October Horrorshow: Friday the 13th Part 3

The first two installments in the Friday the 13th franchise managed to be oddly engaging, even while being bad cinema. Friday the 13th Part 3 is just bad, what little effort at quality went into making parts 1 and 2 obviously too much for the filmmakers, who must have found themselves overly occupied with tinkering with 3-D effects. That’s right, Part 3 was filmed in glorious 3-D, part of the 1980s revival that brought the moviegoer such lasting film gems as Amityville 3-D, Jaws 3-D, and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. Like these films, Part 3 pays great homage to the 3-D monster fare of the 1950s. That is, it looks cheap, feels cheap, and lacks much more than contrived 3-D shots to keep the audience engaged. There’s no cachet, no horror show charm to this film, and therefore no reason to remember it.

Part 3 begins to die very quickly following the opening rehash and intro. It descends into tired caricatures of bikers, hippies, and fat guys, none of whom the audience can develop any affinity or connection towards. Shallow and one-dimensional as characters from the previous films were, they were at least somewhat believable. This is the first film in the series in which there is no reason to feel for the victims, and thus no way to suspend disbelief and join in a character’s dread at what lurks around the corner. It’s something that director Steve Miner really missed. Miner also directed Part 2, and did a much better job with characterizations. The characters in Part 3 feel like they were conceived by committee — fodder for some over-hyped exploitative television series that gets cancelled after a couple weeks because too many people stop watching. And why? Because it’s insulting to our intelligences that someone, anyone, thought we would actually buy this shit. An axe-wielding hydrocephalic freak with grey skin in a hockey mask we can accept, but not this.

But wait, exploitative is exactly what this movie is. It’s tacky, looking to cash in on name recognition over value. In that, it sure worked for the filmmakers, but lord, not for the poor viewer. In fact, as of this writing, this film was the series’ peak as far as profit versus investment is concerned, including the 2009 reboot. I don’t think that’s coincidence. Why would anyone, except for a hardcore horror fan, stick around for more of this after being fed Part 3?

If one is inclined to see this movie, I highly recommend doing so in 3-D. Yeah, the filmmakers couldn’t make a good movie, but 3-D opens all sorts of new avenues of death for the special effects guys. Most use of 3-D in the film exists solely to remind the viewer ‘Hey, this is in 3-D!’, like juggling apples towards the lenses, or dropping a yo-yo towards them. But when Jason shoots a harpoon into someone’s face, and it streaks right towards us, or when he squeezes Rick’s head until his eye pops out, again right towards us, that is just good stuff.

Speaking of Rick, most of the deaths were nothing special in this one, despite Jason racking up quite a significant body count, much more than in Part 2. A couple shots found themselves cut down in order to squeak the film into an “R” rating, but most were standard slasher boilerplate. However, Rick…oh man. Jason did a number on him. A physically impossible number, no less, which, to me, is what I like best out of my crazed cinematic mass murderers. Martin Becker, special effects guy, I salute you. You made me laugh. Popping Rick’s eye out made his death my favorite death in Friday the 13th Part 3. That still doesn’t keep Friday the 13th Part 3 from being a far inferior film compared to Alien: Resurrection.