Film Review: Friday the 13th Part III 3D

Poster for Part III
Another awesome poster for the franchise.

Note: Unfortunately, I’m watching this on Amazon Prime and not DVD with 3D Googles, but I wanted to be as faithful to the actual title as possible.

Churning … churning, we’re back again, rather quickly, with another entry in the Friday the 13th horror franchise, this time 1982’s Friday the 13th Part III, only 15 months after the previous installment. Granted, it’s the same director involved, so that’s not surprising. But also, it came out on Aug. 13, so we just missed the 38-year anniversary of the film.

It’s weird to think about this movie coming out in August (the previous two came out in May and April, respectively) since I think of August as sort of the trash heap of Hollywood month. It’s sandwiched in between summer blockbusters and fall Oscar-buzz films. To be fair, I suppose a lot of people would consider these films trash.

We’re still at the point in the franchise where I’m still quite familiar with these films. This third one in particular is probably the one I most remember watching on AMC. I’m not sure if I’ve seen the theatrical, non-TV-sanitized version, though.

As I mentioned, Steven Miner is back in the director’s chair for this one, but we do have a new writing team. Replacing Ron Kurz from the last one (after he turned it down) are husband and wife duo Martin Kitrosser and Carol Watson. Looking at Kitrosser’s work, he seems to be a script supervisor on a lot of great properties: 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, and the awesome 2005 show Prison Break (at least an episode). He would also come back to do 1985’s Friday the 13th: A New Beginning.

Apparently, a script supervisor, according to a Google search, is the person in charge of continuity, i.e., making sure the wardrobe, props, set dressing, hair, makeup and actions of the actors all make sense throughout the film. That’s a pretty important job!

Watson came back for 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and also contributed to an episode of South Park. That’s fun.

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According to a documentary on the franchise, Petru Popescu was brought in by Paramount Picture (who distributes the films) to make the screenplay “more sinister and menacing” even though he’s not technically credited.

In front of the camera, we have an entirely new cast again. As I’ll get into with the premise in a moment, this film is set directly (like, literally the next day) after the events of the first film, so it’s weird that Amy Steel (who played Ginny Field) didn’t come back for this one since she survived the slaughter. Apparently, the original idea for the film was for Ginny Field to come back, with the concept being, that she learns self-defense and actually takes the fight to Jason Voorhees to avenge Paul’s death from the previous film. That would’ve been awesome!

Another idea was that she would be at a psychiatric hospital, and Jason Voorhees would come attack her at the hospital, aka, the exact script of Halloween II, released a year earlier in 1981. I’m glad they didn’t go that direction, although Jason Voorhees in a hospital environment (and enclosed space) is intriguing.

But apparently Steel didn’t want to do another horror film:

“When I finished filming Pt. 2, I was trashed. I was exhausted. But that’s not why I didn’t do Pt. 3. I wanted to be taken seriously as an actress. At the time there was still a stigma associated with horror movies. Jamie Lee Curtis changed that . . . but the roles were limited. It was mostly about screaming. I regret not doing the third film. It’s one of my biggest regrets.” – Amy Steel to The Lineup in 2017

Something to keep in mind is that the 1980s saw a rash of 3D films, and Part III was no exception, as I noted at the top: It was released in 3D, and even the tagline, as seen in the poster at the start of the post, says, “A new dimension in terror,” which, I actually like, although it sounds more fitting for a sci-fi film than a Jason Voorhees film.

And finally, as we’ll get into throughout the post, this is the film where we get the iconic Jason Voorhees hockey mask. It’s fascinating because what other franchise, horror or otherwise, gets its most known image in the third film? But I also didn’t know that it was molded from a 1950s Detroit Red Wings hockey mask. I also didn’t realize that because of all the additions and molding work they do, it still takes seven hours to apply to the actor’s face. I literally assumed it was a straight up, easy to slip-on hockey mask. I suppose to Hollywood it up, it would need to be more than that, huh?

Mask
The iconic hockey mask up close.

The Amazon synopsis is rather short and to the point, “Ignoring Camp Crystal Lake’s bloody legacy, one by one, they fall victim to the maniacal Jason who stalks them at every turn…”

Welp, as with the prior film, we get nearly five and a half minutes of flashback to the previous film, when this film is only 95 minutes. However, and maybe I’ve memory-holed this few seconds from the previous film, but there seems to be a new scene added into the flashback? After Ginny took a machete to Jason Voorhees back, her and Paul were able to get away. In this flashback, we actually see Jason Voorhees on the ground, drop the machete, and then crawl to his mother, Pamela Voorhees’, decapitated head.

