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Friday the 13th Part III
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka, Tracie Savage, Jeffrey Rogers, Catherine Parks, Larry Zerner

Written By: Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson Directed By: Steve Miner

The Short Version

Jason finally gets his hockey mask!

He should keep it on, too; without it, he looks like he should be named “Cletus.”

Overall, the Jason bait is pretty likable this go-round.

The kills are still mostly too tame, but the spear gun was good.

This sequel is better than the last one, and works as slasher cheese popcorn.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Just try not to get so distracted that you leave it burning on the stove, eh?  No, Jason killing you while you’re making it is not an excuse!

Pairs Well With...


Well, well!  The kids have found themselves a new cheap beer for this sequel!  Can’t say that their taste has improved; in fact, it may have gotten worse.  But at least the movie’s better!

“There’s only so many cold showers I can take.”

After noticing that the first two Friday the 13th movies raked in better returns than even a Ponzi scheme would dare to promise, Paramount wasted no time getting a third installment rolling out into theatres, and once again, they scored big.  Friday the 13th Part III also provides the next step in Jason’s evolution as a character: his hunting ground widens to the entire Crystal Lake vicinity and not just the original camp and its immediate neighbors, and most importantly of all to slasher fans, this is where he picks up the iconic hockey mask with which he would be identified forevermore.

There’ll be a small spoiler for Friday the 13th Part 2 just a bit further up ahead, so if you don’t want to know who lived in that one, go back and watch it first.  Okay; you’ve been warned.

Friday the 13th Part III picks up immediately on the heels of Friday the 13th Part 2.  As before, your first few moments are a recap of how the previous movie ended.  Thanks to the narration of a news report that marks the beginning of this movie’s new footage, we find that the “last trick” of Jason coming through the window is definitely confirmed as having not been real, but rather a dream image or delusion on the part of Ginny, the massacre’s only survivor.  (This then begs the question of what exactly happened to Paul, since Ginny is definitely identified as the sole survivor, and yet Paul makes an appearance after his first apparent death and only dies “for real” during the delusion sequence.  Wait a minute; I’m applying sense.  Sorry, folks.)  Ginny is hauled away in an ambulance, and that’s the last we see of her.

Meanwhile, Jason (whose name is never mentioned aloud in any of the new footage, for the one and only time in franchise history), decides that he’s not done killing yet, so he wanders off to the outskirts of town.  After making a stop at a convenience store, he decides to focus his attention on an isolated house where some friends have come together to spend the weekend, including, by chance, one who has a little past with Jason herself…

When the opening credits start to roll for Friday the 13th Part III, you’re going to notice three things.

First, you’re going to notice that Paramount isn’t too concerned with consistency.  The first sequel numbered itself with the standard Arabic number 2 (yes, folks, your traditional numbers are considered Arabic), and yet the credits for this movie switch things up and go with the Roman numeral III.  This is further confused by various promotional materials from posters to later home video box art randomly switching between “3” and “III”.  A minor quibble, to be sure, but to me, it really stands out.

The next thing you’ll notice is the disco-fied theme music.  It is groovily hilarious, and almost worth finding on its own to throw onto a retro music mix.  If this music doesn’t say “cheese ahead,” I don’t know what does.

Oh, wait; yes I do!  The last thing you’ll notice is that the words in the credits are jumping out at you.  This is because every thirty years or so, give or take, Hollywood decides to bust out with the 3D again (nevermind that it’s really 4D), and 1982-83 was About That Time, especially for flicks that were a “Part 3.”  Indeed, when I picked up the blu ray for Friday the 13th Part III (which, by the way, doesn’t sport nearly as clean a transfer as the first two movies did; your hi def will be old school grainy), I was surprised to see that it included something that I hadn’t see come with a movie for almost fifteen years: two pairs of old school red and blue cellophane 3D glasses.  That’s right, the standard blu ray includes both the 2D and original 3D (no special 3D player or TV required) prints of the movie, and gives you the choice of which to watch.  My advice?  Stick with the 2D, especially if you’ve already gotten used to modern 3D, because this one’s just going to remind you why old school 3D always sucked.  The effects that were supposed to be most advantageous to the 3D will be obvious (and in all but a few instances become tiresome) regardless of which version you watch, and the red and blue glasses are just going to wash out the color for the rest of the movie, and probably make you want to reach for some aspirin later, too.  Just stick to the standard presentation and be happy.  (Though I will give kudos to the distributor for making the effort anyway!)

As for what happens after the credits, I have three pieces of bad news for you.

The first is that Steve Miner, the guy who dulled up Friday the 13th Part 2 and whose idea of A Really Big Scare is to toss something through a window (which he does here again after spending about a week telegraphing that it will happen), has returned to direct.  On the plus side, he does do a slightly better job of it this time (he only pulls the “fade to white after a kill” crap that pervasively ruined the first sequel only once here, for one thing), and the film moves at a better pace for it, but the tension is still relatively low, and most of the violence is still relatively tame, even in restored cuts.

Of course, that’s not entirely Miner’s fault, which brings us to our second bit of bad news.  The MPAA censors were on a little no-no streak at the time, and even where they didn’t insist on cuts that would be laughable today, it’s obvious that Miner was conscious of their heavy hand throughout, and seems to have been censoring himself ahead of time in many instances, which is a shame, considering how creative some of these kills should be.  For me, this is most apparent not during a violent sequence, but rather during the shower scene (our first ever during a Friday the 13th movie where the camera is placed on the correct side of the curtain, which is to say, the inside!), which provides the film’s only real nudity.  While you do get some quick full topless views of the actress from the side, for the most part, a game seems to have been played of “how low can we bring the camera without managing to show her nipples?”  As soon as this thought occurs to you, it will stand out like a sore thumb.

