Long considered to be an unlucky day due to superstitions involving the number thirteen and religious connotations, Friday the 13th is perhaps equally as well-known as being the title for a long-running series of slasher movies. As a result, this is clearly the best opportunity to take a look at the Friday the 13th (Various, 1980 to 2009) horror series and to commemorate this unlucky and dreaded date.
Released: 13 August 1982
Director: Steve Miner
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Budget: $2.2 million
Stars: Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka, Tracie Savage, Larry Zerner, Gloria Charles, and Richard Brooker
Chris Higgins (Kimmell) and her colourful group of friends travel to her childhood home in Crystal Lake only to raise the ire of a local gang of bikers. This threat is quickly surpassed by the presence of nigh-superhuman killer Jason Voorhees (Brooker), who has taken refuge near the house after being wounded and is eager to continue his killing spree on a new crop of unsuspecting victims.
After the release of John Carpenter’s Halloween (Carpenter, 1978), which essentially birthed the “slasher” genre, Friday the 13th (Cunningham, 1980) proved such a box office success (despite its many critics) that a sequel as pushed intro production, albeit without the involvement of producer/director Sean S. Cunningham. Although not as successful as the first film, the sequel’s domestic box office of over $21 million more than justified a third entry in the blood-soaked slasher franchise. Early drafts for the third film saw Ginny Field (Amy Steel) return, now confined to a mental hospital, and Petru Popescu was disappointed when casting for his characters became more about looks than actual talent. With 3D cameras and all the rage at the time, Paramount Pictures decided to capitalise and the experimental new technology meant even simple shots became a long, gruelling process more about hitting the camera than putting in a good performance. The script called for Jason to wear a mask and his now-iconic hockey mask was supplied by 3D effects supervisor Martin Sadoff; a Detroit Red Wings goaltender mask served as the basis for the face-covering, which would go on to become one of the most recognisable elements in all of horror. With a box office gross of over $36 million, Friday the 13th Part 3 managed to out-do its predecessor (while still falling short of matching the first film’s gross) but was met with the same mixed-to-negative critical response; the plot was considered derivative but the 3D effects were seen as an enjoyable inclusion that was sullied by the tiresome clichés. Despite its low critical impact and being planned as the series finale, the Friday the 13th Part 3 ’s box office success meant that a fourth film was pushed into production, one that absolutely, positively spelt the end for the franchise…for a time…
Just as the last film began with a recap of the finale of the first film, so too does Friday the 13th Part 3 kick things off by presenting viewers with the final showdown between Ginny and Jason (then-played by Steve Dash) that saw her trick the bag-headed killer into submission by impersonating his deceased mother, Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), and leave him vulnerable to getting a machete stuck in his shoulder. We continue to get information regarding the events of the last film via a news report, which reveals that Ginny did survive but still leaves the fate of her boyfriend, Paul Holt (John Furey), unanswered. The third film properly begins with Jason pulling out the machete and heading out into the night once more, but now played by a different actor and stalking the nearby woods and area of Crystal Lake with his head exposed (though hidden from view, for the time being). Jason stalks with argumentative store owners Harold Hockett (Steve Susskind) and Edna (Cheri Maugans), an odd couple who receive a great deal of screen time considering they’re just there to get the body count started, throw some terrible 3D effects in our face, and establish how Jason acquires his new duds.
Following this painfully long and pointless sequence (and some extremely funky title music courtesy of series composer Harry Manfredini and Michael Zager), we’re finally introduced to the new crop of twenty-somethings-posing-as-teenagers who will serve as our main characters this time around. Andy (Jeffrey Rogers) and his pregnant lover Debbie (Tracie Savage) are excited to be travelling down to Higgins Haven at Crystal Lake with their friend, Chris, a perky girl troubled by an incident at her family home two years ago but trying to not let the traumatic attack she endured ruin the weekend for her rambunctious friends. When the group get to Crystal Lake and Chris reunites with old flame Rick (Kratka, who seems way too old for her but who am I to judge?), we learn that, somehow, Chris was attacked by Jason (as he appears now) while wandering the woods near Higgins Haven. Horrified, she tried to escape and fight him off, only to black out and be found by her parents, who insisted that she must have imaging the entire thing. However, her memories are so vivid and her fear and disquiet at being back at Crystal Lake are so potent that it could only have been real, though it’s unclear as to why Jason spared her and the sexual implications of the attack are both unsettling and contrary to Jason’s usual characterisation.
