When you ask a horror fan what their favorite Friday the 13th film is, they will usually reply “the original” or “Part VI easy, no question about it.” Yet for anyone who has asked me, my reply makes them stop and think. I am referring to the third entry in the Friday the 13th franchise: Friday the 13th Part III: 3-D. For Paramount Pictures, the early 80’s saw a short-lived burst of three dimension productions so that was the logical next step to bring their Jason killer back from the dead once more. On an estimated budget of $2,300,000.00, they moved production to the west coast and got those lenses equipped to bring horror from the screen and into the viewer’s seat. Thanks to Blu-Ray, this original 3-D version is now available and comes with the classic red and blue lenses though I personally wish they would do a release that is specific to 3-D televisions and not so harsh on the eyes.
17 years ago, I didn’t watch the series in sequential order upon first renting so when I got to Part 3, I was already somewhat aware of the established Jason and where he ended up. Getting to see exactly how he started sporting the trademark hockey mask was a moment to remember from this film. Outside of Alice (Adrienne King of F13 Part 1 and Part 2), any of the entries I watched didn’t have a stand out female lead that connected with me the same way Chris (Dana Kimmell) did. She was, from the get go, a straight up American girl taking her friends up to Higgins Haven (a branch of Crystal Lake) for a weekend getaway and confront a fear from her past. Turns out two years prior, Chris was attacked by Jason who had stumbled upon her while she was resting in the woods. Some say the supporting characters were the blandest fodder for the kill however each one had their own distinct persona and strengths in my personal opinion. The girls felt natural and on point with the times; Debbie (Tracie Savage) was pregnant and yet even though she still hooks up with boyfriend Andy (Jeffrey Rogers), declines to have a beer therefore making a wise decision, and Vera (Catherine Parks) doesn’t have any sex, barely drinks and doesn’t really do any drugs either – yes these girls are not blatantly stupid. Chili (Rachel Howard) is the oldest of the girls and while a seemingly ditsy pothead along for the ride (while stretching the viewer’s “Just kill that dumb bitch already” mentality even I will agree), actually shows a caring but timid personality. Horror movie rules wouldn’t even dictate Vera should die outside of her honest in-your-face-but-kind-turning-down of Shelley (Larry Zerner) when he asks her out. Back to Chris though, she doesn’t make all the right decisions all the time. She has to grow! I respect that she doesn’t become this super-powered heroine who can fully fight back – she can lay in a punch and sure bring down an axe – but Kimmell plays every take like it’s her first time being involved in this horrifying situation. Word to fans – Dana Kimmell actually did a rare commentary track for the movie that was available on the 2004 DVD Box Set so seek that out because it’s worth the listen.
Friday the 13th Part 3 contains some damn fine kills
We all know that couple that is slightly older and hanging out with the group, or the outcast nerd who resorts to exhibitionist gags and pokes fun at himself rather than take insults and rejection, or the boy who has some talent but can’t get his mind off his girl for two seconds – these characters are just natural. Let the eye rolls begin because that is one of the main criticisms of the film topped off by the weak backstory and premise. It is not genius and it is not fantastic but it just pure, present and pleasant and that is why I like it. The deliberately enjoyable camp brought by the three bikers, or Crazy Ralph Version 2, named Abel (David Wiley) holding some semblance of an eyeball at the camera, all make for a pleasurable simplistic horror movie experience. It is also the only entry that definitely takes place not on the Friday but on Saturday the 14th and Sunday the 15th (Jason X and Freddy vs. Jason isn’t calendar confirmed either I don’t think).
There are some damn fine kills (MPAA cuts aside) and Vera even gets that distinct pleasure of being the first victim ever to see Jason don his mask – and she receives an arrow for doing just that. Andy’s death is probably my favorite – I liked the character – but it’s just gruesome and swift. Harold (Steve Susskind) is just a downright pig and deserves his death; I reach for the sanitizer just watching that character. Thank God they didn’t go with the original alternate ending that would have Chris get her head chopped off after thinking she defeated Jason though because that would have been a hard pill to swallow. Interestingly, that alternate ending would exist since the film was also one of the few entries to receive a novelization tie-in; written by Michael Avalione and quite highly sought on the collector market! (This particular writer here has a copy which took him 19 years to hunt down – longer than I had even been watching the movies).
In summation, many say it sucks and I say it’s one of the best and I will stand by that! It was one of the highest grossing too as it pulled in $36,200,000.00. Hopefully this Halloween season, this retrospective will inspire you to take a look back; making sure to really take note of the characters internal struggles and what subtext each carry. Lastly, crank those surround sound speakers up and enjoy the only uniquely weird Friday the 13th theme in the history of the series. Trust me when I say…you can’t NOT enjoy it.