And that brings us to Friday the 13th Part III, a movie that not only sported the gimmick of being shown in 3-D in its original release, but also coined a great many of the now-ubiquitous elements of the series at large. Most notably, this is the first appearance of that scrap of horror iconography that became so associated with Jason Voorhees: That famous Hockey Mask! Like I said, the series had to make things up as it went along, because each film was intended to be the last one (remember those days?). Still, it's interesting to note that many of the most famous elements didn't show up until the third film! Imagine if Freddy hadn't picked up his claws until Dream Warriors!
In its way, Friday the 13th part 3-D (as it was sometimes known) deserves its place in horror history as the most influential of the Friday flicks, barring the first one. Hell, not even the movie poster featured the Hockey Mask. Again, they didn't quite know what they had on their hands. Ironic, isn't it, that once the franchise began to THINK of itself as a franchise... THAT's when it started sucking? Well, sucking more!
So how is ol' "Part 3-D"? Interestingly enough, somehow returning director Steve Miner and new writer Martin Kitrosser managed to create a slasher flick that was both ground-breaking and derivative! In a way, that's pretty amazing! After a recap of the last few minutes of Friday the 13th Part 2, we find that our boy Jason (now bald, mask-less and played by Richard Brooker) has survived his terrible shoulder wound and started killing grocers and the bitchy wives who love them.
Camp Crystal Lake is apparently closed again, thanks to Jason's recent chop-fest, so who is Jason to slice, dice and make Julian Fries out of around the pond he calls home? Well, he (and his fans) are in luck, because a young, lovely, would-be victim from the past has decided to face her fears and return to her family's lake house. See, sweet, sweet Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell) has assembled a Mystery Machine load of her grooviest friends for a weekend retreat, including her erstwhile boyfriend Rick (Paul Kratka). Also in the Purina Jason Chow can are pot-head couple Chuck and Chili (David Katims and Rachel Howard), goofy Andy and his luscious girlfriend Debbie (Jeffrey Rogers and Tracie Savage, whom we see naked) and poor, poor Vera Sanchez (lovely Catherine Parks) who finds herself paired up for the weekend with a nerdy, less-than-attractive prankster named Shelly (played by Larry Zerner). Shelly, who has hair like Horshack and the physique of a Radio Shack, spends a third of his time making convincing gore effects to freak out his friends, a third of his time feebly hitting on Vera and a third of the time wondering why he's getting nowhere. Those gore effects will soon become redundant. If Jason doesn't get him, the angry motorcycle gang that Shelly managed to piss off surely will!
Much, if not all, of the rest of this film can be predicted as soon as the slashing begins. Either you've seen the repeated scares in this film previously in the series, or you've seen many of these same things in similar films that Miner and Kitrosser borrow from. Still, it's interesting to note that there are a few surprises in this overall fun film. Jason, as a character all his own, was still being fleshed out at this point and was not yet the over-done cliché he became. In this film (though he never speaks) he cries out in pain, taunts his victims in his own way, runs after his victims (a rarity for him) and even laughs once. It's interesting to look back after almost 30 years of Jason and Jason parodies. After all, this is where the best-known Jason characteristics really got started.
Given these conceits, Friday the 13th part 3-D is overall worth seeing for more than just the impact it had on horror. It's a fun film with some startling moments if less real scares than the first two. The nudity, though brief, is very nice as well (including during the Psycho shower scene). The film also cultivates a somewhat self-aware comedy that keeps the viewer going and makes the actual scares all that much more jolting. Speaking of which, the gore effects are likewise pretty cool and they fit well with some of Shelly's pranks.
Like most 3-D horror flicks, particularly the spate of early '80s "Part 3-D" horror flicks (see also Amityville 3-D and Jaws 3-D), there are a lot of cheap tricks in this film that take full advantage of the off-the-screen effect the audience would be sure to enjoy. Every few minutes a stick, bat, hay bale, yo-yo or fist is thrust out at the audience in the predictable hope that every girl would jump into her date's lap. While some of this is still pretty cool (a certain "spear gun" scene shoots to mind), much of this is completely lost and out of place without the 3-D effect. Either way, the effect is pretty obvious.
Luckily, 2009 marked the first time that Friday the 13th part III was released on DVD in its actual 3-D version, complete with cardboard glasses made to resemble that debuting mask! Unfortunately the 3-D transfer doesn't work terribly well on the television set, high-def or not. To be fair, many of the aforementioned 3-D tricks do look much more exciting than in the standard format. In fact, much of it is spectacular and the "obvious" effects are easily forgotten as the originally intended impressions succeeded. The majority of the time, however, the picture appears distorted (even with the glasses) and off-color (literally) and one would be better served watching the original release.
It's interesting to note that even as the Friday the 13th series has more continuity lapses than the Gregory Benford Memorial Library, that Hockey Mask is the one area that seems to stay true to its history (2009 remake excluded). When Jason first boggarts it in this film, it looks white, pristine and new. Watch that mask from this film on and note the way it carries its collection of frequently added scars. The cut to the upper left side becomes a staple of the mask's look, starting in Part IV, where it first starts to lose some of its luster. Skipping over the different look of Part V's mask (a clue in itself), the damage the mask sustains in Part VI and Part VII can still be seen in Part VIII, Jason Goes to Hell, Freddy Vs. Jason and even (for some reason) Jason X.
Let's not forget, in any version, this is still just a Slasher Flick of the Friday the 13th variety. By this very nature, you've got to expect to take it with a grain of salt. As usual, you've got the mounting body count of the dead teenagers, the gratuitous nudity and violence and what ever gimmicks happened to be current to the film's release. In short, it's probably not going to win any Oscars! That said, it's only fair to compare Friday the 13th 3-D to other films of its kind, not to, say, The Silence of the Lambs!
With that comparison in mind, Friday the 13th Part III still pales in comparison to many more original films, but considering its impact on the horror genre, its lasting after-effects and establishment of Jason Voorhees as a viable horror Icon, the film deserves at least Three (D) Stars out of Five! If nothing else, the film changed the way most people looked at that style of Hockey Mask, though Miner and company weren't the first to see the scary potential in this look. The Road Warrior's main villain sported a similar mask a full year prior, so something was in the air, not just around Crystal Lake, but in the dystopic future of Australia. That is... unless Lord Humungus actually was Jason! He's survived just about everything else (including a terrible re-imagining from Platinum Dunes). But, nah! I can't imagine Jason becoming the articulate leader of a gang of punks after spending so long trying to kill them all. Yeah, Humungus is probably one of The Mighty Ducks all grown up... or maybe... just maybe... he's Shelly? Food for thought!
Who was that Masked Man?
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