While Andy might be a bit of a generic, forgettable young man, his roommate and best friend, Shelly (Zerner), is memorable to the point of being an annoying pain in the ass. A born prankster and practical joker, Shelly suffers from an extreme lack of confidence in his looks and his body and makes up for it by wearing masks, playing pranks on his friends, and generally being an aggravating little shit. Unsurprisingly, his pranks and tomfoolery do little but annoy the others, who constantly berate his antics, and don’t exactly turn on his blind date, Vera Sanchez (Catherine Parks); however, he proves himself to be surprisingly brave and capable when he and Vera get on the wrong side of Fox (Charles) and her biker gang, and Vera warms towards him after seeing how much he loves his mother. While he might be one of the most divisive characters in the entire franchise (you literally either love him or hate him), he proves to be one of the most important characters as Jason acquires his iconic hockey mask after taking it from Shelly, forever cementing his significance to the series.
Chris and her friends are joined by a dope-smoking duo of hippies, Chuck Garth (David Katims) and Chili Jachson (Rachel Howard), who primarily exist just to be off their heads the entire time, added to the body count, and throw a few more screams and disparaging remarks towards Jason and Shelly, respectively, however, while shopping for supplies in town, Vera and Shelly run afoul of a mean gang of bikers: Fox, Ali (Nick Savage), and Loco (Kevin O’Brien), who harass them in the store and then smash up Rick’s car after Shelly accidentally knocks over their bikes. While this leads to a moment of bravery from Shelly after Ali pushes him too far, it comes back to bite the kids when the bikers track them down to Higgins Haven and drain the petrol from their van, thus limiting their escape options for the finale. Still, while they’re only onscreen for a short period of time, and despite being secondary antagonists, the three bikers actually showcase a surprising amount of personality; Fox expresses concern at Ali’s plan to burn down the Higgins barn to settle the score, and Ali actually proves to be a resilient and tenacious character as he somehow survives an attack by Jason to make an unexpected comeback for the finale that sees him getting his hand lopped off for his efforts.
Honestly, Friday the 13th Part 3 may have some of the weakest and most forgettable characters of the entire franchise; Shelly might be memorable for his boy-who-cried-wolf antics and the bikers might make an impression with their ripped denim and leather, but Chris is a disappointingly bland final girl. It doesn’t help much that Dana Kimmell really isn’t convincing as an actress here, but I find Chris’s meek personality makes her little more than a hysterical tart driven to the edge rather than a capable, independent young woman. Both Andy and Rick end up being unremarkable male leads; Shelly might be an annoying asshole, but at least he exhibits some personality and isn’t just a bland nice guy who you don’t even care about. Higgins Haven makes for an interesting change of scenery for the franchise as well; rather than the events taking place at an abandoned camp or the nearby town, much of the film is localised at Chris’s childhood home, which includes a massive barn full of hay and a quaint little house full of oddities and trinkets that allow the setting to be both unique and familiar at the same time. The gang do head into town, however, and we get to see a little more of the surrounding area, which is always nice as I find we rarely ever get a chance to explore the goings-on of Crystal Lake in these films.
Of course, the big selling point of the movie is its inclusion of 3D effects; sadly, however, these are all egregious and pretty poorly realised and amount to shit like snakes, rats, baseball bats, popcorn, severed eyes, yo-yos, fists, and handles being thrust, waved, or shoved right in front of the camera lens in ; we get such “memorable” moments as a snake charging at the camera on a wire, a rat randomly crawling towards us on a plank of wood, a baseball bat held right in front of the camera lens in gratuitous and blatantly obvious shots designed to showcase the out-dated effect. It does, however, lead to two of the film’s more impressive kills when Jason fires a speargun at Vera and crushes Rick’s head, causing his eye to literally pop out of his skull! These prove to be two of the more over-the-top kills in the film as Friday the13th Part 3 opts for simple, brutal kills for the most part: Harold gets an axe to the chest, Edna a knitting needle through the back of the head, and Jason even scores a two-for-one deal when he recreates one of the most memorable kills of the first film and drives a knife through the pregnant Debbie’s chest. Andy is dispatched rather viciously when he gets skewered through the belly while walking upside down, and Shelly gets this throat slit offscreen, which is odd as even Chuck and Chili get onscreen deaths, with Chuck being tossed into an electrical box and the hysterical Chili being impaled by a hot poker.
