December 3, 2013

Movie Review: Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)

In 1980 a small movie called Friday the 13th hit theaters and proved to be a huge hit, scaring audiences across the nation. While there were slashers before it that set the stage, this was the one that exploited the violently horrific nature of horror and captured everyone's imagination. One year later, the terror returned, expanding on the franchise and introducing us to Mrs. Voorhees baby boy. This, too, proved to be a hit and a juggernaut was created. A third film was fast tracked and arrived in theaters in August of 1982, where it promptly became a box office hit. It also was the first, and so far only, Friday film to be shot in 3D.

For a long time I was never really that much of a fan of this outing. Over the years my stance has softened considerably. I am really not sure what it was that turned me off to this, perhaps it was the gimmicky feel of the 3D or the fact that it was a touch jokier than the first too. Whatever the case may be, I am decidedly a fan of it now and it features one of my favorite Jason performances. Th killer is portrayed by the late Richard Brooker, the man who decided that Jason was not going to be a runner, and a man who managed to bring a sense of personality through a character who is forever behind a mask.

Steve Miner returns to the director's chair, after helming part 2 and being part of the production team on the original. Writing duties were handled by the team of Martin Kitrosser and Carol Watson (who would go on to write Meatballs II). I have read that an early idea for the film had it set inside a sanitarium where Ginny (Amy Steel, survivor from Part 2) was being treated for the effects of the first film. Killings would begin and there would be questions about who was behind them. Coincidentally, this is an idea that was revisited and used for Part V, which was co-written by Martin Kitrosser.

As the third film opens, we are taken back to the conclusion of Part 2. Ginny finds the cabin with Mrs. Voorhees severed head and she has her showdown with Jason. It is a bit truncated, but that is all right. We see her picked up by the ambulance and driven away. Meanwhile, at a small grocery store we see a television news report telling of the killings at the camp. Unlike the shift from the first to the second movie, there is no time lapse. This takes place within a day or two of the events in Part 2.

This movie has a decidedly different feel from the first two. Where the original and Part 2 felt more like traditional horror films and make interesting use of psychology with regards to its respective killers, this one feels more exploitative. It seems to be more interested in being an entertaining horror romp than straight up horror. Sure, it has some suspense and some gore, but it does not dive in quite as far as its predecessors. The interesting thing about it is that while it may tone down some aspects, it remains entertaining.

A new group of kids are introduced, joining a friend for a trip back to her summer home on Crystal Lake. The group are going to have some fun in the sun, do some swimming, smoke some marijuana, and do what unsupervised adolescents tend to do. What they don't count on is a killer loose in the woods. Jason shows up (although he is never addressed by name) and begins to pick them off, one by one. His motives are not quite as clear this time out, but one could assume he is continuing the job he started a couple of days before with the would be counselors.

While Part 3 feels a lot more traditional in terms of its flow, it is still one that has its share of iconic moments. The big one is that this is the first film to put Jason in the famous hockey mask. There are probably a few people in the production who will lay claim to recommending the hockey mask, I think they were just looking for something where the actor could use both of his eyes (unlike the sack in the second film). There are also some great kills and a memorable character to help elevate this one.

Something that helps it stand out is the fact it is not another camp movie. The first two films centered around deaths in a summer camp setting. This one continues our tour around Crystal Lake and gives us a group of teens just looking for a good time and not working. You could say these victims are the least prepared so far to deal with something like this and it is fun to watch how they get split up and killed.

Part 3 is the slickest looking production yet and definitely has more of an 80's feel than its predecessors. This is likely a reflection of an increased budget. I am sure it did not hurt that the studio decided to use the gimmick of 3D and made it the first to use a brand new type of camera. All of this likely aided to overall look of the film, gimmick aside.

Now, back to those standout moments. I love the hockey mask and the first appearance of Jason wearing it is a moment that is completely bad ass. He walks out slowly onto the dock carrying a spear gun, he slowly raises it, takes aim, and fires. His victim falls into the water, he turns, tosses the spent gun aside and walks away. Awesome. It is a great moment. Another is after Rick gets thrown through the window, Chris goes to check on him and Jason comes up through the window. There is a pause, Chris looks up, takes a beat, screams, then runs. It is just a case of great timing that I love.

As for memorable characters, there really is only one. As much as I like Tracie Savage's Debbie, Larry Zerner's Shelly is the character to remember. I used to hate this guy, finding him to be more annoying than anything else. Watching again, later, the character has become one of my favorites. There is something relatable in his outsider ways. He just wants to be liked, but keeps himself distant. He is just a great character that sticks in my mind now. Additionally, Richard Brooker gives a great performance as Jason. He gives personality and presence to the killer and is truly an imposing presence.

Friday the 13th Part 3 lacks the depth of the first two and may rely a bit much on the 3D gimmick and the ending lands a touch close to the original, but you cannot take away its entertainment factor and its overall importance to the Friday franchise, what with the introduction of the mask. Then there is also the funky theme music they came up for this one.


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Dell said...

This is one of my favorites of the franchise. Perhaps that's because it best represents what leaps to mind when we think of "Friday the 13th" - a guy in a hockey mask picking off teenagers in the woods with little rhyme or reason. And it's the first to really give us that. To extend something you said in your review of Part 2, this is almost like a third part 1 since it recreates Jason into the iconic figure he's become.

You're absolutely right to say this one is not as straight forward a horror flick as its predecessors. It is as much, if not more, a dark comedy and starts the franchise down the road to becoming the full fledged self-parody that is "Jason X." But you've got a ways to go before you get there. I'll be reading!

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