Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer of Slash: Friday the 13th, Part 3

By 1983, “the template” – that which the original Friday the 13th helped create and, more importantly, make profitable – had pretty much been sucked dry. We knew the score: psycho killer seeks revenge, group of sex-hungry teens meets somewhere remote for the weekend, and psycho killer finds group of sex-hungry teens and quickly dispatches of them in ways that in 1983 were beginning to feel rather ordinary. And that’s the thing with the third entry in the Friday series: it (being the producers) knows that simply offering up another tale of teenagers being slashed might not be enough (even though they would continue, familiarity be damned, for TEN more movies), so how do they try to make this already old chestnut seem like a fresh and new entry? 3-D, of course! In what has to be one of the most laughable of all 3-D films to be released during that weird era in the ‘80s, Friday the 13th, Part 3 (no I will not say Part 3-D, I have standards here) is one of the more laughably bad of the lot (and this is a lot that contains Jaws 3 and Freddy’s Dead). Friday the 13th, Part 3 is bad, bad, bad; however, it’s cheesy and harmless enough that if you watch the film with a group of friends, you can get yourself through it. But make no mistake, aside from Part 5 and maybe Part 8, Part 3 is arguably the worst of the series.

The film opens with yet another recap opening – only this time the filmmakers (Steve Miner returning and being the only director in the series to return as director), for reasons that make absolutely no sense, change the ending from the previous film – and it’s the worst of the recaps that open the first four movies (there’s not much positive I can say about entries five through ten, but the fact they did away with the recap openings after Final Chapter is arguably the only thing worthwhile the last six sequels contribute to the series). Egregious on so many levels but for the sake of brevity I’ll boil it down to one frustrating moment: it completely removes the great, crazy Jason-jumps-through-a-window scene. Instead, Miner (more on him later) and co. opt to give us something as uninspired as the 3-D gimmick that drags down nearly every scene in this movie: Ginny and Paul simply walk out of the shack and Jason takes the machete out of his neck to show us he’s alive. Stupid. But it gets worse. The camera then pans up to Mrs. Voorhees’ severed head (I was half expecting her eyes to open) and that theme kicks in…

Those that have seen the film, you know what I’m talking about. And how could you not remember, for the shittiest, most laughably bad 8-bit, disco-themed version of Henry Manfredini’s classic theme kicks in as those big block letters expand into equally laughably bad 3-D so that it looks like the title of the movie is coming at the audience. It's one of the most talked about things about Part 3, and unfortunately if the bad stopped there and the rest of the movie was just your average slasher, then we'd be okay. But it gets much, much worse. So those credits: yes, this is the type of 3-D movie Friday the 13th, Part 3 was interested in being in; it wanted nothing more than to be the most blatantly lazy and obvious kind of 3-D horror movie. And yet I am absolutely convinced that more cheaply made movies from the '50s had better 3-D than what's on display here.

So, the credits end and after a bit with two convenience store characters – who may go down as getting the most unmemorable deaths in the series; I mean, I had to look up the synopsis to remember what happened after the opening credits – the camera cuts to our first of many blatant, lazy-ass 3-D shots: a person holding a baseball bat in the most unnatural position so that it looks like the bat is going to hit the audience. It only gets worse.

I don’t just mean the 3-D “effects,” either, but Part 3 may have the most hilariously awful group of Disposable Meat of the series. Roll call: Chris (our Final Girl and maybe the worst of the series), who was attacked by a stranger (Jason, duh) at Crystal Lake two years ago is returning to the property with her friends (it’s never explained why she wants to go back there) Debbie (sexpot), Andy (horny teen), Shelly fat with curly hair, therefore he’s the practical jokester), Vera (a supposed Hispanic woman who is strangely white – I mean it’s as if the casting director couldn’t have even been troubled to finding an Hispanic actress), and Chuck and Chili (two stoners that just make themselves at home in the crew’s van; an obvious Cheech and Chong knockoff). So there’s our Meat. Of course, the crew needs to meet a crazy person so that they can be warned about the evil that awaits them at Camp Crystal Lake. This go-round (since crazy Ralph is now dead, poor bastard) it’s Abel: I feel as though I don’t even need to explain to you what Abel looks like, and that any good film buff would be able to construct this character in their head and not be far off from the actual description of this character. Unsurprisingly, Abel is lying in the street, drunk off his ass, with an eyeball in his hand. This is of importance only so that the filmmakers can have Abel warn the kids and turn to the camera and thrust the eyeball in the face of the audience. 3-D, my friends, 3-D.