Although the injuries he received in the second film don’t seem to have slowed him down or even crop up as a weak point here, Jason is clearly licking his wounds in the Higgins Haven barn; we catch fleeting glimpses of him standing in or near the barn, but no clear shots until he hides his grotesque face behind his signature hockey mask. The finale gets into full swing shortly after, meaning lingering shots of Jason’s hands or torso are replaced with full-body shots of him lumbering around with an almost bored swagger; sporting something of a hump and lacking even the wispy hair we saw in the last film, Jason has lost some of his sprightliness but gained the measured, near-superhuman brutality that has since become so synonymous with the character. We see a very different side of Jason this time around; there’s an odd sexual menace to him through the implication that he raped Chris, or at least messed with her in a way beyond simply physically harming her, and his pursuit of her seems to be both personal and sexually charged in a way we haven’t really seen from him before. He toys with her like all his final prey, but Chris is the only final girl that he willingly unmasks in front of; he even leers at her with a wink, showcasing a vindictive intelligence that was missing in the last film. While he grunts and even yells in pain this time around, Jason is now powerful enough to crush skulls with his bare hands and hoist himself up whilst being hung from the neck. Thanks to the timely intervention (and sacrifice) of Ali, Chris is finally able to get her shit together to actually fight back and defend herself, burying an axe into Jason’s head and seemingly putting him down for good. However, in another homage to the first film, Chris is randomly attacked by the decomposing body of Pamela Voorhees in a dream sequence, and the entire experience seems to have driven her out of her mind.
It can’t be denied that the Friday the 13th formula was getting more than a little stale but this third entry; if you’ve seen the first two, you’ve basically seen everything this film has to offer with the exception of the largely terrible 3D effects. However, if you took away the blatantly weird camera shots and the wire-powered props, there still wouldn’t really be much new of offer in Friday the 13th Part 3. Ooh, it takes place in a barn, how exciting! It’s still the same thing of horny kids making dumb decisions, acting badly, and being picked off one by one by a relentless killer, and this third entry is honestly one of the weakest in the series for me. there are some good points to be found here: the speargun sequence and Rick’s head-crush are memorable (if ridiculous) kills, Shelly showcases more personality than all of the main characters combined, and the bikers are surprisingly charismatic characters who sadly don’t get enough screen time. If you’re a fan of Jason as a character, this isn’t too bad an entry either as he finally acquires his iconic hockey mask and Richard Brooker’s portrayal of Jason as a lumbering, sadistic, almost lackadaisical killer set the standard for others to follow, particularly during his time as a zombie. Still, funky soundtrack and enjoyable gore aside, Friday the 13th Part 3 remains a painfully unimpressive entry; Jason’s motivations are oddly tinged with a sexual menace, his face has taken a notable downgrade, and the overall quality of the performances has taken such a massive step back that it’s hard to really give a shit about anything that’s happening as the character’s we’re supposed to care about are so bland, hysterical, or poorly realised. This is one best rushed through, or skipped over, if you’re doing a Friday the 13th marathon.
Could Be Better
What did you think to Friday the 13th Part 3? How do you feel it holds up against its predecessors and its many sequels? Which of the new characters was your favourite and why, and what did think to Chris as the final girl? What did you think to the 3D effects used in the film and did you find they distracted from the kills? Which of the Friday the 13th movies is your favourite? Perhaps you prefer a different slasher film or franchise; if so, what is it? Do you consider Friday the 13th to be unlucky? Are you watching a Friday the 13th movie today? Whatever your thoughts on Friday the 13th (the movie, franchise, and day), sign up to tell me your thoughts below or leave a comment on my social media, and be sure to check in again for more horror content in the near future!