Tagline: A New Dimension In Terror…
Director: Steve Miner
Writers: Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson
Starring: Richard Brooker, Gloria Charles, Rachel Howard, David Katims, Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka, Cheri Maugans, Kevin O’Brien, Catherine Parks, Jeffrey Rogers, Nick Savage, Tracie Savage, Larry Zerner, David Wiley, Perla Walter, Betsy Palmer, Amy Steel
18 | 1hr 35min | Horror, Slasher
Budget: $2,300,000 (estimated)
Friday the 13th Part 3 feels about 20 minutes too long, and there is a very specific reason for this.
Hoping to expand the series beyond two instalments, Paramount decided to cash-in on the Reagan-era, 3-D movie fad, a dismal period which included the likes of 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 were 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’ was perhaps the anomaly in that respect. Not only did the original franchise continue on for more than a decade, 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. 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. But 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.
3-D 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 II. Perhaps the purest and best conceived slasher in the series, Part II is held in high regard by many fans, particularly those who prefer Jason’s serious 2-4 period, although the fact that Part 3 can be refereed to as serious perhaps says more about the goofy meta instalments that would congest the latter part of the 1980s. 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. For many, Steve Miner’s vision of Friday the 13th is the most authentic.
Asides from the movie’s central gambit proving 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.
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. 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 best soundtrack in the series in Harry Manfredini’s synth-heavy, post-funk score, and you’re onto a 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.
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 chopping while in a handstand position results in an incredibly graphic corpse. Next time you go and get yourself a beer, be sure to walk on your feet. If not for the sake of your life, then 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 owners command. Then, pow!, a harpoon through the eyeball lays her to rest. But more important is the way 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, 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 Tom Savini 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 II 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.
Cedric Smarts: Editor-in-Chief and Art Director
Science fiction author, horror enthusiast, scourge of plutocracy, shortlisted for the H. G. Wells Award, creator of vhsrevival.com
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