There are still a few more pieces of Meat to introduce, though: Chris' boyfriend Rick waits for them at the Camp and talks with Chris about she just needs to relax and give it up to him. No, seriously, Rick, after Chris recounts the horrible incident at Camp Crystal lake two years ago and mentions that she intends on staying and facing her fears, utters lines like, “There are only so many cold showers I can take.” He’s a keeper. And really for the first time in the series (this could be argued, sure), the film is overtly sexist and looking for the men in particular in the audience to hoot and holler with lines like that. That’s not all, though! The Meat run into trouble with some local bikers, Fox, Loco, and Ali. To describe the scenes involving the biker gang would be as pointless as describing the scene with Abel. Again, I am guessing you all could fashion an image in your heads based on what you know about ‘80s movies and be able to picture exactly what character named Fox and Loco look like.

After some more horrible 3-D effects, the bikers chase some of the crew back to the camp and now the killing begins. You see, Jason has been hiding out in the barn after his fight with Ginny, and he’s just been waiting for a new batch of victims to show up. I guess that’s what happens because it’s never really explained. For the first time in the series (and what would continue until Jason would be blasted all the way into space), this really feels like it’s just Meat going to Jason’s turf for no good reason other getting hacked to bits. I’m not saying the previous two films were air-tight screenplays, but they at least a motivation for the characters being where they ended up. Here, it just feels as contrived as one expect from a Friday film. If the characters were indistinguishable in the first two films, then they may as well just have nameplates strewn around their necks that read “Victim 1” and “Victim 2” in this film. We’re not meant to know anything about these characters or feel anything for them; we’re just here to watch them die (in 3-D!). And this, my friends, is unabashed slasher tripe.

As the bikers are killed off (I should note here: once again this film is horribly neutered and had a lot of the gore effects removed to avoid an “X” rating, not that it would have made the movie any better), Jason makes his way through the rest of the crew until the moment happens. Yes, this is the one where Jason dons the hockey mask marking a significant moment in the series and in all of slasherdom. I much preferred the bedsheeted Jason, but as I explained in my previous entry, a hockey mask is more marketable than a bedsheet. Yet, the filmmakers had no intention of the hockey mask ever becoming the single, iconic symbol of the franchise. What started out as an in-joke amongst the crew (naturally, I would assume that there’s a lot of trying to keep yourself entertained working on a movie like this) turned into the very thing the franchise became synonymous for. Like a stop sign without the words “Stop” on it, the mask – within the context of film – can be looked upon even by non-horror fans as knowing exactly what it represents. It’s also the point in the series where Jason went from being a menacing, psycho killer to being a character we cheered for. Essentially the mask was something a superhero would don, and Jason was the superhero of horror cinema in the ‘80s.

So really the film is one iconic moment surrounded by a bunch of 3-D junk that totally hamstrings director Steve Miner. He’s not really allowed to do anything in this movie because it is essentially a movie not about pacing or tension, but about things being thrown at the screen. I have a feeling that Miner just kind of gave up on making a serviceable horror film, took the paycheck, and said “thank you very much” to the series (and the subgenre, as he would dabble in horror again but never the slasher). So with a crew that was more focused on 3-D effects at least we can rely on some of the actors to get us through the story a la Amy Steele, right? As John Matrix would say, wrong.

