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Friday the 13th Part III Awful No Matter How You Slice It


Friday the 13th Part III (Paramount, 1982)
Directed by Steve Miner
Written by Mark Kitrosser and Carol Watson (and Petru Popescu uncredited)

Friday the 13th Part III marks a couple of different milestones for the early eighties. One, on a more personal note that affects no one else but myself, is that it is the first horror film I can remember seeing in the theater, and for whatever dumb ass reason, I never missed another entry in the series. You think I would have learned my lesson at the tender age of 6. That’s right; my mom was a little nutty; actually I think it had more to do with the fact it was cheaper to take me with her than get a babysitter. There was a time when two people could see a movie, get popcorn and drink for under 10 bucks.

The second milestone is that F13III kicked off a new wave of 3-D flicks that would mostly revolve around horror franchises. After this we were delighted with the lovely nuances of Jaws 3-D, Amityville 3-D, etc. Around 1984, the trend died down, and as it did in the fifties, we got about a two-year window to realize that 3-D pretty much sucks.

Granted, we are now in a new era of three-dimensional technologies that seem a little less off putting. Filmmakers like James Cameron are creating literal 3-D environments that encompass the whole film rather than just have annoying characters that serve no other purpose than to point objects at the screen. F13III is filled to the brim with the latter.

Now, mind you, on the DVD I watched, I was not able to watch the film with its intended aim, and I also did not have to wear a pair of stupid glasses while observing. However, while the six year old in me was probably having a lot of fun, the less mature but much older 32 year old in me decided that with or without the 3-D effects, this movie still would have probably sucked balls like no other F13 film before it.

In what would be a tradition for the first few entries in this series, we are given a recap of the last few minutes of the previous film. At least in Part 2, it was only a small scene, but here we get the entire final 6 or 7 minutes from the last installment with one new shot inserted that was probably just cut out from the original theatrical release.

Steve Miner is back in the directing chair, which I claimed ended up being a saving point in the last film. However, once we get to see his directing prowess repeated in the opening frames, the transition to the present film shows a whole new kind of direction; the kind of direction that comes from a rushed production and a filmmaker that realizes he will not be making a monumental film on any level, so he decides to just flow with it and hurry through it as fast as he possibly can.

After the recap, the opening credits begin attacking us, and I mean that literally. Remember this was originally shown with 3-D effects, so all of the titles and names associated with the production come zooming right at you with a disco themed variation on the Harry Manfredini score from the original. It’s as stupid as it sounds, and might actually be a little worse than that. I don’t know if they give out awards for this kind of thing, but I nominate F13III as worst opening credits ever. Imagine what it was like sitting through the rest of the film?

After this we are treated to the lovely antics of a couple of hillbillies, Edna (Cheri Maugans) and Harold (Steve Susskind). They walk around their house watching T.V. and doing the laundry, and yes, they point a bunch of shit at the screen. Edna watches on T.V. as the news reporters give us a recap on the killings that happened the night before (Because the 7 minutes at the beginning of the film weren’t enough), and then she hears some strange noises. Can you guess what happens from here?

Jason pops up to kill both of them in what are fairly standard death sequences at this point. Edna gets a sewing needle to the temple, and Harold gets a meat cleaver to the face. What’s even more annoying about this sequence is that it takes about 12 minutes from beginning to end. This is so we can see Harold walk into a convenience store they have connected to the house to get a late night snack and play with his pet rabbit. We also get one of the most disturbing scenes I’ve seen yet in this series, Harold taking a dump with some lovely sound effects added in for fun. AWESOME!!!

The next morning we get what I like to call now, “Introduction of the Meat.” I’ve given up at this point guessing how old these people are supposed to be; I’m thinking late teens, early twenties. There’s Debbie (Tracy Savage) and Andy (Jeffery Rogers) who have the typical character trait of loving to fuck each other. Shelly (Larry Zehrner), who is this entry’s practical joker and also self loathing to the point of varying annoying degrees; he even has a “Joke Box” with him that is smaller than your average suitcase, but he can fit spear guns and wet suits in there. Then there is Chris (Dana Kimmell), who’s really hot (Got to be excited about something in these films), and refers cryptically to some incident that happened to her at the lake a couple of years ago. That little bit of back-story leads me to believe, yep you guessed it, this might be our “Final Girl”, people.

So, only four people? Please. Our uninteresting foursome is in a van on the way down to the lake, but first they must pick up their Hispanic friend, Vera (Catherine Parks), who doesn’t look Hispanic in the least. She’s supposed to be Shelly’s date for the weekend which leads to a couple of scenes later on that give “cheese” a bad name. Oh, and when they get back to the van, there are two hippies, Chili (Rachel Howard) and Chuck (David Katims) in the back now smoking pot. I assumed at first these were hitchhikers that decided to jump on in before asking if they could get a ride, but based on conversations later in the film, apparently our crew already knows them. I give up.

