Tagline: A New Dimension In Terror…
Director: Steve Miner
Writers: Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson
Starring: Richard Brooker, Amy Steel, Larry Zerner, Dana Kimmell, Gloria Charles, Rachel Howard, David Katims, , Paul Kratka, Cheri Maugans, Kevin O’Brien, Catherine Parks
18 | 1hr 35min | Horror, Slasher
Budget: $2,300,000 (estimated)
Friday the 13th Part 3 feels about 10 minutes too long, and there is a very specific reason for this. Hoping to expand the series beyond two instalments after introducing a supposedly long-dead Jason as their marquee killer, Paramount decided to cash-in on the Reagan-era 3-D fad, a dismal period which included the likes of Parasite, Jaws 3-D and the woefully absurd Amityville 3-D, an atrocity which featured some of the shoddiest practical effects ever conceived. 3-D sequels are a sign of desperation for any stale franchise (think Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare), and both Jaws and Amityville died a slow death during their inevitable fourth instalments, movies which gave us a vengeful shark and a possessed lamp respectively.
The third ‘Friday’ instalment was perhaps the anomaly in that respect. Not only did the original franchise continue on for more than a decade following its 3-D foray, it successfully went from quirk to quirk in the years following its gimmick-laden third effort, giving us a ‘Final Chapter‘, a ‘New Beginning‘, and meta-infused sixth instalment Jason Lives!, a movie which deftly side-stepped the MPAA’s slasher censorship crusade by introducing the infamous ‘Zombie Jason’ and taking the series meta. But the main reason that kept Jason alive and killing came in the form of the soon-to-be iconic mask that he acquired from insecure prankster Shelley (Larry Zerner), a horror artefact that has become universally recognisable.
The 20 minutes of superfluous material comes in the form of several laughably inane, 3-D-inspired sequences, which not only kill the horror dead but also succeed in halting a by-the-numbers plot, making the whole experience almost totally peripheral to the movie’s stalk-and-slash focal point. Swinging bales of hay and 3-D yoyos may have proved a novelty at the time, but such ludicrous attractions only serve to halt the action more than thirty years later, and the majority of those moments leave you stroking your chin with incredulity. I mean, this is a bare bones slasher franchise, what on Earth were they thinking? Still, any ‘Friday’ fan worth their salt knows that laughable comes with the territory. For many of us, it’s all a part of Jason’s inimitable charm, and the seeds were sown in Part 3.
Part 3 would be the second and last entry from director Steve Miner, who a year prior would helm the first Jason-led instalment Friday the 13th Part 2. Perhaps the purest and best conceived slasher in the series, Part 2 is held in high regard by many fans, particularly those who prefer Jason’s serious 2-4 period, though the fact that Part 3 can be referred to as serious perhaps says more about the goofy instalments that were made during the latter part of the 1980s and beyond. Still, in spite of its shift towards annual gimmickry the movie retains much of that early hardcore formula and seems to strike the perfect blend of sheer brutality and hokey good fun that would make a notoriously uninventive series so irresistible. The movie can be ludicrous but also ruthless as hell, and for many Steve Miner’s vision of Friday the 13th is the most authentic.
Though the movie’s central gambit proves something of a disaster, there is actually a lot to excite fans of the series, so much that Part 3 is a contender for being the most important instalment of the entire franchise. As I have already mentioned, this is the one in which Jason procures his legendary mask. It is also the first time we get to see our killer as something more than a POV stalker as the franchise furthers its goal in making Voorhees the star of the show. This is thanks in no small part to superlative Jason Richard Brooker, whose lumbering frame and docile manner make him arguably the most ominous incarnation in the series, giving us an animal who shares the raw savagery of a mountain bear and the head-cocking inquisitiveness of a small puppy.
The movie is pretty graphic too, managing to escape the period of heavy cuts that would afflict subsequent instalments, resulting in some ultra-creative, often brutal slayings that will have gorehounds salivating. The movie may have upped the hokey stakes in a way that irked fans of the first two instalments, but Part 3 proves itself a true innovator creatively, Brooker’s Jason strolling upon a series of innovative means of dispatch as Allan A. Apone assumes visual effects duties, doing a rather splendid job in the absence Tom Savini, who would only return to the series once Miner had moved on to other pastures. There is also sympathetic class clown Shelley to consider, memorable for being the first truly annoying Camp Crystal kid in the franchise, the kind of character that would become a prerequisite thereafter. Add to this the most unique soundtrack in the series in Harry Manfredini’s synth-heavy, post-funk score, and you’re onto a real winner.
In spite of some miraculously woeful acting, the film is also relatively well made. Not original by any means, but proficient, while goofy fodder such as the Hitchcockian Crazy Ralph replacement and a gang of hackneyed bikers will likely leave you in hysterics in the most unintentionally hilarious sequel in the entire franchise. Part 3 also features one of the most memorable final girls in the series in Dana Kimmell’s Chris, a bold and beautiful character who has the rather impressive distinction of escaping Jason’s wrath on two separate occasions, standing head and shoulders above the majority of teenage fodder reduced to notches on an axe handle.
A cynical punt at longevity this instalment may have been, but it more than serves its purpose, and for the first time in the series you will find yourself rooting for our bloodless killer as a cast of equally bloodless stereotypes succumb to Jason’s annual chop.
Fans of the franchise are really spoilt for choice here: a 3-D eyeball shooting out of a crushed skull, a long-range harpoon shot through the eye of a hapless vixen, but the award has to go to the brutal slaying of posturing gymnast Andy Beltrami, whose well-deserved slaying while assuming a handstand position results in a corpse of squeamish proportions. Next time you go and get yourself a beer, be sure to walk on your feet, if not for the sake of your life for the sake of your dignity.
Most Pointless 3-D Effect
Again, many to choose from here — far too many. Some bird’s eye view juggling, anyone? How about a striking viper or a leaping rake? Not gruesome enough for you? Okay, how about this: some kids are playing baseball in the road as a van full of teens pulls up beside them. The kid closest to the camera draws his bat in preparation for the swing. The bat protrudes through your television screen by about an inch. That is all.
The Moment Jason Became the Star
In perhaps the best 3-D moment on offer, Jason strolls inquisitively towards his lake-bound victim, cocking his head like a puppy who doesn’t quite understand its owner’s command. Then POW! — a harpoon through the eyeball lays her to rest in the most casual yet unexpected fashion, but more important is the manner in which Brooker’s Jason slowly lumbers away in search of his next victim. For the first time in the series we see our killer plain as day, his identity no longer confined to the prerequisite climax, and thus a star is born.
Most Absurd Dialogue
Actually, this instalment is relatively witty, but of all the grin-inducing puns this industry in-joke is perhaps the freshest. Tubby prankster Shelly has just pulled off some practical effects magic by pretending to be a bloodied corpse.
Andy: Goddammit, Shelly, why do you always have to be such an asshole?
Shelly: Sorry. And I’m not an asshole, I’m an actor.
Andy: Same thing.
Perhaps not the most original in the series, but Friday the 13th Part 3 is a notable addition for reasons unrelated to its shoddy 3-D gimmick, and for me the most important for the continued prosperity of the series. If Part 2 introduced us to one of trash horror’s most iconic creations, then this instalment set the bar for the antagonist-led brutality that would prove such a low-budget smash.