TGIF13 – Day Three: Friday the 13th Part 3

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My series of Friday the 13th reviews enters a new dimension today…but is that necessarily a good thing? Put on your red/blue glasses* and read on, as we take a look at perhaps the most gimmicky Friday film of them all. Oh, and as always, these reviews contain plenty of SPOILERS, popping right out at your face like an eyeball squeezed from a human head.

* wearing red/blue glasses will NOT aid in the reading of this review.

FRIDAY THE 13th – PART 3 (1982)

Directed by: Steve Miner
Written by: Martin Kitrosser & Carol Watson

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THE PLOT

Having survived his battle with Part 2‘s Ginny, Jason flees to a nearby lake-front home and takes refuge in a barn to recover from his wounds.

Meanwhile, a group of friends have shown up for a weekend of fun at the home on the property. One of the girls, Chris, grew up on this property, but has stayed away for the last two years, following a nightmarish attack by a disfigured stranger in the woods (guess who?).

Soon, Jason is making his way one by one through the group, eventually setting the stage for a one-on-one showdown with Chris, giving her a chance to finally defeat the demon from her past.

MY THOUGHTS:

Following the massive success of the first two movies, it didn’t take long for Paramount and the series’ producers to start putting together a third entry. Perhaps they were a little too quick on the draw, judging by the final product. Given the improvements made from the first to second film, and Part 2‘s Steve Miner returning to the director’s chair, you might expect Part 3 to be another big step forward for the franchise. And since it ended up being the most financially successful sequel of the series (at least until Freddy vs. Jason), I guess there’s an argument to be made in that direction.

But, when you put the box-office receipts aside and judge this thing on a purely objective basis, there’s little denying that Part 3 is quite the letdown, especially after the strong entry that was Part 2. Ironically, a lot (not all, but a lot) of the film’s problems can be blamed on the one factor that probably made it so successful – the gimmicky decision to shoot the movie in 3-D. The 3-D concept was enjoying a little mini-revival at the time, and while it wouldn’t last long, it gave birth to a handful of notable genre entries, with Amityville 3-D and Jaws 3-D also joining in the fray.

Now, don’t get me wrong…even though the 3-D technology back then was nowhere near as advanced or impressive as what we are used to today, it was effective enough for the time, and I’m sure the 1982 audience had a real blast with Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3-D (as it was billed during its theatrical run). However, it must be said a lot of the gimmick’s charm is negated when watching a 2-D version of the film at home, in which case you’re simply presented with what feels less like a movie, and more like an unending montage of objects inexplicably coming right at the screen – whether it’s the cheap scare of a snake springing toward the camera, children waving a baseball bat around, or characters actually juggling and playing with yo-yos. It’s all pretty ridiculous and distracting – although it can make a pretty fun drinking game, if you’re willing to do a shot anytime something is clearly meant to be popping out at you.

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Let me be clear, though – I’m certainly not saying the movie would suddenly be a lot better if you were watching it in the original 3-D, dumb fun aside. The fact is, the decision to rely on the 3-D gimmick pretty much hampered any chance this movie had at being a high-quality entry in the series. By all accounts, making sure the 3-D worked was the only real concern on the minds of the filmmakers. Thus, the primary focus even during the initial scripting stages was to come up with bits where something could thrust towards the camera. Little things like a decent story or likable characters were an afterthought.

Likewise, a number of the film’s cast members have complained that, during filming, the only thing that really mattered was if the planned 3-D effect ended up working right in each particular shot. The idea of multiple takes in which the actors could hone and perfect their delivery was not a priority. And even in the cases where they were allowed more than one chance at it, they still knew the shot that would end up being used would be the one where the filming of the 3-D effect worked best…whether that was their best performance or not.

And so it’s not surprising that we have here a somewhat boring tale filled with uninteresting characters, most of who come off as little more than machete fodder. Sure, you could say that this is true of most of the slasher genre, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But that just points to the overall problem with this movie. Between the two previous Friday films and the number of imitators that had already followed, the formulaic nature of these movies was already beginning to feel very apparent by this point. The makers ofPart 3, too obsessed with concentrating on the film’s 3-D, made little attempt to subvert any of those already well-worn expectations.

