Friday the 13th, Part 3 (1982) -**
So... Wading hip-deep now into the slasher quagmire, I call your attention to Friday the 13th, Part 3. You may remember that, in my review of the first Friday the 13th film, I described this movie and its immediate successor as “unapologetically stupid.” True enough, but in the many years that had elapsed since I last watched Friday the 13th, Part 3, I had forgotten just how stupid it was. (Or perhaps I had never fully realized it in the first place; I was in my mid-teens at the time, after all.) Of all the Friday movies I’ve seen, Part 3 is easily the most forgettable and has far and away the laziest script (although I somehow suspect Jason X will outdo it in the latter department). Admittedly, lazy writing was an accusation I also leveled at Friday the 13th, Part 2, but we’re talking here about the difference between a man who’d rather watch TV than exercise and one who has to be hoisted out of his house on a crane once his loved ones finally decide that 980 pounds is more than fat enough. There are a few story elements in this film that were not previously deployed in the service of the first two, but nothing at all is done with them, and all they end up doing is taking up space in what was already a ridiculously padded flick.
Just like last time, we begin with a stock-footage recap of the last movie’s final reel. But whereas Ron Kurz at least had the class to write his recap as one of Final Girl Alice’s nightmares, Part 3 screenwriters Martin Kitrosser and Carol Watson just tack a good five minutes of Ginny vs. Jason in the killer’s lair onto the front of the film. All I can think of is that they wanted to make absolutely sure everybody realized how far below its previous standards they and director Steve Miner were sinking the series this time around. The sequence ends a bit differently from what we remember, though, in that the original kicker ending is replaced with a few seconds of newly shot footage in which the vanquished Jason Voorhees (who’ll be played by Deathstalker’s Richard Brooker in this outing) twitches back to consciousness and pulls Ginny’s machete out of his shoulder.
Okay, so now it’s time for the credits, and for the one legitimate shock that Friday the 13th, Part 3 has to offer. Those of you who are younger than me may not remember this, but the early 1980’s witnessed a short-lived rebirth of the 3-D fad that looms so large in the world of 1950’s nostalgia. An astonishingly large number of 3-D movies were produced between 1982 and 1984 (an even more astonishing percentage of them paid for by a pre-Full Moon Charles Band— but that’s another story), and in particular, it briefly seemed as if the municipal government of Los Angeles had passed an ordinance requiring all movies with the phrase “Part 3” in the title to be shot in 3-D. This appears to have been the first of the 3-D Part 3’s, and the opening credits make sure you realize this a hundred times over; in true House of Wax style, the animated, bright red lettering comes zooooooommming out toward the camera every time a new name appears on the screen. But wait— there’s more to this surreal credits sequence than that. Even more incredibly, Harry Manfredini’s usual score has been replaced by a new Manfredini-inspired main title theme penned by pop-schlock producer Michael Zager, which I sincerely hope he had the sense of humor to call “Disco the 13th.” Unbelievable...
I’d like to be able to type something like, “Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get acquainted with our cast of characters,” at this point, but alas, I cannot. You see, the filmmakers aren’t through wasting our time yet. We still have to get through close to ten solid minutes of Harold (Steve Suskind, of House) and Edna (Cheri Maugins), two characters who exist for absolutely no reason beyond a perception on the producers’ part that the nine dead bodies from Part 2 just aren’t enough anymore. They also perform the terribly important 3-D movie function of waving a lot of stuff at the camera just so that it can look cool in 3-D. (Of course, it would look even cooler if they’d wave more interesting things than fish food jars and clothesline support poles at us, but what do you expect from a 3-D slasher flick?) Anyway, Jason drops in on them at their home/grocery store, steals some clothes that are arguably even more unfashionable than the overalls he wore in the last movie, and then kills them both in ways that are calculated (albeit not very well) to look cool in 3-D. Meanwhile, the TV set (tuned, as always, to the Plot Specific News Network) helpfully informs us that it is the morning after the events of Part 2, opening the door to all sorts of easily avoidable continuity errors to come.
