Friday, January 13, 2012

Triskaidekaphilia: 'Friday the 13th Part III' (1982)

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13.

There are three Friday the 13ths in 2012, so I should be able to make some decent headway through this increasingly irritating horror series. This third installment is easily the weakest so far, lacking even the cursory efforts of the second film to tie together the Jason Voorhees mythology. Like the Saw series, the Friday the 13th movies were churned out one per year in the early days, and Part III has the rushed feel of a movie whose storyline and characters were secondary to getting production started as soon as possible. Director Steve Miner returns from the second installment, and he even recycles five full minutes from the previous movie as a rather unnecessary prologue, setting up Jason's (obviously failed) demise at the hands of a character that we then never see again (because the actress declined to appear in this movie). It's even more blatant than the dream sequence/recap that opened Part 2.

Then again, those five redundant minutes are more suspenseful than the rest of the movie, which offers up another cast of interchangeable young morons for Jason to chop to bits. Part III takes place starting the day after the second movie, with Jason on the loose and a group of friends headed up to a cabin on Crystal Lake, apparently unaware of the mass murderer still at large. This time there's no connection to the camp or to Jason's mother; he just kills anybody he comes across, for no reason whatsoever, and the movie just counts down until there's only one character left. Miner and writers Martin Kitrosser and Carol Watson try to give the final girl some tenuous connection to Jason, but it's an awkward retcon that doesn't fit in with anything that came before. They also throw in some homages to the first movie, but without any sense of continuity, those are just empty gestures.

Part III is important for its introduction of Jason's trademark hockey mask, and this movie is where he finally becomes recognizable as the familiar pop-culture figure of action figures and lunchboxes. It's also one of the most high-profile examples of the 3D fad of the 1980s, and if you think today's 3D movies are shameless, they've got nothing on this movie, which is filled with characters awkwardly pointing objects at the camera so that they'll poke out at the audience (which is even sillier when viewed in 2D, as it almost always is now). Miner seems so focused on shoehorning in as much 3D as possible that he doesn't even bother to come up with any cool set pieces (although the gore had to be toned down to get an R rating, so maybe there's some entertainingly gruesome stuff missing). Jason has already become superhuman by this point; he kills one character by literally just crushing the guy's skull with his bare hands (and causing an eyeball to pop out in 3D). There's no sense of closure or satisfaction at the end (even though at one point this movie was meant to conclude the series), just a weariness at having finished another run-through of the same material.


Anonymous said...

Even though I agree with most of the points you made about this movie, I feel it is the best in the series. The introduction of the biker gang, the backdrop (the "Higgins Haven" property), and the characters make it feel to me like the most well-made Friday the 13th movie. This one also seems to be less "in your face" than the other parts in the series, which I think adds to the effect.

Even though the Final Chapter added more gore, and threw some fun into the mix with Feldman, the characters just didn't feel right and the movie was not as satisfying for me.

I thought Part 2 was the worst of Parts 1-4! Although Part 1 is a classic, I didn't like it too much.

The ones after Part 4 are honestly not worth mentioning...

Josh said...

Well, it's pretty literally "in your face" with all the stuff poking out of the screen for the 3D, and I did think the fourth movie was a bit of an improvement. But really none of these movies are masterpieces -- the first is sort of the best by default.

Unknown said...

Josh i just found out about you as a "movie critic" but sir after reading your review of friday the 13th part 3 i can honestly say fuck you dude. yes the movie isn't oscar worthy or any where near that. But it was never meant to be. these movies were made for the shock value. yea maybe the stories are not all that great but again they weren't supposed to be these movies were released in the 80's and the point was to give people a scare. and if you were a teenager when these came out and you seen them in the theater i'm sure it did just that. Now try to see if for what it is. A Slasher film and i've gotta say it's alot better then the crap they put out now!!

Unknown said...

and mr anonymous there as parts 1 thru 4 are good there is one after those that is definetely worth mentioning Part 7 not only was this one of the better Friday the 13th's to watch it was also responsible for one of jason's classic looks not only did the special effects people pay attention to jason's past they did an amazing job making him look intimidating and just plain frightening so talk shit on these movies and hate on them or whatever but this franchise was classic and everyone knows it hey i can honestly say i would rather watch Friday the 13th part 5 (the worst one by far) then say Nightmare on Elm St part 4 or around there when freddy got funny instead of scarey i mean c'mon seriously

Unknown said...

And no Josh the first is not best by default. why just cause it was the first? you sir can give up on movie critiquing if you ask me. If you ask people what Friday the 13th film do you remember most when you think of the series? Most will reply with part 3 or 4 or later so therefore people have seen and would rather watch these then the first! so tell me sir how is the first the best by default?
as a critic you can't be biased you have to think of it in the point of view in the general public . . . that is if you actually want people to read you reviews and keep reading them and not get pissed off and want to never see another "review" done by you. Sorry for the harshness but i've never see something so ridiculous

Josh said...

Tanner, I'm sorry my negative opinion of the Friday the 13th series has caused you to dismiss me as a critic, but you're dead wrong about the point of criticism. I definitely shouldn't be thinking from any point of view except my own, and the idea that criticism can be unbiased is ridiculous. I'm offering up my subjective opinion, and you're free to reject it (as you have) or embrace it.

As for the movies, if they were made for shock value they sure don't have it. Every story is completely predictable and formulaic and not shocking in the least. I think the first movie is the best because at least it's pioneering a genre and establishing its own rules. The rest are just following in its shadow. (Although I've only seen up through the fifth movie for this project, plus Freddy vs. Jason and the remake, so maybe I'll find something clever in the ones I have yet to see.)