Written by: Martin Kitrosser (screenplay), Ron Kurz (characters), Victor Miller (characters), Petru Popescu, and Carol Watson (screenplay)
Directed by: Steve Miner
Starring: Dana Kimmel, Paul Kratka, Larry Zerner, and Richard Brooker
Reviewed by: Brett G.
(NOTE: Put some 3D glasses on when viewing the last two screenshots for a better indication of the 3D effects.)
"How come you never scream when we have sex?"
"Give me something to scream about."
"Give me something to scream about."
As a horror fan, so much is predicated on the experience of watching a horror film, as the right or wrong atmosphere can affect one's perception of a film. With some films, the atmosphere can create memories that can't be separated from the film itself. Growing up, there were multiple ways to watch a horror film. Of course, the most conventional method was going down to one of the local video stores and stocking up for the weekend. In other, more rare cases, however, a horror film would present itself on television. Some might question the importance of such an event in an age where we have multiple cable or satellite channels dedicated to our favorite genre; however, when I was growing up, we had exactly four local channels (one for each major network), and, if we were lucky, we could pick up another channel broadcasting from about a hundred miles away. When one of these channels did happen to air a horror movie, it was always a late hours affair, and I was lucky if my parents let me stay up late enough to watch it.
As fate would have it, that fifth channel happened to broadcast Friday the 13th Part III one night when I was about seven or eight years old. Looking back, it had to be a Friday night because I'm fairly sure I wouldn't have been able to watch it during a school night. By that point, I was already familiar with the series, as it only seemed natural check it out after being introduced to A Nightmare on Elm Street. I can still remember settling in to watch the film to this day--the channels' reception was piss-poor, and I now know that the film would have been cropped to hell to fit a standard television, but none of that mattered at the time because it was an opportunity to watch Jason at his best.
If you're even barely familiar with the series, you know what I was in for that night: a bunch of teens congregate near Crystal Lake and are unwittingly slaughtered one by one. More specifically, however, part III is concerned with the story of Chris Higgins, a young girl who had the unfortunate experience of encountering Jason a few years earlier. She now returns to Higgins Haven, her family's Crystal Lake vacation residence, in an effort to find closure for those events. Unfortunately, these efforts come a day after Jason's rampage in the previous film, so she will be forced to find closure in a way she never expected. Along the way, there's plenty of dope consumed (in a most unconventional way at one point), some sex, a humorous encounter with a biker gang, and, finally, a forging of an icon, as Jason really comes into his own here.
What made Friday the 13th Part III so unforgettable that night I watched it was the fact that I lived in a remote area surrounded by woods. In short, it pretty much was Crystal Lake without the lake. Furthermore, my grandmother had a clothes line in the back yard that was visible from my window, so the scene where Edna sees Jason lurking in her backyard had quite the impact. In short, it scared the living crap out of me. There's nothing quite like watching a horror film and actually being scared while watching it, and this represented one of the last times that ever happened to me. Needless to say, I had a hard time sleeping that night, as my old house made quite a number of creaking noises. Plus, for all I knew, some maniac like Jason was lurking out there in the woods that were literally a few steps from my backdoor.
Of course, the film isn't nearly as scary these days; however, it doesn't suffer as a result because, in many ways, it has become the quintessential Friday the 13th film for me. This doesn't necessarily mean it's my favorite in the series, but if I had to pick one film that defined it, I would look no further than part III. It's got one of the best casts, the right mix of comedy and gore, and, finally, a fully realized Jason Voorhees, with the mask, the machete, the whole damn thing. I think the cast presented here is the most fun, and it boasts one of my favorite characters in the series, Shelly, the group jokester who unwittingly provides Jason's infamous hockey mask. Along the way, there's a good variety of deaths, which is always a requirement for an effective slasher film. You've got a skull crushing, a spear to the face, and even a kid being split in half while performing a hand-stand.
