“Did Friday the 13th Part III save the franchise?” The reason I ask is because I can’t fathom this series could have sustained itself for thirty-plus years with a villain with a sack on his head. It is worth noting the second film was more expensive and less successful than the first. Yet the third film had a better opening weekend than the first and was the highest grossing horror movie of 1982 after Poltergeist. All thanks to a hockey mask.
It’s amazing how iconic Jason’s mask has become. I wouldn’t be surprised if more people today identify hockey masks with murderers than actual hockey players, and it was a total accident. The original script for the film always called for Jason (Richard Brooker) to find a mask midway through the film but even as production began one had yet to be finalized. Director Steve Miner (returning from Part 2–not sure why they switched to roman numerals for Part III) wanted to do a lighting check of a scene but none of the effects crew wanted to apply any makeup to Brooker. How lazy is that?
Director: Can you do your job to help me make this film?
Makeup guy: For a lighting check? Suck my dick.
But Martin Jay Madoff, the film’s 3-D effects supervisor was a hockey fan and just happened to have some hockey gear in his bag that day. So they slapped a Detroit Red Wings mask on Jason and customized it for shooting. You’ll notice the one in the film is bigger than your typical hockey mask, has more holes, and some stylin’ red arrows. What dumb luck. They created an iconic look because a makeup guy was too lazy to apply spirit gum.
Important in establishing Jason’s image, Part III is also notable for being the first 3-D film released by Paramount in almost thirty years. The film was shot with the Arrivision 3-D camera, the same used for Jaws 3-D and it provides for a surreal experience, particularly now, watching the film in 2-D.
Does any of this equal a movie worth watching? Part III isn’t a good but it’s fun. The kills are funny, the pacing steady, and the characters are a step up from previous Friday the 13th grave warmers (my name for people in these movies that get killed). It’s good because it’s not good. Think of it like camp, but before we pitch our tents, let’s tell a campfire story.
Part III continues the bizarre trend of starting with the climax of the previous film. If you don’t recall, this is Ginny’s (Amy Steel) final battle with Jason which ends with an unmasked Jason jumping through a window in slow-motion and Ginny waking up on a stretcher with paramedics. Part III retcons Jason’s final moment as a dream sequence, meaning when Ginny struck him down the first time with an ax, their battle ended. Part III adds a scene where Jason crawls away as Ginny and Paul leave the cabin and then the title card pops up, followed by the best music ever.
You hear that? It’s like a sweet spooky disco song. I don’t know if it’s appropriate but it gets my toes-a-tapping.
Forgetting Ginny and Paul for some… reason, Part III is set during the next day. Which if I’m not mistaken would make this “Saturday the 14th” though I could be wrong. Jason’s first victims in this film are a hate-filled couple who live in a dumpy general store near Crystal Lake. Poppa Redneck is chilling with his overweight rabbit as his Mean Wife nags him and then a snake jumps out. Ooh, the film’s first 3-D effect. Not gonna lie, I dig it. Jason shows up, face hidden and kills Poppa Redneck with a meat clever and Mean Wife with a sewing needle.
Now we meet the REAL characters. Not sure why we started with that angry couple who had to die. Seems to me their broken marriage was punishment enough. Chris (Dana Kimball), our new protagonist, is a girl who seems like your typical teen. Though it is only later that we later find out she survived a Jason attack at Crystal Lake three years ago. Wait, what’s the timeline?
Three years ago would be 1979. Which means Pamela Voorhees (Jason’s mom) would be alive. I thought Jason didn’t start killing until his mom died in 1980? If Chris stayed at Crystal lake, Pamela would have been hunting her down, not Jason. Either I am mistaken on the timeline or this is ANOTHER retcon where Jason and Pamela were both killing teens at Camp Crystal Lake simultaneously without knowledge of each other’s existence. Both villains motivation is based on the knowledge their other family member is dead. How could they screw up the continuity this bad?
I forgot to mention Chris isn’t going back to Camp Crystal Lake, she’s staying at a cabin near the camp. “It’s no biggie. I wasn’t almost killed here, I was almost killed a little bit down the road. So it’s okay.” Along for the ride are a bunch of sexy teens and the resident nerd, Shelly (Larry Zerner), who constantly pretends he’s been murdered. I like Shelly, he’s funny, not pretend movie funny either. There’s also a couple of stoned hippies who are way older than the rest. What are they doing here? Oh, I almost forgot to mention one of the teens, Debbie (Tracie Savage) is pregnant. Hey, that’s not cool, killing a pregnant teen. What’s weird is she never mentions it after her initial introduction nor does it play into her death.
There are a few other grave warmers—I mean characters—who solely exist to die but they’re good for a chuckle. There’s also a trio of punks who mess with Shelly and Vera (Catherine Parks) in a roadside convenience store. Why these three urban street punks are out in the middle of nowhere is beyond me. Gotta start start somewhere.
The teens receive their first omen of doom encountering a crazy old man sleeping on the side of the road. The teens help the old man thinking he’s dead only to watch as he awakes, cackling and holding a fresh eyeball he found in the woods. Remember, this in 3-D, so it’s all up in your face. I love it.
The regular sexy teen shenanigans occur at the cabin. Shower scenes, dirty talk, hoisting bails of hay? It’s bizarre what shots they choose to highlight for the 3-D shots, but I find it more amusing than annoying. Shelly provides the best entertainment staging his fake-out deaths. It’s a shame they don’t take better advantage of this when he dies.
Spoiler! Everybody dies but Chris, surprised? Actually, I am. I thought Jason only killed counselors. Now he kills everybody? Whatever the case, I have to give props to the deaths in Part III. They are far more creative than any of the deaths in its predecessors. Favorites of mine include a hand amputation/beat down, spear gun death and the greatest thing I’ve ever witnessed. (watch below)
In the end, it all comes down to Chris and Jason in a decent game of cat and mouse around the woods. Jason is so much scarier with a hockey mask—Bless Martin Jay Madoff. Following tradition, Jason’s mask is knocked off and for whatever reason, he looks nothing like he did in Part 2. I don’t understand, most of the same crew came back, why is it different?
Chris gets the upper hand and hits Jason in the head with an axe. Chris proceeds by retreating to a canoe on the lake and falling asleep. “Why do people always do that? Get the hell out of there!!!” Waking up the next morning, Chris sees Jason running towards her from the cabin, but is taken off-guard when the decomposing body of Pamela Voorhees–in mummy-zombie form–emerges from the water and pulls her down, which turns out to be a dream. Of course. I’m getting sick of this.
What’s mind boggling, is after the police arrive to rescue Chris they leave Jason’s dead body in the barn. “Why not go back for it?” We don’t see Jason’s body rise but we all know what’s going to happen. There’s going to be another one. If only this franchise learned to distance itself from each sequel. The franchise could be getting better and better. Instead, it barely hovers above fine. This one I liked, but I have a feeling I might not feel the same after next week.
EYE have news for you, eh?