The movie is actually delivered to us like that of a revenge movie, and they may have been onto something there if they would  have played it off as such; however, they just don’t have the right person cast for the Final Girl to make it come off like it should. When Chris tells about her story of being attacked in the woods, this should let us know that she’s going to take Jason head-on and defeat her fears, instead the film just becomes another “fight for survival” type of horror movie, and there’s nothing distinguishable about this Final Girl from the other Meat in the movie. Ginny, she’s not, and, a big reason for that is the filmmakers didn’t have a strong enough actress in the role.

Dana Kimmell is one of the worst actresses ever to be asked to be a Final Girl. We’re not looking for Meryl Streep, or anything, but a Final Girl has to be believable enough that we’re willing to follow her to the end of the film where she takes care of the villain. Instead, Kimmell turns in some of the cheesiest acting of the series (“Can’t be alive!”), and not only that, looked at the script and got the ending of the film changed. In an interview with Fangoria, Kimmell would admit to not being comfortable with the amount of violence and sex in the movie (!) and claimed that she approached the filmmakers about this and told them that they needed to change some things or she was leaving the film. In the same interview with Fangoria, she stated that after the ordeal her character went through in the woods, she didn’t think the original ending – which had her getting her head cut off by a mask-less Jason (pictured above) – was a good note to go out on (apparently this was intended to be the last film of the series, but I don’t know if I buy that). As much as it sucks that her uneasiness caused alterations to the film, I have to say that that ending seems needlessly nihilistic for a goofy slasher movie – an unnecessary kick to the stomach – that would have felt wrong having a character essentially being raped by Jason in the past, yet not get her revenge on him. This essentially led to the filmmakers ending the film exactly as the first had ended.

That ending, that ending is so awful: first she escapes to a canoe and rows into the middle of the lake (sound familiar), then a log bumps into her canoe and she FREAKS OUT, then a duck flies by and she FREAKS OUT, then three more false scares happen and she FREAKS OUT; finally, we Jason sans mask in the window of a house (a pretty creepy shot, actually) as he begins to make his way towards the canoe. But then he’s gone. And unless you’re stupid, you know what’s coming next: yep, Jason’s mom, this time, is the one that emerges from the lake to pull down our Final Girl. But wait, it was only a dream! Yeah, this is the shits, folks.

There is one good scene – and it really only lasts maybe two seconds – and that comes when our Final Girl, after hanging Jason, must open the door to the barn and face the person she just killed. As she opens the barn doors, Jason is hanging there like we expect – it’s a creepy image and helluva thing to think about, walking past this monster that’s been chasing you and that you just killed – and yet the film can’t even take three seconds to just shut the hell up and sit there and enjoy the shot in silence. Jason immediately wakes up and comes after her again. At least make her try and walk around him first, people!

I’m about as bored by this review as I am by the movie, so I’ll wrap this up with a little confession: I hate this movie, as I’m sure you’ve ascertained, BUT as much as I hate it, I kind of have a soft spot for it because it’s so damn cheesy. I used to watch this one all the time as a kid when TNT would run their Friday the 13th marathons every year, and this is the one that I would always happen upon. I became a fan of its goofiness. For instance, the strained attempts at 3-D make for a good laugh. Whether it’s: a snake jumping at us, a plank with a mouse on it, a kid holding a bat in the most unnatural position, a joint being passed to the audience (this might be the most hilarious), an eyeball, a chain, a yo-yo, a dude’s eyeball getting popped out and rocketing towards the screen, and then all of the other various weapons and such that come at the audience (the most egregious being the harpoon) it’s hard not to have a laugh at the expense of the film.