Still, you can sometimes get away with being formulaic, if you do so with style and energy. But Part 3 just kinda trudges along, forcing its audience to spend most of their time following the boring exploits of a mostly irritating group of kids. After the surprisingly likable cast of Part 2, these yahoos in Part 3 are even more aggravating – particularly the over-the-top stoner couple Chuck and Chili (a rather obvious Cheech & Chong rip-off), and – worst of all – pudgy practical joker Shelly, who I think we’re supposed to feel bad for, but is easily one of the most annoying horror movie characters since Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Franklin.

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I’m strongly anti-bullying, and even I want to hit the guy.

And if the group of kids aren’t bad enough, we also have a lame gang of biker thugs who show up ostensibly to terrorize our main kids, but of course end up on the wrong side of Jason’s blade. Cartoonish and unnecessary (other than to pad the film’s body count), these characters suck, and you could easily remove their entire sub-plot without any real detrimental effect on the movie.

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One exception, thankfully, is Dana Kimmell as the final girl, Chris. Maybe it’s just comparing her to how crappy everyone else is, but I quite like her in this. She’s cute without having to be sexy (which is actually something most of these early Friday films got admirably right with their Final Girls), and while I have some issues with her backstory (see “Nitpick Patrol”), it still gives you something to latch onto with her character, making her far more compelling than the rest of the turds this movie asks us to care about.

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It also doesn’t help matters any that there isn’t much to Jason this time, either. Here, he barely even gets up to his usual stalking antics, instead spending the majority of the movie simply hanging out in a barn, silently spying on the kids and waiting for his victims to come to him. I guess this is somewhat appropriate, given that he is supposed to be hiding out to recover from his Part 2 wounds. But who the hell watches these movies for their realism? It’s simply no fun for Jason to be such an inactive presence for such a long span of the film.

On the plus side, though, this is the movie where Jason finally starts to become Jason. For one thing, he’s a bit more intimidating in this film. No longer the clumsy, easily evaded putz he sometimes seemed in the last movie, Part 3‘s Jason starts to exhibit the silent, stoic and menacing mannerisms that would eventually come to define him. And, of course, Jason’s visual look is finally set in stone, thanks to his theft and subsequent use of Shelly’s hockey mask. Considering how iconic the mask would eventually become, it’s a little surprising that the movie is noticeably absent of a big moment where he first puts it on. Still, as nonchalant as it is, you can’t help but get a little excited the first time Jason saunters into frame wearing the mask, and the genre’s most recognizable boogeyman is officially born.

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It should also be noted that Jason’s appearance without the mask becomes a little more set here. Apparently unhappy with Jason’s unmasked appearance in Part 2 – especially the long hair and beard – the producers decided to have Jason’s look be a little closer to how he first appeared in the original movie. Sure, you only get brief glimpses of the unmasked make-up (which an un-credited Stan Winston helped design), but it is indeed a lot closer to the bald mongoloid that popped up out of the lake to attack Alice. Jason’s unmasked appearance wouldn’t exactly remain consistent for the remainder of the series, but this movie at least set the basic image in place.

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And while I’m doling out my few compliments, let me also say that I enjoyed the brief shout-out to Tom Savini (a character reads a Fangoria article about the FX guru), and I’ll admit that a few of the deaths are pretty cool and suitably brutal (although I think it was a little lazy for the series to already start copying itself, as it does here by re-doing the first film’s arrow through the throat gag, albeit this time with a knife). It should also be said that the long climatic chase/fight scene between Jason and heroine Chris is one of the series’ most exciting sequences, as Chris is able to elude and even temporarily subdue her pursuer multiple times…all without ever making Jason look as foolish as he did in the last movie. It’s a great climax that tries its hardest to make up for the boredom that preceded it.

Still, all in all, this is a pretty lackluster entry in the series, marred by weak characters, a dull plot-design, and a 3-D gimmick so laughably distracting that it gets in the way more often than not. Unfortunately, a likable heroine and a legitimately fun final few minutes simply aren’t enough to forgive the film of its larger problems, not the least of which is pissing on the goodwill built up by the much better Part 2.

