul and Ginny return to the cabin. They think that Jason has followed them, but when they open the door, they are greeted by Terry's dog Muffin. Suddenly, an unmasked Jason bursts through the window from behind and grabs Ginny. She then awakens to her being loaded into an ambulance and calls out for Paul, who is nowhere to be seen (his fate is left ambiguous). Back in the shack, Pamela Voorhees' head remains on the altar as Jason is nowhere to be seen.
Following the success of Friday the 13th in 1980, Paramount Pictures began plans to make a sequel. First acquiring the worldwide distribution rights, Frank Mancuso, Sr. stated, "We wanted it to be an event, where teenagers would flock to the theaters on that Friday night to see the latest episode." The initial ideas for a sequel involved the "Friday the 13th" title being used for a series of films, released once a year, that would not have direct continuity with one another but be a separate "scary movie" of their own right. Phil Scuderi—one of three owners of Esquire Theaters, along with Steve Minasian and Bob Barsamian, who produced the original film—insisted that the sequel have Jason Voorhees, Pamela's son, even though his appearance in the original film was only meant to be a joke. Steve Miner, associate producer on the first film, believed in the idea and would go on to direct the first two sequels, after Cunningham opted not to return to the director's chair. Miner would use many of the same crew members from the first film while working on the sequels. Cunningham had mixed feelings about the entire "Friday the 13th" enterprise that he outlined for film critic and author Stephen Hunter in an interview for a book Hunter wrote on violent films. Hunter stated that Cunningham "wasn't particularly proud" of his work on these films, and Cunningham bluntly said that the only thing that seemed to reach a teenaged audience at that time period involved high levels of gore and graphic violence.
Adrienne King was pursued by an obsessed fan after the success of the original Friday the 13th and purportedly wished her role to be small as possible, though in the documentary Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th, it was stated that King's agent had asked for a higher salary, which the studio could not afford.
The film's heroine, Ginny, is played by Amy Steel, who won the part through an audition. "At the time of [making the film], it was before the genre really picked up so I didn’t give it a lot of credit or take it seriously. For me, it was just another audition because I had no idea what it would end up meaning after all this time. When I played Ginny, I was really young and different from a lot of the people working at the time so that came out in my character. I was naturally suspicious of cocky guys at that age, and you see a lot of that when I’m on screen with Paul (John Furey). I tried to put so much behind the actual words in the script just so she felt almost unreachable, to Paul and to audiences. I wanted her to have some power."
Actor Warrington Gillette played Jason unmasked at the end of the film. Stuntman Steve Daskawisz (also known as Steve Dash) was credited as Jason Stunt Double but played Jason throughout the rest of the film.
Principal photography took place from October 3 and finished in November 1980, and primarily occurred in New Preston and Kent, Connecticut. Special effects artist Tom Savini was asked to work on the film but declined because he was already working on another project, Midnight (1982). Savini was replaced by Stan Winston. Winston, however, had a scheduling conflict and had to drop out of the project. The make-up effects were ultimately handled by Carl Fullerton. Fullerton designed the "look" for the adult Jason Voorhees and went with long red hair and a beard while following the facial deformities established in the original film in the make-up designed by Tom Savini for Jason as a child. Fullerton's look for the adult Jason was abandoned in the sequel, Friday the 13th Part 3, despite the fact that the film took place the following day and was helmed by the same director, Steve Miner. Some fans have theorized that the sequence where we see Jason with a beard and long hair reflects a "dream" rather than a reality because the following sequel picks up with the events showing his face having not happened, and therefore what was represented was Ginny's guess at what he looked like under the burlap sack rather than what he actually looked like, which would excuse the lack of continuity.
Steve Daskawisz was rushed to the emergency room during filming after Amy Steel cut his hand with machete during filming. Steel explained, "The timing was wrong, and he didn't turn his pickaxe properly, and the machete hit his finger." Daskawisz received thirteen stitches on his middle finger. During the subsequent shoot, Daskawisz was forced to wear a piece of rubber over his finger, and both he and Steel insisted on reshooting this scene.
In one scene where Daskawisz was wearing the burlap flour sack, part of the flour sack was flapping at his eye, so the crew used tape inside the eye area to prevent it from flapping. Daskawisz received rug burns around his eye from the tape from wearing the rough flour sack material for hours. The use of the sack hood was similar to the 1976 film The Town That Dreaded Sundown.
Rumors sparked that John Furey left before the film wrapped, as his character does not appear in the end. In truth, his character was not intended to have appeared.
Like its predecessor, Friday the 13th Part 2 had difficulty receiving an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Upon reviewing the film, the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) warned Paul Hagger, an executive at Paramount, that the "accumulation of violence throughout the film" may still lead to an X rating even if substantial cuts were made.
A total of forty-eight seconds had to be cut from the film in order to avoid an X rating. This film received a deluxe DVD release in February 2009, but the edited footage was not included. Most noted by censors was the murder scene of Jeff and Sandra, who are impaled by a spear while having sex in a bed (a scene many have compared to a scene in Mario Bava's A Bay of Blood), which the censors found particularly graphic.
The film was released theatrically on April 30, 1981, bringing in $6,429,784 its opening weekend. It played on 1,350 screens and would ultimately gross $21,722,776. It was the 35th highest-grossing film of 1981, facing strong competition early in the year from such high-profile horror releases as Omen III: The Final Conflict, The Howling, Scanners, Wolfen, Deadly Blessing, The Funhouse, My Bloody Valentine, The Fan and The Hand.
Much like its predecessor, critical reception to the film was initially negative. It has a 34% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes among 32 reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that Friday the 13th Part 2 is "a cross between the Mad Slasher and Dead teenager genres; about two dozen movies a year feature a mad killer going berserk, and they're all about as bad as this one. Some have a little more plot, some have a little less. It doesn't matter."
When reviewing the film's Blu-ray release, David Harley of Bloody Disgusting said, "It doesn't exactly stray far from the formula of the original film — neither do most of the other sequels — but Friday The 13th Part II still stands as an iconic and important entry in the series due to the introduction of Jason as the antagonist of the series and the usage of Italian horror films as an inspiration for its death scenes — most notably, the spear copulation death from Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood." Scott Meslow of The Week described it as a transitional film that blended elements of the original film and those to come later in the series. The final scene where Jason crashes through the window and the scene where Jason raises his knife before killing Vicki were featured in the tribute to horror films montage during the 82nd Academy Awards.
In 2014, the film ranked at number one on a list of the 100 Greatest Slasher Movies on the genre website Vegan Voorhees.
The film's ending has been a source of confusion for fans. Writer Ron Kurz has stated that Jason's window jump was intended to be set in reality and that Paul was killed offscreen. However, the beginning of Part III, in replaying the end of Part 2, instead showed Jason pulling the machete out of his shoulder and crawling away as Ginny and Paul leave him for dead in the shack. This arguably retcons the scene of Jason's window jump into a dream. In addition, near the beginning of Part III, a news broadcast reports the body count at eight, thus excluding Paul from this count.
In 1982, Gramavision Records released an LP album of selected pieces of Harry Manfredini's scores from the first three Friday the 13th films. On January 13, 2012, La-La Land Records released a limited edition 6-CD boxset containing Manfredini's scores from the first six films. It sold out in less than 24 hours. Waxworks Records released the Harry Manfredini-composed score on vinyl in summer 2015.
All tracks written by Harry Manfredini.
A novelization based on the screenplay of Ron Kurz was published in 1988: Hawke, Simon, Friday the 13th Part II: A Novel, New American Library, New York, 1988, ISBN 0-451-15337-5