Friday the 13th Part III
Dir. Steve Miner
The not-quite-dead-yet Jason wrecks more havoc around Crystal Lake; this time honing in on a group of friends staying at a nearby holiday home.
By 1983, the popularity of the slasher film was in gentle decline. Audiences seemed to have had enough of the bloody subgenre, and filmmakers seemed to have bled it drier than one of Jason’s victims – though some (not me) would argue it had been pretty dry of imagination and creativity to begin with! However, the financial success of the first two Friday the 13th movies meant that it was really a no-brainer for Paramount to produce another one. Taking the helm once again was Steve Miner, who had originally wanted to focus the story on the character of Ginny again. After failing to convince Amy Steel to reprise her role, the writers took a different approach. And when I say different, I mean they pretty much just wrote the same story from the first movies over again. Although they did at least provide a new cabin.
Friday the 13th Part III was shot in 3D and was the first major production to utilise the Louma crane. It is significant in the canon because it’s the film that introduces Jason’s hockey mask! As soon as he dons it, horror history was made and a horror icon was born. Other than that, it really doesn’t do much to set itself apart from the others, aside from changing the location to a family holiday house further around the lake from the summer camps of the first two movies. It can’t even get the continuity right from where the last film left off – Jason had a machete in his shoulder, a head of straggly hair and was kitted out in hobo-hermit-hillbilly threads. Here, he seems to have bulked up over night, his hair has all gone and he’s changed his clothes! As the non-union production had relocated from the original location of the first film – New England – to California, ‘Crystal Lake’ feels different too. Gone are the sun-dappled glades and woods of the previous locations, and in their place we have much less lush surroundings. Of course, none of this matters when the sun goes down and Jason comes out to play.
Opening as before, with extensive flashbacks to the previous movie, Part III picks up pretty much where that one left off. When Jason leaves his shack he bumps off the bickering couple who own the local grocery store – who, moments before, had been watching a news report about the massacre of camp counsellors in the area (director Miner plays the reporter). There are attempts to lighten the tone a little, and there’s more overt humour evident here than in the last films – at one stage a character can be seen reading a copy of Fangoria. The kills as ever, remain the raison d’être, and here, Miner goes all out to surpass anything we’ve seen yet. Even at this early stage in the series, this was no mean feat! As its in 3D, the elaborate nature of each slay is amplified – heads are crushed, eyeballs pop out, limbs are lobbed off, a guy walking around on his hands is cut in two, others are electrocuted, have hot pokers thrust through them, are impaled by pitchforks and shot through the eye with a spear-gun. A number of shock moments from the prior instalments are repeated here, to much less effect, such as bodies being chucked through windows and dead people jumping out of lakes when you think it’s all over. Kevin Bacon’s death scene from Friday the 13th is reproduced here, too.
Again, the characters are drawn too thinly for us to really care about them, though it would seem some attempts were made to move away from the ‘randy counsellors’ whose blood saturated the prior films. This gang compromises of a slightly older stoner couple, a practical joker with self-esteem issues, a sensitive girl with ‘mother’ issues, an emotionally fraught Final Girl, her farmer boyfriend and a young couple who have just found out they’re pregnant! Add to this a trio of leather bedecked bikers with bad attitudes and you’ve got some pretty diverse slasher fodder. As before, only the Final Girl, Chris (Dana Kimmell) receives any sort of characterisation – we learn that she hasn’t been at her family’s holiday cabin by the lake since a dark ‘incident’ a few years back. Interestingly, it is revealed that she had an encounter with none other Jason Voorhees, when she got lost in the woods and it’s heavily implied that he molested her.
Miner really struggles to muster much suspense throughout. The bulk of the film comprises of characters wandering into the barn and Jason killing them. The only deviation from this is when Jason wanders into the holiday house to kill some people. Indeed, things really only get interesting when Chris and Rick – who sports a sweater uncannily similar to Mrs Voorhees - return from their little jaunt into the woods to talk and look mistily eyed at each other, to find the house is deserted and there’s a bath full of bloody clothes upstairs. A lengthy chase scene ensues in which Chris is repeatedly cornered by hulking brute Jason, only to temporarily overcome him, run away and be confronted by him all over again. This incarnation of Jason is supremely sinister and sadistic. Because he hasn’t yet become the supernaturally-tinged zombie he is in later instalments, he exudes real threat and menace – he’s basically a hulking hillbilly with severe psychological issues. Now that’s scary! He's feral and utterly unreasonable. He even smiles at Chris when she recognises him as her former attacker. The shot of him at the end looking out of the window while scratching it and hissing/laughing at Chris is actually pretty unsettling. Chris is a gutsy Final Girl – she pulls a knife out of her friends back and repeatedly stabs Jason with it; she clunks him over the head with a shovel; she ties a noose around his neck and hangs him and eventually buries a hatchet in his head. Come the oh-so-not-shocking-anymore ending (which doesn't even make any sense!), the poor girl has lost it. Emerging from the carnage, she’s escorted away by the police as she mumbles, screams and laughs hysterically to herself in a pretty downbeat ending.
One of the lesser entries in the series, though still fairly enjoyable and significant because it introduces us to the iconic hockey mask.