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Franchise Friday - Friday the 13th Part 3 (in 3D)

So here we are, Friday the 13th Part 3…in 3D. And let’s be clear, the 3D gimmick is the driving force behind a lot of the decisions in this film. If you’re watching it in 2D though, as I was, this can make for some pretty cheesy moments…gratuitous juggling, gratuitous yo-yo…well, you get the idea. But also, once you get past that, you end up with a story that feels like it’s the conclusion of an “Origins” style trilogy. We’ll talk about that more in a bit, but first, let’s tackle that synopsis:

Welcome to Higgins’ Haven, nestled comfortably on the shores of Crystal Lake. Chris is returning to her family’s vacation home two years after a traumatic event in her life and has brought her friends as a support group. Her friends, however, see it as the perfect opportunity to cut loose and have a vacation like no other. As she comes to terms with her inner terror, her friends are about to find out why she’s so scared…and how it ties in to the horrific events surrounding the lake that once housed Camp Blood.

It’s box blurbs like the one on the disc for Part 3 here is why I always do a rewrite of the synopsis…because the Shout Factory disc suggests that our young victims here are camp counsellors…and no. Not at all. Not even the remotest talk about opening a camp or having kids there or anything like that. It’s actually more of a farm house on the lake…with a barn…and thus an ample supply of murder weapons at the handy.

But let’s circle back to this concept of the conclusion of an “Origins” trilogy, because by this point, we see all the staples associated with the Friday franchise surface. This is the film where Jason first dons the iconic hockey mask. This is the first Friday movie that abides by “The Rules”: the characters that have sex are killed, the characters that smoke weed are whacked, the annoying prankster is slayed and the biker gang looking to start trouble meet the end of their road. And Rick, the boyfriend? If I had to guess, I’d say his crime was wanting to get to the sexy time…but in his defense, sure, he brings it up a couple of times, but he’s not a dick about it and quite honestly, is at least willing to talk with Chris about it…which is a lot more than what most aggressive boyfriends in the genre or even this Franchise do. Honestly, I’m not sure if Rick really deserved it or not…but, they’re called “final girls” for a reason…and to Rick’s credit, he does give us a decent 3D death soooo…all’s fair in love and slasher movies buddy. Also putting a bow on the ‘trilogy’ we do have a jump scare toward the end of the film that harkens back to the final jump scare/stinger in the first film, but instead of Jason jumping out of the water like in the original film, here we have his decomposing mother (with head attached…perhaps to help signify to the audience that this takes place within a dream). All of these elements combine over the fairly short 95 minute running time to give the viewer the feeling that yes, this is Jason, fully formed. And while in the next segment of this review I’m going to go over the negatives of the film, even with these flaws, the film, ultimately, is satisfying. As someone either coming to this series fresh or revisiting it after a long absence, there is something ultimately fulfilling about this film and seeing the franchise essentially grow into its stereotype and its tropes.

Alright, let’s get to those negatives. As I led off with, the main vehicle for a lot of the kills, how scenes are blocked and shot, and certain aspects of the story are the 3D gimmick. Now, this does give rise to a fair amount of unintentional comedy, which certainly doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the film…although perhaps not in the way intended by the filmmakers or by serious critics (be they ‘reputable’ or online horror fanatics that might take their genre a touch too seriously). For my own personal example, my brain often went to the old SCTV sketches like Dr. Tongue’s 3D House of Pancakes or Dr. Tongue’s 3D House of Cats. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have Weird Al’s ‘Nature Trail to Hell in 3D’ ringing in my ears at times. [Speaking of which, that song was released in 1984…why the HELL has no one based a horror comedy on it??? – Ed.] Starting off here, we see another problem, with all the time it takes to set up these gags, the already fairly brief 95-minute run time feels pretty padded. While I didn’t time it or anything, removing the copious 3D scenes feels like it would have excised a third of the movie. An additional shortcoming, for anyone watching the film in high definition, is that these 3D sequences really didn’t remaster well, with a significant amount of grain present in the film where the surrounding scenes have cleaned up pretty nicely. In some ways, it’s kind of fun to have these scenes isolated…but ultimately, it can make for a visually jarring experience. Not helping, but understandable, is that like Part 2, the opening 5 minutes is a rehash of the previous chapter. Again, given the times, this makes sense as home video in 1982 still wasn’t quite mainstream. So why do I bring this up? Because as we enter the third act of the movie, we find out why Chris is here…what her traumatic event was. Turns out, two years ago, she had a run-in with Jason as she was running away from her parents after a harsh argument. Insert tire screeching sound here. That’s right, we’re given maybe a 5 minute story relayed through a flashback scene when really, this could’ve been Friday the 13th part 2.5 or something. Hear me out. So you’ve got Jason doing his thing, if that’s the case, did he get her parents? Because we all know, once Jason gets that machete started, he doesn’t stop until everyone’s dead or he’s been taken out of action (temporarily, of course). Was this part of the story happening concurrently with the events of Part 2? This would help explain why Jason was active in the first place, especially given that film’s ambiguous ending. (Although we did find out Paul did end up making it out alive, so…yay?) It feels like if we didn’t have the 3D gimmick, the story might have been able to be fleshed out more, if you’ll forgive the pun. Lastly, it’s worth noting but not worth getting upset about, but the kills here are…okay. I mean, ever guy is definitely gonna wince at how Andy meets his end…although to be fair, if you’re walking on your hands throughout the movie for no damn reason, yeah, you kinda deserve it. But by modern standards, much of what you see here is fairly tame (oh, the eyeball gag was pretty decent too). That’s not the fault of the filmmakers though, you can blame Jack Valenti’s MPAA for that. By now, the Friday producers had to be used to going all Jason on their own creation and hacking the best bits out for fear of the X rating (as NC-17 wouldn’t come around until 1995…but that proved to be just as much of a kiss of death to any film’s box office). In a way, it kind of shows…yet most of the kills still feel somewhat satisfying, a credit to both the effects team and the editing. Shrug…what can you do, different times.

In spite of its failings, I still maintain that Friday the 13th Part 3 is a fairly satisfying entry into the series. Yes, it bends its knee a little too much to the gimmick, but the story holds in such a way as to close out Jason’s origin story arc. While viewers at the time may not have realized they were witnessing a trope being born, coming at this from the present it’s interesting to watch how this recipe spanning three films comes to fruition here, giving birth to a horror icon. That alone is reason to check out this film. If you need more, well, just crack open your favorite beverage and enjoy the unintentional comedy. Viewers that are able to appreciate both will certainly have a blast with this one!

TLDR: If I were to look at this film objectively, it would probably only merit a Plain Cat, but I have to confess, I had a lot of fun with this one and that bumps it up to a Happy Cat!

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