That’s when the 3D title sequence comes in with the most 1980s techno-sounding music pops in that doesn’t feel like a horror film at all, or at least, for this particular horror film. What in the world …

It sounds like something out of Michael Jackson’s, “Thriller,” which incidentally, was released in January 1982, eight months prior to the release of this film. They totally stole the vibe from that song!

Even without 3D glasses on, it’s easy to tell what moments were shot with 3D in mind, even basic moments, like at the beginning of the film where the two characters (couple Edna Hockett and Harold Hockett played by Cheri Maugans and Steve Susskind, respectively) are moving around things like pieces of wood and a TV antennae, and it comes across 3D. That’s my issue with early 3D gimmick films: The attempts at doing 3D are so obvious, and in some ways, detracted from the submersion quality needed for a horror film. Not to say anything about hurting the story, mildly, to be able to incorporate elements of 3D (like the characters playing with a yo-yo or juggling apples).

The Harold character might be the grossest character I’ve ever seen in a horror film. He’s eating fish food, pigging out on everything he sees, taking sloppy poops, drinking booze while he poops, and in general, looking disgusting. Jason Voorhees did us all a service by killing him, if we’re being honest.

This opening where Jason Voorhees is spending a lot of time stalking and then eventually killing Harold and Edna is reminiscent of Halloween II’s opening: The killer who got away after the events of the previous film stumbles upon a random house and couple and kills them before moving on to the real meat and potatoes (is that a pun?) of the stalking and killing.

Also, this one really embraces the hallmarks of the slasher genre (or what would become the hallmarks since this is still only 1982): a group of stereotypical kids (“the stoners,” “the weirdo nerd,” “the jock,” “the pretty girl who is nice to the nerd,” “the sexed up girl,” etc.) who are in a van on their way to obliviously get slaughtered.

Chris
The lovely Chris Higgins (played by Dana Kimmell). Perhaps the best protagonist of the franchise up to this point.

They even have the crazy character again, Abel, played by David Wiley, who the van of teens come upon sleeping in the middle of the road, and holding an eyeball. But he does warn them. A horror movie should be made where the main characters actually heed the warnings of the crazy person. It would be a short film.

To be fair to the teens, though, I can believe that with it only being a day later, they wouldn’t have heard (even with it being on the television/radio) about the slayings the day prior. The police are only just finding out about them. But also, they do establish that Chris Higgins (played by Dana Kimmell) has a prior connection to the place they go, which is called Higgins Haven. She was at the place two years ago, and there seems to be something that happened that makes it a … odd place for her to return to. We don’t know what that is yet.

My new favorite small detail in this franchise is when someone screams, so Chris goes running, with Rick (her boyfriend, played by Paul Kratka) is right behind her, but first, he has to grab his t-shirt and slowly button it up. If someone was in real danger, forget the shirt! Granted, they’re not in real danger, it’s just Shelly Finkelstein (played by Larry Zerner) playing a rather convincing prank that he was axed to death through the head.

Shelly is one of my favorite characters in this franchise up to this point, though, because while he can be annoying with the pranks like that, he’s goofy and the underdog. Plus, he’s into horror. I gotta root for that! Literally the underdog because Zerner was somebody producers saw handing out horror movie flyers and asked him if he’d like to star in one himself. For someone with apparently no prior acting experience, he’s actually believable in the Shelly role. Although he later calls Vera (played by Catherine Parks) a “bitch” for rejecting him. So, never mind on Shelly.

When Shelly and Vera go to the general store, they are accosted by three “gang” members, but like a lot of film and TV shows of the 1980s and 1990s, the gangs are a ridiculously silly caricature of gangs. These ones are wearing a bunch of chains and look like they’re cosplaying tough. It’s so bad. I’m not some tough guy, but let me just say, these guys wouldn’t intimidate me.

Again, though, Jason Voorhees does us a solid, and kills all three handily.

We get a long monologue from Chris that explains what happened two years ago: Apparently she had an encounter with Jason Voorhees! He randomly attacked her, she blacked out, and somehow she survived. Did he let her go? Why? He was also still maskless at that point. She said she woke up in her own bed. If it was only a nightmare, how did she have a nightmare about Jason Voorhees, if she never encountered him before?

The first instance of Jason Voorhees in the mask is when he shoots Vera in the eye (with a 3D effect!) with a harpoon. Apparently, poor Shelly was killed off camera to get his mask. Actually, he’s still alive long enough for one of the characters Chili (played by Rachel Howard) to not believe him when he comes to her with his throat slit nearly ear to ear. That’s a rather smart way for the Shelly character to end, like a tragic boy who cried wolf.

There’s a neat nod to the original film when Debbie (played by Tracie Savage) is reading a Fangoria magazine article titled, “Tom Savini: New Master of Magical Makeup.” Savini was the makeup and special effects guy in the original film! We also get a throwback to the original when she’s then killed by Jason Voorhees with a machete through the chest from underneath the hammock similar to Kevin Bacon’s death in the original.