Now, it’s on to the lake for a weekend of fun and relaxation. And I guess Chris needs to sort some demons out, and by demons I mean, well, I don’t know what I mean. They show some flashbacks later on that show a younger Chris running from Jason in the woods that only serve the purpose of, like most of these early scenes do, padding.

I will defend the movie on this point, however. Given that the killings happened the night before, and were apparently a little ways down from Chris’s family farm, the crew would probably have no way of knowing of these events before they left, and therefore the “stupidity” factor doesn’t play in quite as wildly as it does in other entries. This doesn’t make the rest of the film any less stupid mind you.

On the way to the cabin the crew drives by Harold and Edna’s murder scene and see all the police cars. They almost hit a hitchhiker who, much like Walter Gormey’s Crazy Ralph from the previous two films, warns our crew of the dangers they may face. He also shows them an eyeball he found that looks nothing like an eyeball. Oh, and he points it at the screen a couple of times: the magic of 3-D people.

So, with the 12 minutes of Edna and Harold along with the fifteen minutes or so in the van, this movie starts off on the wrong foot by taking way too long to get going. Once at the cabin, we meet Rick (Paul Kratka) who was a past boyfriend of Chris’s. He’s very charming as well; at one point when Chris rejects his advances, he tries to woo his way back in by saying he picked hanging out with her over some other hot girl this weekend. When she still rejects him for the time being, he asks how many cold showers he will have to suffer through. Such a nice guy.

Shelly and the Caucasian Hispanic, Vera, decide to drive into town for some supplies. There they run into the least intimidating biker gang ever to be captured on film. The scene also has the strangest bit of dialogue in the film; when Vera goes up to the counter to pay for their things, the cashier exclaims, “We don’t take food stamps.” What?

Now that we’ve been introduced to the hundreds of cast members, the killing is finally allowed to start. The biker gang decides to fuck with the kids some more and so they go to the farm. They are all dispatched of quite quickly. Go figure, we’ve only got around 25 minutes left in the film. Chris and Rick leave for whatever reason, and that leaves the rest of our crew to get knocked off one by one. All of this is pretty much scenes copied from the other two films.

One scene of note is the deaths of Shelly and our favorite White Hispanic, Vera. After Vera shuts down Shelly’s advances, he gets forlorn and explains how he’s ugly and no one likes him. Vera apologizes or whatever and then walks out to the dock to sit by herself. Shelly takes a couple of props from his “Joke Box,” the aforementioned spear gun and a hockey mask (AHA!). He then jumps out of the water scaring the shit out of Vera and pissing her off again.

After Shelly walks off to mope some more, Vera stands by the lake when another person shows up wearing Shelly’s hockey mask (AHA!) and holding his spear gun. And in what appears to be the stupidest 3-D scene in the movie, Vera gets shot in the eye. Thus the introduction of the hockey mask, which was only applied because two Canadian crewmembers thought it would be funny. So, a chuckle between two Canucks brings about an iconic piece of film history.

As anyone would guess, we are eventually down to Jason and Chris. It’s not a terrible final girl sequence; it’s much better than the first one, but not anywhere near as well executed as Part II. Jason finally gets an axe to the head, and Chris gets in a canoe and goes out on the lake because that makes sense. She thinks she sees Jason in a window in the house, and in a ridiculous reversal from the final moments of the first film, Mrs. Voorhees jumps out of the water and grabs Chris.

She wakes up (No way!), and the cops are there. They take her away declaring her insane. And I am left confused, bewildered, and bothered by how stupid everything in this film was.

Granted, the Friday the 13th films will never be considered pieces of art, but I can look at the first two films and find something that works. Nothing, and I mean nothing, works in this film. When the best sequence is footage from the previous entry, you know you’ve got some problems.

Continuity errors aside, which there are a ton if you want to keep up with that kind of thing, let’s examine the back-story related to this film. And by examine, I mean point out how stupid and unnecessary it is. Why does Chris have to have been attacked by Jason before? It serves no purpose in the final act; it’s completely forgotten. It’s not like she’s using something from that incident to help her defeat Jason. So, what the fuck?

If you can get past this idiotic lunacy in screenplay logic, what are you left with? As I already stated, Steve Miner is here for the paycheck, and it shows. The characters are more cardboard than they have ever been. The 3-D aspect cannot be enjoyed anymore unless you attend a revival screening, and it was stupid and gimmicky to start with. The only interesting aspect to this film at all is the hockey mask, which I’ve always found to be a stupid idea in the first place, and now that I know how it came about, it’s even worse. So, there is just nothing here for me to recommend. It’s a terrible film; I don’t even know how to put that in a more fun and witty way. This film sucks.

Follows: Friday the 13th Part 2

Next: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter 


Sam Loomis

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