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I went this whole review without mentioning the bizarre, disco version of the Friday the 13th theme-music that plays over this movie’s opening credits. To this day, I can’t figure out if I love it or hate it. I do know I hate the moment when it is actually playing on the radio at the convenience store some of the kids stop at, which is beyond dumb.

BODY COUNT: 12

An even dozen, which isn’t too bad. Surprisingly enough, only a few of the deaths try to take advantage of the 3D gimmick. Most of them are just your usual stab and slice jobs.

BEST KILL:

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A moment where a character is sliced in half while walking on his hands is pretty awesome, but was probably even better before the MPAA stepped in. So instead I’ll go with the infamous moment where Jason squeezes a man’s head so hard his eyeball pops out (and goes flying towards the audience, naturally). It’s pretty fun, even if it is obviously a puppet head.

BOOB COUNT: 2

The idea of 3-D boobs seems pretty obvious to me, but, shockingly, the movie never goes there. In fact, this one is rather chaste, all things considered. In one of the movie’s more frustrating moves, some of the characters do go skinny-dipping, but we only get to hear about it, instead of actually see it happen. We are left with a quick glimpse of one of the girls during a shower scene…as if that’s supposed to make up for it. What a missed opportunity.

CRAZY OLD COOT:

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I will give Part 3 this: it features the weirdest Crazy Old Coot in franchise history – Abel, a bearded old man sleeping in the middle of the road that the main characters encounter. The man brandishes an eyeball he recently found (which he believes is an “omen” signifying a curse on the area), and even tells them to “go back from whence ye came!” This guy makes Crazy Ralph look sane.

NITPICK PATROL:

OK, there are a couple things I want to talk about here.

For one, what’s up with the strange back-story regarding Chris and Jason? Now, I guess the thinking here was that it would probably be pretty interesting if the hero of this movie had some sort of personal connection to Jason. But it just ends up seeming strange and out of place. It doesn’t help that in Chris’ flashback, Jason is wearing the same clothes he is wearing during the rest of the movie, even though the flashback was supposed to have happened two years ago, and Jason only found that outfit at the beginning of this movie. Oops.

What’s even worse is what these flashbacks unintentionally imply. What exactly made Jason let Chris go after she passed out? She says her parents found her, and I’m doubting mom and dad fought Jason off. So he was already long gone when they found their daughter, right? Thanks to this awkward conundrum, some fans have speculated that Jason must have raped Chris. I’m not sure that’s what the filmmakers were going for, but it does sorta come across that way. Needless to say, this adds a whole level of unpleasantness to the proceedings that doesn’t really belong in this series…especially since the idea of Jason raping a girl instead of killing her goes against pretty much everything we know of the character.

And even if we’re not supposed to infer rape, what then? We’re still left wondering how she got away from Jason. I’ll tell you, between Chris here and Alice and Ginny in the previous two films, it’s almost like Jason had some sort of catch and release program going on back in those days. Perhaps he was simply tagging them so that he can track teen mating habits.

I also have issue with the film’s final moments. Remember what I said about the series’ formula already beginning to feel a little too familiar? The first couple sequels were far too obsessed with trying to re-capture the magic of the original movie’s final shock. OK, Jason suddenly crashing through the window in Part 2 wasn’t so bad. But what the hell is up with this one, in which a zombie version of Mrs. Voorhees pops up out of the lake and grabs Chris?

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Huh? Fine, I get that it’s just a dream…but it makes absolutely no sense!! Chris doesn’t even know who Jason is (in fact, this is the only film in the series where the name “Jason” is never spoken). She knows nothing of his story, so she sure as hell wouldn’t know anything about his mother. So just why the hell would she have a hallucination of Mrs. Voorhees? Answer = she wouldn’t. It’s just a lame attempt to tie things back to the original, and the filmmakers didn’t care that it’s completely asinine.

FINAL SCORE: 1.5 out of 4 Hockey Masks

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About Trevor Snyder

Give me zombies or give me death. Wait...that doesn't make sense.

Posted on November 6, 2014, in Franchise Post-Mortems, Friday the 13th, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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