Okay— now we get to the real movie. Contrary to what everybody always says, it isn’t a bunch of camp counselors this time. Chris (Sweet 16’s Dana Kimmell) has no summer camp-related ambitions whatsoever, in fact. She and a bunch of her friends are just out to spend a few days relaxing at Higgins Haven, her father’s now mostly-disused farm— it’s not their fault the place happens to include a few acres of waterfront property on the soon-to-be infamous Crystal Lake. When we meet Chris, she and her friends have just pulled up in front of the residence of one Vera Sanchez (Looker’s Catherine Parks, who makes for one of the least convincing movie Hispanics of all time). Vera is a friend of Chris’s who has the misfortune to have been chosen as a blind date for Shelly (Larry Zerner), a practical joker in the tradition of Ned and Ted, and a butt-pole of the first order. She doesn’t stand to have nearly as much fun as Andy (Jeffrey Rogers) and his newly-impregnated girlfriend, Debbie (Tracie Savage, now an anchorwoman on Channel 4 News in Los Angeles, if you can believe that), who will spend just about every available second of the movie making out, fucking, or (impliedly) skinny dipping. The other two members of this doomed crew are Chuck (David Hatims) and Chili (Rachel Howard, of Deep Space), a pair of hardcore stoners whose extremely advanced age completely threw off all my efforts to figure out how old any of these characters were supposed to be, and whose inclusion in the cast serves only as an excuse for an endless series of soul-crushingly unfunny pot jokes. (Jesus, did that last Cheech and Chong movie really make that much money?!)
On the way to Higgins Haven, Chris and company pass by Harold and Edna’s grocery store, just in time to see a pair of body bags being loaded into an ambulance. Then, their progress is halted by a loony old man lying in the road (look at that— they shouldn’t have killed off Crazy Ralph after all), who gets up and shows them the eyeball (presumably human, though you couldn’t prove it by me) that he found in the woods, telling them that “God wanted me to warn thee— go back to whence thee came!” (Those who do not understand Elizabethan grammar should not try to speak in Elizabethan English...) All sort of ominous, I suppose, but at the end of the day it’s still just padding. Once at the farm, they meet up with Rick (Paul Kratka)— Chris’s boyfriend, whom she flaked out on after some incident that she pointlessly refuses to explain, and has not seen face-to-face in close to a year— completing the main body of the Expendable Meat.
Hang in there, we’re almost to the point where people start dying. Just hours after arriving at Higgins Haven, Shelly plays his most spectacular prank, which reveals him to be not just a horror movie nut, but a full-on Tom Savini wannabe. Rick and Chris hear him scream while they load hay bales into the loft of the unoccupied horse barn, and when they come rushing to his aid, they find him propped up in a closet with a hatchet buried in his forehead. The freaking out spreads throughout the rest of the party until Andy— who, as Shelly’s roommate, knows a thing or two about his ways— starts tickling the corpse, bringing it miraculously back to life. Even the stoners are pissed now. The opprobrium heaped upon Shelly is such that he feels compelled to flee the farm, and he finally succeeds in talking Vera into taking him with her on a grocery run into town. At the store, Vera tries to buy a bag of stuff, but is told that the store won’t accept her food stamps. (Food stamps?!?! ‘Cause she’s the Hispanic, I suppose... Martin Kitrosser? Carol Watson? You, sirs, may eat a dick.) Shelly tosses his wallet to her, but it is intercepted by Fox (Gloria Charles), the female member of the tiny biker gang that has just walked in from the street. The usual “ask nicely” exchange follows between Vera and Fox, as does the usual “backing the car into the Harleys” scene once the flustered vacationers get back to the car. Gang leader Ali (Fright Night’s Nick Savage) vows predictable revenge.
