Two months after the murders at Camp Crystal Lake, sole survivor Alice Hardy is recovering from her traumatic experience. In her apartment, when Alice opens the refrigerator to get her cat some food, she finds the severed head of Pamela Voorhees and is murdered with an ice pick to her temple by an unknown assailant.
Five years later, Paul Holt opens a school for camp counselors on the shore of Crystal Lake. The camp is attended by Sandra, her boyfriend Jeff, Scott, Terry, Mark, Vickie, Ted, and Paul's assistant Ginny, as well as many other trainees. Around the campfire that night, Paul tells the counselors the legend of Jason Voorhees, a boy who drowned at Camp Crystal Lake in 1957, sending his vengeful mother on two killing sprees in 1958 and 1979, until she herself was eventually murdered. According to the legend, Jason survived and is now living in the woods near Crystal Lake; enraged at his mother's death, he will kill anyone he comes across. As Paul finishes the story, a man with a spear scares everyone, but it's revealed to be Ted wearing a mask. Paul reassures everyone that Jason is dead and that Camp Crystal Lake is now condemned and off-limits.
That night, Crazy Ralph wanders onto the property to warn the group but is garroted from behind a tree by an unseen killer. The following day, Jeff and Sandra sneak off to Camp Crystal Lake and find a dog carcass before getting caught by Deputy Winslow and returned to the camp. Later, Winslow spots a masked man wearing a burlap sack running across the road. Winslow chases him into the woods and finds a shack. The man kills Winslow with a hammer claw.
Back at camp, Paul offers the others one last night on the town before the training begins. Six stay behind, including Jeff and Sandra, who are forced to stay as punishment for sneaking off. At the bar, Ginny muses that if Jason were still alive and had witnessed his mother's death, it may have left him with no distinction between life and death, or right and wrong. Paul dismisses the idea, proclaiming that Jason is nothing but an urban legend. Meanwhile, the assailant appears at the camp and kills the counselors, one by one. Scott has his throat slit with a machete while caught in a rope trap, and Terry is killed off-screen upon finding Scott's dead body. Mark has a machete slammed into his face and he falls down a flight of stairs. The killer then moves upstairs and impales Jeff and Sandra with a spear as they have sex, then stabs Vickie with a kitchen knife.
Later, Ginny and Paul return leaving Ted behind at that bar, to find the place in disarray. In the dark, the killer ambushes Paul and continues to chase Ginny throughout the camp and into the woods, where she comes across the shack. After barricading herself inside, she finds an altar with Pamela Voorhees' severed head on it, surrounded by a pile of bodies. Realizing that Jason Voorhees is the killer, Ginny puts on Pamela's sweater and tries to psychologically convince Jason that she is his mother. The ruse briefly works, until Jason sees his mother's head on the altar and awakens from the trance. Paul suddenly returns and tries to save Ginny, but Jason incapacitates him. Just as Jason is about to kill Paul with a pickaxe, Ginny picks up a machete and slams it down into Jason's shoulder, seemingly killing him.
Paul and Ginny return to the cabin and hear someone outside. Thinking that Jason has followed them, they open the door, only to find Terry's dog, Muffin. Just as they sigh in relief, an unmasked Jason bursts through the window from behind and grabs Ginny. She then awakens to being loaded into an ambulance, and calls out for Paul, who is nowhere to be seen, leaving his fate ambiguous. Back in the shack, Pamela's head remains on the altar, but Jason is nowhere to be found.
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