Rick might be the worst boyfriend. First, he scares her at the beginning of the film by surprise kissing her. Then he tries kissing her again when she’s trying to talk about her problems. Then he’s slow to back her up when someone screams, and then he gets all whiny about her friends and threatens to leave. And then when it seems like things are amiss, he goes searching the place, leaving her by herself!

Again, fortunately, Jason Voorhees vanquishes him, too, albeit in one of the more cheap looking special effects of the three films so far: He squishes Rick’s head until his eyeball pops out and comes flying at us in 3D effect. It didn’t look good.

As with the last film, we’re down to the final girl, Chris, and Jason Voorhees starts teasing and tormenting her with all of his prior kills. Up to this point, for the most part, I haven’t felt as bad about the characters being killed off one-by-one by Jason Voorhees, as I did in the prior two films. Only Chris I care about, which is fitting since she’s the final girl and all, but a horror movie should make me care about all the characters.

Dana Kimmell plays the final girl a bit like Ginny from the previous installment: Frightened and terrified at first before realizing only she can help herself and becoming resourceful in her fight against Jason Voorhees.

Friday The 13Th Part 3 In 3-D - 1982
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock.

Probably the best shot of the whole film comes when Jason Voorhees tosses Rick through the window at Chris, and then steps through the broken window. It’s a well-lit and full-on shot of him in his iconic get-up. And it’s menacing. Thanks, Popescu!

But then it’s immediately ruined. Chris tips over a bookshelf and some books follow down on Jason Voorhees, and really, it looks like two may have brushed his shoulder, and somehow he falls to his knees. Who knew, books were the mortal enemy of these serial killers!

When he’s trying to get at her in the closet (or room), Chris stabs his hand with a butcher knife, and he grunts out in pain. He grunts again when she stabs him through the knee. I’m just saying, you’d never hear Michael Myers grunt in pain.

Also, when Chris tries to get away in the van, Jason Voorhees stands in front of the van, but then chickens out and dives out of the way. I’m just saying, Michael Myers would’ve taken that van hit head-on like a boss.

Also also, when Jason Voorhees then catches up to her in the van, you see him hobbling, holding his knee in pain still. I’m just saying, you’d never see Michael Myers hobble in pain.

I’m taking shots at Jason Voorhees in the event that they ever do a Jason Voorhees versus Michael Myers film, but in all seriousness, I like all the things I outlined! I’ll explain at the end why.

This is a more imaginative, tense and fun closing 20 minutes than the last film (maybe not the first film, though).

I’m shocked. For some reason, Ali (played by Nick Savage), one of the bikers, is the one that gets the heroic moment of coming from the dead apparently (I mean, Jason Voorhees clobbered him multiple times with a machete) and tries to attack him long enough for Chris to be able to “finish” Jason Voorhees off. And Ali loses his hand and then his life for his troubles.

I love the shot at the end, though, which is the feature photo on this post, when Chris whacks him in the head with the ax, but he still keeps coming at her, arms extended. That’s fun. He does ultimately collapse, however, presumed dead (lol).

The ending is a nice homage to the first one. Chris ends up in a canoe, and dreams Jason Voorhees comes after her, and then like the first film where Jason Voorhees popped out of the water to grab Alice, in this one, Pamela Voorhees pops out of the water to get her.

At the end, we don’t even tease that Jason Voorhees is still alive (supposedly they only envisioned this being a trilogy), and if so, that’s a fitting conclusion to the Jason Voorhees saga. He’s left lying presumed dead with an ax through his head.

Overall, each new film in the series, and this one is no different, has my new favorite “final girl” protagonist. Chris is great, and really takes it to Jason Voorhees even more than Ginny did. Kimmell easily did the best acting job in the film.

Also, at this point, as I alluded to earlier, Jason Voorhees is still seemingly mortal. He’s a bit more hulking, more methodical and less bumbling (as I mentioned in the previous installment’s review), but he’s not yet supernatural or superhuman. He’s grunting in pain, a few books can hurt him, and he’s presumed dead after being hanged and having an ax driven through his skull. I actually think he comes across more like the first iteration of Michael Myers than he does the later versions of Jason Voorhees or the one we saw in the prior film.

I think the film could have done a better job making the characters not named Chris more likable, but I also appreciated the homage paid to the original film. It really does feel as if they treated this like the final film in the franchise. But, we’re only a third of the way through!

I still think the prior two films capture a horror aesthetic I appreciate more, and had more characters I cared about, but Chris and the iconic mask (even if I liked the burlap sack more for horror reasons) help to bring this one over the top. Best of the franchise so far.

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