If FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is the A SHOT IN THE DARK of the franchise, then this second sequel is the GOLDFINGER – the one that established the template for the rest of the series. Serial killer Jason transforms from furtive figure striking mostly from the shadows into an unstoppable killing machine unafraid to show his face…er, mask. Speaking of which, this is the film in which he first donned the hockey mask that became his trademark for the rest of the series. Thus a horror icon came to fruition.
The movie itself shows severe signs of creative desperation. After the first FRIDAY THE 13TH (which revealed Mrs. Voorhees as the killer) and PART 2 (which passed the machete to her son, Jason), there was not much more to do except think up some new excuse to get another gang of horny, drug-smoking teenagers into the woods around Crystal Lake. PART 3 is a rehash with a vengeance, relying heavily on the 3-D effect to lend some novelty to the proceedings.
Even by the lax standards of slasher films in general, and FRIDAY THE 13TH films in particular, the screenplay is almost plotless. Some ultra-lame characters arrive in a cabin, smoke pot, have sex, and die one by one, only belatedly realizing what is happening. To fill up the running time and provide more deaths, a bad-ass biker gang is on hand to threaten the dweebs and then get killed by Jason.
The closest thing to a plot development involves this installment’s Final Girl, Chris (Dana Kimmell), who has memories of being assaulted by a deformed man in the woods two years ago. This unpleasant recollection from her past makes her afraid of the woods, but if you think FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 is going to waste time on unraveling her psychological trauma and showing her overcome her fear (a la Roy Scheider’s fear of the water in JAWS), you’re watching the wrong movie, baby.
The funny thing is: as lame as the story and characters are, the movie actually works as a crowd-pleasing piece of junk entertainment. We don’t care about any of the victims, so audience identification shifts to Jason, and we get a kick out of watching him perpetrate graphic atrocities on all these idiots. Even if you have a distaste for violence, you will find the film too absurd to take the gore seriously, which makes it enjoyable in a camp kind of way. Highlights include popping an eyeball out of someone’s head and (apparently) slitting some guy in half through the crotch as he walks upside down on his hands.
One should also acknowledge that, as predictable as FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 is, it occasionally works as a genuinely scary horror film. The long opening sequence, in which a camera follows a woman as she takes the laundry down from the clothes line, will put you on edge no matter how hard you try to resist. Those sheets, blowing in the wind, flap marvelous in 3-D; their rustling in the dark creates an unnerving sense that Jason could attack at any minute. Likewise, the last-minute CARRIE-rip-off dream sequence, in which the body of Mrs. Voorhees leaps out of Crystal Lake (an inversion of the first film’s ending, which had Jason leaping out of the lake), is an effective shocker, even though you see it coming a mile away.
The 3-D effect is about standard for its era – which is to say, effective but flawed. The camera is able to create the illusion of depth and of objects projecting out of the screen, but the phtography is often dark and dingy, and the overlapped left and right images (one for each eye) are never fully integrated; the result makes you feel cross-eyed, leading to eyestrain and/or headaches.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 is not a good movie by any reasonable standard, but the weak story, bad dialogue, and silly characters all become part of the experience. Call it camp or call it a guilty pleasure, but this sequel provides more entertainment value than either of its predecessors.
Actress Tracy Savage, who plays the victim named Debbie (the one who gets impaled from beneath the hammock), left acting and became a successful television news reporter in the Los Angeles area.
Shelly (Larry Zerner), the obnoxiously unfunny comic comic relief character, is one Jason’s few victims to die off-screen. The reason for this is to set up a “surprise” – which likely will fool no one. Shelly is a prankster, one of whose jokes consists of putting on a hockey mask and scaring someone. Shortly thereafter, we see a figure in a hockey mask walking toward another victim, who thinks she is seeing Shelly pull another prank. Presumably, the audience is also supposed to be fooled (why else hide the fact that Shelly has been killed?), but the difference in body size is too obvious, clearly telegraphing that it is now Jason behind the mask. This also means that we never see the moment when Jason decides to don the mask for the first time, cheating the audience of seeing a significant mment in the character’s development.
3-D supervisor Martin Sadoff explained the origin of the hockey mask in a cast and crew reunion at the 2007 Screamfest in Hollywood:
I’m from Buffalo, New York, and [producer] Frank Mancuso Jr. is my neighbor, and we’re hockey fanatics. The day of the makeup test, we didn’t really know what Jason should really look like, but we had to come up with some kind of makeup test in 3D. I had a hockey mask there, and I said, ‘Why don’t we put it on and see what it looks like?”
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3 IN 3-D(1982). Directed by Steve Miner. Screenplay by Martin Kitrosser, based on characters created by Victor Miller and Ron Kurz. Cast: Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka, Nick Savage, Rachel Howard, David Katims, Larry zerner, Tracie Savage, Jeffrey Rogers, Richard Brooker.