This is the third installment of our head-to-head review between the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises. Check out what Sophie had to say about the corresponding Freddy pic here!
Just one short year later and director Steve Miner is back with third film for the Friday the 13th franchise. After making the last final girl literally pee her pants, Jason Voorhees was beginning to make a strong name for himself and strike fear into the hearts of audiences in the early 1980's. Jumping on the new technology of 3D (a band wagon that the original Halloween II almost utilized to compete with the likes of Jason) director Steve Miner reapproached the Camp Crytal Lake mythos ready to wield the third dimension technology in every means possible. While Friday the 13th Part III has widely been regarded as one of the and if not the worst entries in the series, the film arguably holds a level of joy that the other forgettable entries do not and deserves another watch. The use of 3D in the film comes at a comic level creating an enjoyable, tongue in cheek watch in this IMAX 3D laden world of today. As well, the greatest strength of the entry lies in the evolution of Jason gaining his iconic mask and roudning out the infamous killer audiences know and love.
Taking a departure from the previous two films, Friday the 13th Part III does not take place at Camp Crystal Lake or any camp but rather unspools its story in the neighboring woods and small town around the crystal waters. Jason, now having lost his burlap sack from his run in with Ginny Field, makes his way to a nearby convenience store to kill a man and the man's wife in the search for a new outfit. Meanwhile, Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell) in tow with some of her friends travel from New Jersey to a family cabin near to the original site of the Crystal Lake murders. Waiting at the cabin is the final girls previous flame Rick (Paul Kratka) who wants to rekindle the romance they once had. Years earlier Chris had been attacked in the woods by a mysterious man which left her paralyzed with fear to ever return to the cabin and leave all ties with it behind, including Rick. Two of the friends, Shelly (Larry Zimmer) and Vera (Catherine Parks), travel to a different convenience store and have a run in with a biker gang. The gang follows the teens back to the cabin to stir up some trouble. Also joining the group is Jason, ready to take more lives and hopefully find a new look that will stay with him for the rest of his run.
The largest selling point for this film back in the day of its release, other than its furthering of the franchise, was the use of 3D. The original red and blue lensed glasses allowed audiences to experience a seat jumping, in your face 3D world. Having a slasher film utilize this technology was a smart choice, however the scenes that used it were head scratching and downright goofy. One of the opening sequences shows the convinence store owner putting laundry up with a post which pokes out into the audience. Later, Andy is using a yo-yo that goes up and down to the camera for a solid minute and ten seconds of screen time. Both of these scenes are completely unneccesary to the story and don't actually induce any use of fear with 3D. While they are pointless, there's a level of charm seeing the early use of the technology in such a juvenile way. The scene toward the finale that gets it right is when Jason reaches out for Chris. Arms reaching for Chris translate as arms reaching out for the viewer which does allow Jason to break the fourth wall in a great way. The opening title sequence also deserves some praise for its over the top credits popping out of the screen. The disco inspired theme falls firmly into the "so bad it's good" category and sets up the entire feeling for the movie overall.
Two great things this entry does are introducing Jason's iconic hockey mask and setting up the blueprint of his procedure as a killer. When Shelly is killed in the barn, Jason takes his hockey mask and struts out onto the dock confusing Vera. Pointing his harpoon gun at Vera from yards away, he shoots her directly in the eye and walks away. There's a branding of sauve bad-assery attached to that entire sequence for Jason's character; a branding that would continue throughout the rest of the series. Having seen Jason's complete look hundreds of times as a modern watcher, there was a power still present in that scene knowing this was the first example of what was to make him an icon. The story and characters for this entry are considerably weak, especially with Chris and her relation to Jason. Her escape from his vague "attack" on her feels forced and doesn't feel fitting for the wheelhouse of the killer. It's a muffled and ham fisted attempt to tie the characters together when it was ultimately unneeded for the run of the story. Much like A Nightmare on Elm Street does with Freddy, this film should have focused more on Jason as a character and less on bringing in a new final girl.
While the 3D technology is juvenile and experimental at best, the story and characters without true substance, and focus not on the most interesting character, Friday the 13th Part III is a special moment in the Jason franchise that deserves a little more credit than its been given. It's an enjoyable watch for any Jason fan and gives the full scope of the iconic Jason that would live on to this day.
Body Count: 12
Most Creative Kill: While Jason's killing of Vera with the spear gun is classic, the number one kill has to go to handstanding Andy. While Andy is using his best gymnastics skills up and down the hallway of the cabin, Jason decides to make a simple slice through the situation. While handstanding, Andy is cut completely in half by Jason's machete. The camera cuts to below Andy's body as it is impaled downward which truly shows the level of force and violence Jason put into cutting this character down to size.