From a direction standpoint, Steve Miner does a good job. While he's never exactly lit the world on fire with style, he does a good job here of establishing a tense and moody atmosphere. The film truly captures a sense of backwoods isolation and dread that many films are unable to duplicate. Also, the final showdown between Jason and Chris is among the best in the series, as Jason at this point seemed very much human (albeit with a high tolerance for pain) so there's an actual chase that the last few series lacked due to Jason's propensity towards simple power walking in lieu of running. The film is also notable for a few more quirks, like the disco-inspired variation on Manfredini's Friday the 13th theme. Also, the film was filmed in 3-D, and there are plenty of gimmicky shots where objects are pointed directly at the viewer. Unfortunately, the film has not been released in its proper 3D format on mainstream home video due to technical issues, I believe.
Ultimately, Friday III is in many ways a shining example of a splatter film, period, as all of the familiar motifs are present: drugs, sex, humor, gore, and, most importantly, a good villain, as Brooker's Jason oozes menace. On top of that, Brooker pulls off on of my favorite moments in Jason history when he casually shoots a spear through the eye and simply walks off. If I were to give someone a crash course in splatter film history, it would be difficult for me to exclude this film because it really captures the 80s American slasher craze that spawned a thousand films of varying quality. This film separates itself from the rest because it's well made (no doubt due to a budget that was probably bigger than most of its contemporaries) and pretty much perfected the template set down not only by the first two Friday the 13th films, but other prototypical slashers (Bava's Bay of Blood comes to mind).
While the film certainly isn't as impactful as it was that one night during my childhood, Friday the 13th III still holds up today. These days, it's like an old friend that I come back to whenever I'm in the mood to just have a good time. It's not a revolutionary film by any means because it doesn't really do anything new, but it is a very entertaining one that will forever be captured in a memory of that late night viewing all those years ago. I would go so far as to say that no horror fan should be without it, and there's two ways of obtaining it on DVD. First up, there's the bare bones version that I paid 30 bucks for about 7 years ago. All it features is a theatrical trailer, but the presentation is pretty good for the most part. The print shows a lot of damage, but it's certainly far from unwatchable, and the mono soundtrack is equally as adequate. However, there is also Paramount's From Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set that contains the first eight films in the series. The third film is one of four films to get a commentary (this one is a cast commentary), and there's also a featurette devoted to it on the bonus disc. As far as I can tell, the transfer and soundtrack are identical to the standalone release. If you just want to pick and choose what Friday films to own, the single disc release is super cheap these days, and it features the original VHS artwork to boot. Either way, go out and buy this one.
In the months since this original review, much has changed on the Friday the 13th Part 3 front. With the new release of the new Friday the 13th film imminent, Jason fever is again reaching a bit of a fever pitch on the market, and Paramount has been quick to capitalize with new home video releases. Among these releases is a new "Deluxe Edition" of part 3, complete with a new 3D transfer. The film was originally filmed with field sequential 3D in mind, which is difficult to replicate at home; thus, Paramount has transferred it over to the more familiar red/blue anaglyph 3D format, and the results are mixed at best. As a reference point, I watched the new disc on a 73" DLP high definition television, and I'm sure results are going to vary depending on equipment.
Personally, I found my first 3D viewing of the film to be a bit underwhelming at times, if only because my eyes never seemed to permanently adjust to the 3D effects; as a result, there were often red and blue splotches all over the screen, which was extremely distracting. On the positive side, however, I can say that when the 3D worked, it worked well. Anyone who has watched the film in 2D knows where the obvious 3D sight gags are, and these worked about as well as expected; however, the entire film itself has an added dimension to it, as the foreground and backgrounds are separated nicely, which creates some interesting effects. Small details like hay flying around are especially effective here. In the end, it all comes out as a wash, though, as it honestly felt like a bit of a chore just watching it in 3D. It is worth checking out at least once, especially if you've never seen it in 3D before. It's far from perfect in 3D, but the Deluxe Edition does feature a newly remastered 2D transfer as well that's superior to what's been available previously; furthermore, the new 5.1 soundtrack is surprisingly well done, even if the surrounds get very little work. Unfortunately, there's no other special features whatsoever, so hardcore fans will still want the box set to satisfy their thirst there. I personally can't see myself watching the 3D version again any time soon, though, if only because I feel like it actually distracts from the film's quality. It's a neat, one-off gimmick, but the main event is the excellent film beneath it all, which just so happens to be one of the greatest slashers of all-time in any dimension. Essential!
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