Let’s not be too hard on the bikers, though. If anything, Ali, Fox, and Loco (Kevin O’Brien, from Warlock) deserve our pity, for like Harold and Edna, they exist solely for the sake of beefing up the body count. The three hoodlums follow Shelly and Vera at a discreet distance, and at the first opportunity, they siphon all of the gas out of Chris’s van, with the intention of using it to burn down the barn. Unfortunately for them, Jason has inexplicably set up shop in that barn, and the bikers never get to burn down anything. Then that night, after Chris and Rick go off by themselves to talk out their problems (Chris turns out to have shut herself off from her boyfriend because she ran into Jason in the woods one night two years ago— huh?), the killer finally begins making in earnest the expected rounds of the Expendable Meat. Following an absurd scene in which Shelly leaps out of the water to scare Vera, dressed in a wetsuit and a hockey goalie’s mask and brandishing a fucking spear gun, Jason slits the joker’s throat, appropriates the now-famous mask (you know, it didn’t really hit me until just now how unbelievably fucking dumb the idea of that mask is), and shoots Vera in the eye with the spear gun (in a big-shit 3-D effect, naturally). Then he does in Andy, groinally bisecting him while, as is his wont, he walks down the hall on his hands in search of a beer for Debbie, who is just then partaking of a post-coital shower. (That’s right, we’ve got a whole personality quirk that was written into the script just so as to set up a remarkably grisly death!) Debbie gets hers when she comes out of the bathroom. She curls up in the hammock that serves as her bed (?!?!) with the first issue of Fangoria, and gets knifed from below in a completely shameless reprise of Kevin Bacon’s death-scene from the original Friday the 13th. (I ask you— how the hell does one climb into a hammock while failing to notice a longitudinally split corpse hanging from the ceiling above and a 240-pound serial killer crouching under said hammock with a hunting knife below?) Finally, Chuck and Chili meet their ends (after a pot-munchies gag involving 3-D popcorn) just in time for Chris and Rick’s return to the house. Rick runs back outside to look around when the place proves to be empty (God alone knows where Jason has stashed the bodies, blood, and Andy giblets in the intervening five minutes), and gets his head crushed between the murderer’s bare hands in Jason’s first onscreen display of genuinely superhuman power. It is now Final Girl time.
I’m mostly going to leave the final reel of the movie alone, in that the duel between Chris and Jason offers the one brief stretch during which Friday the 13th, Part 3 comes anywhere close to working on the level it was designed for, but I can’t let this one go without mentioning the shock ending. Comparatively silly shock endings had become a Friday the 13th tradition by 1982. Part 1 had Jason leaping out of the lake as a zombie boy to pull Alice under; Part 2 had the not-dead-after-all Jason smashing through a picture window to grab Ginny and square up accounts with Paul, whom he had somehow failed to kill by that point despite two solid attempts. None of that comes anywhere near what happens in the last five minutes of Part 3, though. Apparently following the model of Alice, Chris floats herself out onto Crystal Lake in a canoe after the Final Girl buries the Final Axe in Jason’s face. The next morning, she awakens from a nightmare and suffers two false scares (We all know about the Spring-Loaded Cat, but have you ever seen a Spring-Loaded Duck before? What about a Spring-Loaded Log?) before casting a glance back at the house and seeing Jason watching her from an upstairs window. Chris begins frantically paddling, checking over her shoulder every couple of seconds to track the killer’s pursuit of her. The last time she sees him, Jason kicks the screen door off of its hinges, and lunges down the stoop toward the lake. A moment later, though, the door is right back where it belongs, and there’s no sign of anybody on the second floor. That would have been a good way to end the movie, but Kitrosser and Watson weren’t content with that. Instead, they have a zombified version of Jason’s fucking mother— whose head is also now back in its proper place— leap out of the lake behind Chris, and do to her what Jason did to Alice at the end of the first film! What the fuck were they smoking, and where can Chuck and Chili score some?