So if you’re with a big group of friends, this ain’t half bad as long as you have enough beer on hand. It’s one of the first horror movies I can remember watching as a kid (I think we all have a weird selection like this that ushers us into the subgenre), and so I can’t totally dismiss the film as a crime against celluloid. In fact, I would argue that the next film, the so-called Final Chapter, is worse because it’s cynical and stupid and has zero respect for its audience (as if we were to believe they would kill the series off after four movies). In fact, having just finished watching Part 3 and The Final Chapter back-to-back, I'm not sure how much further I can go with these reviews. It's sunny and beautiful outside, and what can really be gained by staying indoors and watching more of the same. I will probably end this on Thursday with my post for The Final Chapter and then on Friday (the 13th), I will give my thoughts on the rest of the series in one final post. Then, it will back to a random assortment of slashers every Monday and Wednesday. Goddamn you, Jason, you defeated me. 


  1. Dana Kimmell was not "comfortable with the amount of violence and sex in the movie?" Excuse me, Dana, but IT'S A FRIDAY THE 13TH MOVIE! What did you expect? I have a soft spot for this one as well, as it's the first one of the series I saw in a theater. I talked my grandparents into going to the movies with me and buying two tickets to a PG-rated movie (I think it was The Beastmaster) and one ticket for this one; we switched tickets and in I went. I remember being fairly impressed with the 3-D effects at the time, but then again, I was 15, and this was likely the first 3-D film I'd ever seen. I have another story regarding the disco version of the main title theme that's much too embarrassing to relate here. Isn't this also the only film in the original series that was shot in a 2.35:1 ratio? I'm really enjoying these reviews, and I'll be kind of sad to see them end, but there is only so much that one man can take.

    1. That story about Kimmell cracks me up every time I think about it. She couldn't have been that naive, right? I love your story about seeing this in the theater, and it's interesting that you mention The Beastmaster. I remember that being another movie I would watch all the time on TNT. A random link, I know, but they kind of go together in my head, hehe.

      You're right about the aspect ratio, too. I'm not a whiz on aspect ratios, but I'm wondering if the 3-D had something to do with the switch. Thanks for your interest in this series. It's been fun to a point. The main issue is that I'm watching all of these by myself...while sober, hehe. I think I could I find more to talk about and enjoy the viewing experiences more if I watched them with others that appreciate a good, cheesy slasher movie. Pizza and beer always helps, too.

    2. If you're interested, I could try taking over for you at my blog, Filmiliarity. Years ago, before such a thing as a blog even existed, I published a horror 'zine called Raw Meat which lasted three whole issues, and I actually did a Friday the 13th retrospective in one issue (this was back when there were only 8 films). I'm not sure how far I can make it, either, but I'm willing to give it a go.

  2. Yes, Friday the 13th Part 3 is no good. I mean, the whole concept of the barn and how it was shot was so annoying to me. It seemed that no other place existed in the whole universe except for that barn, and we know that it's an important part of the plot, but it seems in a moment that every other scene takes place in there, or the shot is showing it, or there is people walking towards it, around it, it's a presence that makes up for a bad budget and lazyness, so it seems, because all the other scenes are at night.
    The 3D shots are laughable and bad, it's such a hokey mixture of things that make no sense when you are watching it in a DVD (that actually does not feature a 3D option and the print itself just says Friday the 13th 3 (never 3D). The eyeball is gross and badly done, so is the yoyo shot, maybe the worst thing ever filmed in the series. But I still think this film has some charm and good kills, and the final barn sequence is good enough to remember.
    I'm actually bummed out, just a bit, that you will not tackle the rest . I was expecting a post on V, for an undisclosed reason, that I will adress acordingly. Still, good job!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jaime. Sounds like we're on the same page here about Part 3. Full disclosure: I wasn't able to watch Part 5 due to Netflix on carrying it. I've also read that it's the worst of the series with a ridiculous 22 deaths that aren't actually committed by Jason. So I'm under the impression that I'm not missing out on anything, but it sounds like your undisclosed reason may be that you like it? If so I would love to hear about what I'm missing. Anyway, Part 4 will be up Wednesday and on Friday I'll do one last wrap-up post.