Last week, genre maestro, composer and Albert Einstein lookalike John Carpenter described Friday the 13th as “very cynical movie-making; it just doesn’t rise above its cheapness.” He’s right of course, but for the sake of argument, let’s take a look at Friday the 13th Part 3.
By now a tried-and-tested formula, Part 3 follows another doomed group of teenagers, not so much characters as machete magnets. Every slasher archetype is represented: the joker, the smoker, the midnight toker… they get their stabbing on the ruu-uun. They head to Crystal Lake, which hasn’t been cordoned off despite the very recent massacre. En route, they pass a homeless man who warns them to “go back from whence ye came!” They do not.
This 1982 instalment offers more of the same, with a few setbacks. Most notable is the use of 3D, apparently a trend at the time (can you imagine?) which also bothered Amityville 3-D and Jaws 3-D the following year. This means that throughout the movie, literally everything waves at the screen like an attention-starved child. It’s really annoying – particularly on DVD without the 3D gimmickry, but presumably also with it.
Not only does this facilitate horribly crowbarred sequences of juggling balls and yo-yos, it also means less focus on other elements one might consider more important than things poking towards the screen, such as characterisation and logic; elements that the franchise could scarcely afford to compromise any further.
These characters are weak even by Friday the 13th standards; the series that’s previously given us such memorable characters as “Brenda”, “Sandra” and “Kevin Bacon”. The relatively competent Ginny (Amy Steel) is replaced by Chris (Dana Kimmell), a woman so dumb she’s willingly returning to Crystal Lake despite having been attacked there two years earlier. These people are too stupid to exist in any dimension, let alone three of them. The film also features the first two black characters of the series, who also happen to be violent thugs. So we can add the charge of racism to an already regressive franchise.
Unlike the characters, the movie never strays far from base; certainly not far enough to deter
weirdos fans such as myself. Jason’s infamous hockey mask is finally introduced, Harry Manfredini’s music is always a treat, and the trademark kills are literally eye-popping – even though they mostly take place on the same uninspired barn set. At one point a character reads a Fangoria article about gore effects specialist and franchise alumnus Tom Savini. This is a series developing self-awareness without the intelligence to know what to do with it.
Friday the 13th Part 3 is exactly the kind of cheap Halloween rip-off that John Carpenter was describing. And while it’s fun for Voorhees geeks, it looks as though the franchise has run out of screams. But that hasn’t stopped it. There’s no killing Jason, and he’s back in cinemas next year with an origin story – even though there’s already a Friday the 13th origin story. It’s called Friday the 13th.