The third bit of bad news is that makeup and gore effects master savant Tom Savini is once again absent from the scene.  (His effects are what really put the original Friday the 13th on the map.)  I’ll cover this in two stages.

First, there’s the gore (even after considering the MPAA), and ironically, this is made most apparent in a scene that serves as an homage to Savini’s work in the first film (one of a few, actually).  Our Jason bait lies down on a bed (hammock; close enough) and picks up a copy of Fangoria magazine.  (This, by the way, is an awesome thing in itself; a very nice shout-out to the publication which at the time was one of the primary media outlets for horror fans, if not the only one, in some places.)  The first article she sees is a piece about Tom Savini, and a moment later, a knife comes poking from under the bed and out through the front of her throat, just like the famous arrow scene from the first film, which is one of Savini’s most famous effects.  Of course, the tribute also serves to show just how much better Savini’s work was, as this kill is inferior in every way, and indeed only produces a positive effect for viewers who recognize it as a tribute shot.

Pausing the bad news train for a moment, though, there are still some positives to be had in the kill department, specifically with this movie’s signature kill, which also happens to be the first one Jason commits while wearing his newly acquired hockey mask.  This is the spear gun kill.  Designed primarily to take advantage of the 3D gimmick (because of course the spear will be coming right at the audience in 3D), this is perhaps the only shot in the movie where the 3D is actually worth it.  (The one with the popping eye was okay but not great.)  On the plus side for everyone, however, the resulting spear-through-the-eye gore shot is by far the best in the film, and indeed does serve as a truly awesome effect.

The second bit of “I miss Savini” bad news comes whenever Jason take his mask off, which this film proves without a doubt he should never do, because rather than enhancing the horror, it instead eliminates it.  The Savini-created original makeup effects for the drowned boy Jason in the first film were superb and effective.  Once he was gone, the second movie’s imaginings of how those would translate onto an adult didn’t work out so well.  Here, they’re just a complete disaster.  When the mask comes off, Jason isn’t scary; he’s a clownish hick who looks like his name should be “Cletus” instead.  The effect of this goofy makeup (which is also far too clean) is further enhanced by Clet- er, Jason’s movements.  Yes, he’s definitely gotten away from the “big butt/bad knees” ailments that appeared to plague him in the previous film (which only makes sense since he’s being played by a trapeze artist this time around), but the excitable prancing that has taken its place doesn’t work for me, either.  For some, the giddy face and excitable movement actually enhance Jason’s image as a killer, with the logic being that someone who takes pure joy in murder is all the more terrifying, but for me, it just seems silly and takes me right out of the moment.  Maybe I got spoiled by the angry badass portrayal of Kane Hodder in the later movies, but when I look back with fresh eyes on this flick… sorry.  Cletus just doesn’t hold a candle to what would come later.  (He even groans in this movie.  Jason is not supposed to make noise, dammit!)

But the irritation of that is lessened by the fact that I actually feel like rooting for most of the Jason bait in Friday the 13th Part III.  Whereas I really didn’t care one way or the other about the victims in the previous film, here, the characters are more interesting as easier to have fun with, whether or not they’re around long enough to get serious onscreen development.  A good example is Harold (Steve Susskind), the store owner from early on in the film, whom I don’t think it is a spoiler to tell you doesn’t last more than five minutes.  In that five minutes, it becomes really easy to like him.  He has a big pet bunny he lets run loose on the produce shelves of his store.  He sneaks donuts from the box just to spite his wife.  He’s even got great taste in liquor, swigging Jack Daniels straight from the bottle while he’s sitting on the toilet.  These little things make him fun, and it’s sad to see him go.

Similarly, the two stoners are hilarious.  Despite being complete stock caricatures, they’re still fun from the first moment you meet them bonging up in the back of the van, and draw laughs just by showing up.  (And the line that our male stoner delivers when the outhouse he’s in gets shaken… it shouldn’t be funny, but it is.)

Most interesting of all, though, is Shelly (Larry Zerner), the overweight guy with a girl’s name who loves horror movies and just wants other people to like him.  It’s clear that he’s there for much of this movie’s target audience to identify with, and in fact, Zerner is one of them; he was cast when he was spotted trying to promote a horror movie as a fan and was asked if he wanted to be in one.  But whether or not one actually self-identifies with his character, Zerner’s portrayal is genuinely sympathetic, and even if he does pull annoying pranks (which will eventually bite him in the ass), one really can’t help but like the guy.  He also turns out to be one of the better developed male characters you’ll ever see in a Friday the 13th movie, so enjoy him while he lasts.  And don’t forget to thank him for providing Jason with the hockey mask.

Our heroine, Chris (Dana Kimmel), isn’t quite as fun, but compared to those who came before her, she’s still far more sympathetic, and her goody-goody routine doesn’t come across as smarmy, either.  A lot less fun is her boyfriend, Rick (Paul kratka), whose generic “aw, shucks, ah’m just a tall, hard-workin’ country boyah” bit gets incredibly old within the first fifteen seconds.

As for the alleged biker gang who look more like a pack of rejects that the bouncers kicked out of a Pat Benatar concert?  I think these may have been the first victims in the series that I actively rooted for Jason to kill.

Overall, though?  A definite improvement over what came just before.

Bottom line, while it still isn’t as good as the original movie, Friday the 13th Part III is a definite improvement over the first sequel.  Its hilarious disco theme, iconic speargun kill, and of course, the introduction of the hockey mask make this a must for dedicated slasher fans, and for everyone else, the pacing and overall decent crop of Jason bait make it work as a popcorn flick.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2011

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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