Friday the 13th Part III

Friday the 13th Part III ★★★½

Shortly after his massacre of camp counselors left only one survivor, a wounded Jason Voorhees continues to wreak bloody havoc in the Crystal Lake community. Meanwhile, Chris, played by Dana Kimmell (Lone Wolf McQuade), travels to the town with a group of college coed friends to come to terms with a past traumatic event at her old family home. The students settle into Chris's old farmhouse, where Shelly, the misfit loner of the group, struggles to earn the attention of his friends by playing gory practical jokes on them. Unfortunately for all of them, Jason, who figures into Chris's horrible past, arrives on the scene and quickly dispenses of his victims one by one while also donning the iconic hockey mask for the first time.

The 1982 horror sequel, Friday the 13th Part III, fails to live up to the effective drive-in horror aesthetics of its two predecessors, due to comparably inept storytelling and goofy comic relief narrative choices. The decision to film this movie in 3D is a mixed bag, because, while the format provided amusing thrills for theater audiences, its gimmicky execution intrudes on the character development and suspense buildup at every turn. Instead of establishing our acquaintance with the characters by way of endearing traits and dialogue, the filmmakers instead opted to focus on them sticking various objects, namely yo-yos and marijuana joints, directly into the screen with such blatant repetitiveness that the use of 3D gets really old really fast. I am personally unable to view movies in 3D because of my lazy right eye keeps me from seeing in 3D in the first place, but I doubt that an ability to watch this film as intended would have made it much better, because the format calls attention to itself so often.

The victims in this film are all obvious caricatures whose placement in the story makes no logical sense. The college students are a diverse “Breakfast Club” crowd consisting of the down-to-Earth Chris, the nerdy Shelly, an oversexed couple, a blind date, and, for some inexplicable reason, a hippie stoner couple who could have stepped right out of the Scooby-Doo Mystery Van. At no point in this movie do I actually believe that these people would hang out with one another in real life. The three Mad Max style biker gang members who antagonize the students during a town visit barely merit acknowledgement.

Friday the 13th Part III is not a total loss, though. Jason Voorhees, who is depicted as a lumbering figure who steadily walks after his prey instead of running, settles into the screen mannerisms that would define his presence for the rest of the sequels in the franchise. The signature hockey mask that would forever after establish the visage of Jason as a universally recognizable image was the result of a fortuitous accident, after the effects crew, none of whom were wild about the idea of applying makeup to the villain character, offered the idea of a mask instead, and one of them pulled out a hockey mask as a joke.

The kill scenes are underwhelming compared to those in the remarkable second film, but one sequence, where Jason fires a spear gun directly into the eye of a victim, is quite unforgettable, and it is a rare example of a moment when the use of 3D is well-earned. Another moment, where Jason uses a machete to slice a guy in half while the guy is walking in a handstand, is painful for every male in the audience. Finally, I am always glad to see a housewife meet her demise early in the film because I do not like the way that she keeps hassling her husband about his overeating and his weight.

The character arc of Dana Kimmell's Chris is the strongest aspect of this movie, and I love watching her transition from a nervous wreck to a tough and resilient survivor. The final sequence features a rather intriguing potential development, but it was never again addressed by subsequent films.

Friday the 13th Part III is one of the lesser entries of the series, but it still manages to be fun in an early 1980s so-bad-but-oh-so-good sort of way. Fortunately, the series would pick up steam for an amazing course correction at the next go-around with Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

The film location of the Veluzat Motion Picture Ranch in Newhall, California reappeared at the beginning of the next entry of the series, and was also recycled for two other horror movies, The Zero Boys (1986) and Twisted Nightmare (1987). Both the farmhouse and the barn are featured in all four films.

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