Director: Steve Miner
Screenplay: Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson and Petru Popescu
Cast: Dana Kimmell (as Chris Higgins); Paul Kratka (as Rick); Tracie Savage (as Debbie); Jeffrey Rogers (as Andy); Larry Zerner (as Shelly)
A Night of a Thousand Horror (Movies) # 28
[Warning - Contains Plot Spoilers for Friday the 13th Part 2 and Part 3]
Regardless of this review, Friday the 13th Part 3 is part of one of the most memorable viewing experiences when Channel in the UK did a season of 3D programming on television in 2009. Three dimensions were being reintroduced to cinema at this time for the noughties but it used the old red and blues glasses, distributed for free from any Sainsbury's supermarket chain store. Most of it was far removed from cultish - an old 3D document of the Queen restored with a documentary surrounding it, a Hanna Montana concert film before Miley Cyrus even thought about climbing a wrecking ball, but there were two retro film screenings of interest. One I still to this day regret missing was the Andy Warhol produced Flesh For Frankenstein (1973), a film dying to be released again on DVD or Blu-Ray for many fans. The other was Friday the 13th Part 3, fun back when I saw it with the three dimensions for how silly it was and the effects being so blatant. Seeing it again in two dimensions, 3D films if they can't be seen in their original form really feel like they've been mutilated. The price of three dimensional capabilities for TVs, for a niche market, is problematic alongside the variability of theatrical screenings, schlocky films like this just as undermined without the dimensions they were created to have as would a deliberate art film like Jean-Luc Godard's Goodbye Language (2014), in this case wanting to poke yo-yos into the viewers' faces rather than Godard's musing on the 21st century and sexual politics.
Beyond these found memories, crystallised in precious thought of Dad trying the glasses on and me finding the infamous eyeball pop-out moment hilarious, this is exactly what I dreaded when I planned to go through the Friday the 13th films in order. Director Steve Miner dropping the ball from Part 2, as if apathetic or compromised, makes this experience even worse. Part 2 (nearly) extracted itself from the bland original film and became an admirable gothic rural slasher with a heroine you actually had any interest in, Amy Steel with literal steel to her personality, and side characters you felt sadness for in their deaths. Come Part 3 and this is all gone and all that's left if a threadbare dead teenager movie. Teenagers go to Crystal Lake to party, two of them stoners who look more like the group's hippie aunt and uncle, and Jason Voorhees starts killing them off, somehow lasting for ninety minutes for an inexplicable reason despite the real lack of grit to the proceedings.
3D is the main selling tool for this film. An end of a baseball bat sticks out as do hands and blades, meant to make the film a ghoulish tactile ride, but sadly none of the film cares to be as three dimensional as these shots. Steel leaves the series a nervous wreck only to be replaced by Dana Kimmell in the terrible position of being a literal black hole, a figure who has little of interest in her. The one thing that counts as an actual personality is a flashback to Jason having attacking her that, by accident to how its presented, inadvertently evokes the idea of Voorhees as a rapist or leaves such a giant plot whole in the back-story to wrap one's head around. Surrounding is a dearth of the interesting, fun characters of the last film, strange caricatures lacking anything of interest, particularly a group part of a peculiar obsession in American eighties cinema of a progressive, multi-ethnic gang who merely exist for as fodder for being killed. All of them are mere meat for the grinder, the only interesting character found in Shelly (Larry Zerner), a sad chubby horror fan who openly hates himself and expresses his sadness by playing tricks on others. His short story, including one of the girls liking him in spite of his prickly personality, is the sole thing that actually stood out as interesting, and its sadly cut down by the nature of this being a slasher film needing a body count.
Most of the film is merely for elaborate ways for people to die but it sacrifices any sense of style from the last film in favour of someone getting a harpoon to the eye, not interesting for me unless its the most inventive type of ridiculous kills in a film and/or if there's some emotional incentive to care. Even Jason here is a non-entity rather than a present, disturbing threat. Only the fact he gets the hockey mask finally here is of interest, none of the threat of a bumbling giant hulk from the last film who was yet vicious and resourceful. Scares are cheap jumps telegraphed and piled on top of each other and Harry Manfredini's score assistance from Michael Zager is just as overbearing as before, only redeeming himself here a little with the disco funk title theme.
It even rip-offs off the twist ending of the first film in shameful cannibalism, worse knowing another ending was scrapped beforehand which was original. As much as slashes are meant to be fun for the most part, they're visible mirrors of real life serial killings, if they're based over a set time period like a month, or horrible real life killing sprees if set within only a few hours. An overtly American sub-genre, slashers should be a safety net to tackle these above subjects in a way that's both to have tension as much as cause someone to throw their popcorn in the air with a shriek. How bland Friday the 13th Part 3 is shocks me. I don't find chase scenes without an emotional connection to them or if they're the best chase scenes ever conceived for cinema from someone like Brian De Palma. I also find that, if I want ridiculous deaths and strange characters, Italy in particular around this time went carte blanche in this area of cinema to delirious levels. Part 4 with Joseph Zito in the director's chair couldn't come quick enough and considering how long it took just to see Part 3, its going to be a miserable waiting period if another delay occurs.