Alright. Let’s talk laziness. That numbskull ending speaks for itself, but it comes nowhere close to exhausting the supply of cut corners and slapped dashes in Friday the 13th, Part 3. The laziness here mainly comes in two flavors: sloppy continuity and go-nowhere backstory. The continuity gaffes are more visible, and most of them are concentrated in one place, so we’ll deal with them first. The movie is particularly heavily laden with such things as vanishing and teleporting jewelry, head injuries that can’t remember which side they were inflicted on, and hairdos that change subtly between shots. But most of the continuity wackiness concerns Jason’s character design. I’m willing to forgive the differences in overall build— it’s a different actor under the mask, after all— but I have to say the heavy padding used to give the taller and proportionately slimmer Richard Brooker something more like the previous Jason’s very broad upper body just ends up looking goofy. Also rather silly is the fact that Jason somehow fits into an outfit he stole from a man at least five inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than him. But it’s his new face I’ve really got to wonder about. Remember, Friday the 13th, Part 3 begins less than twelve hours after the final shot of Part 2. That means Jason has somehow lost both his beard and the mane of long hair that he had growing from the left side of his head in less than a day. Jason— seriously— you ought to go see a doctor about that. I’d say you’ve got yourself a nasty case of radiation poisoning! Then again, he’s somehow regained in the same 12-hour period the vision in his right eye, and that machete wound that damn near severed his left arm has healed up too, so maybe he shouldn’t sweat the hair loss too much. Hey, there’s always Rogaine, right? The funniest thing about all this is that, when we see him in Chris’s flashback, Jason looks exactly like he does in the rest of the movie— right down to the clothes he just stole the night before— even though the events that flashback depicts are supposed to have happened two years ago.
The subject of Chris and her flashback brings me around to the other major form of laziness on display in this film. In most movies, it’s a fairly important plot point when the main heroine and the main villain have crossed paths on some prior occasion. Maybe it gives the villain a particular vendetta against the heroine, maybe it gives the heroine some kind of vital insight into the villain’s psychology which she can later use to defeat him, or maybe it will mean something else altogether— but the point is, it’s always important, and is usually the key to the conflict or its resolution. Not here, though. In fact, absolutely nothing ever comes of this plot thread, even after Chris sees Jason without his mask, and realizes who he is. (Although I should point out that the only place outside the stock-footage intro where Jason is ever identified by name is in the credits!) Not only that, even the story of Chris and Jason’s previous meeting is full of vexing holes. For one thing, Chris doesn’t remember how she survived the encounter, and that crucial detail is never filled in by any other means. And no reason is given for why an attack by a knife-wielding retard should have driven a wedge between Chris and Rick— especially after a full year’s interval— either. Are we being led to believe that Jason raped Chris? Isn’t that a bit hard to square with the whole “child’s mind in a man’s body” angle that was so important the last time around— and to which the recycled footage that starts this movie off draws the maximum possible attention? The whole movie is simply littered with this kind of shit, too. We learn not five minutes after meeting her that Debbie is pregnant, yet the subject never comes up again once the action shifts to Higgins Haven. Vera’s family is apparently grindingly poor, but the revelation serves no purpose except to bring Shelly’s wallet into Fox’s hands, which could easily have been arranged by other means. But the most glaring case of dangling backstory is, perhaps appropriately, that of Jason himself. I was watching this with a friend of mine who is such a lover of horror movies that she’s going to film school in order to learn how to make them (now there’s something you don’t hear every day...), and at one point, she turned to me and asked a question that encapsulates everything that is most wrong with Friday the 13th, Part 3: “Why is he killing these people? I mean, yeah— he’s a psycho killer and all, but why is he killing these people?” Good question. In the first film, Jason’s mother killed the counselors at the reopened Camp Crystal Lake because their predecessors allowed her son to drown through their carelessness. Part 2 paints Jason as defending his territory against interlopers from the outside world, whom he seems to see as trying to come between him and his mother. The only possible excuse for Jason’s murders this time around is that Chris, her friends, the bikers, and Harold and Edna had the bad luck to wander into the site of a killing spree already in progress, but that isn’t a particularly satisfying answer to the question, and even then, it’s necessary to ignore certain details of the story to make it work. Higgins Haven isn’t part of the campsite, after all— either the original one or the one where Paul Holtz was conducting his training seminar. Jason obviously hadn’t been bothering the townspeople of Crystal Lake for a good twenty years— what the hell would make him want to start now?