Friday the 13th Part III

Friday the 13th Part III
Director: Steve Miner
Screenplay: Martin Kitrosser and Carol Watson
Stars: Dana Kimmell (Chris), Paul Kratka (Rick), Nick Savage (Ali), Rachel Howard (Chili), David Katims (Chuck), Larry Zerner (Shelly), Tracie Savage (Debbie), Jeffrey Rogers (Andy), Richard Brooker (Jason Voorhees), Annie Gaybis (The Cashier), Catherine Parks (Vera), Kevin O’Brien (Loco), Gloria Charles (Fox)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1982
Country: U.S.
Friday the 13th Part III DVD
Friday the 13th Part IIIWhen it came time to create the third installment of the Friday the 13th franchise in as many years, the producers clearly realized that the stalk-and-slash formula was already starting to wear thin and was thus in need of a gimmick. The original movie had worked by concealing the identity of the killer, while Part 2 made its mark by introducing Jason Vorhees, who had supposedly drowned as a child but had actually grown up to be a silent, hulking mongoloid who lurked in the woods and killed any airheaded twentysomethings who dared to tread on his terrain. With all the other slasher movies currently making the rounds at the multiplexes, it was getting harder and harder to come up with ever more inventive killings, so what could the producers do?

As it turned out, the answer was to be found in one of the oldest gimmicks in the book: 3-D, which had been used in the 1950s to draw audiences away from their new television sets and back to the theaters, but had been largely out of favor since the mid-1960s. Director Steve Miner (who also helmed Part 2) embraced the idea with glee and helped to kick off a minor wave of 3-D mania at the multiplexes, best epitomized by the trio of threequel horror films that ventured into the third dimension: Amityville 3-D (1982), Jaws III (1983), and Friday the 13th Part III. Miner was more than happy to provide the obligatory in-your-face moments, which range from poles and axe handles coming out of the screen, to a snake leaping out of a cage and a poor victim’s eyeball been popped out of the socket. No gimmicky trick shot was too silly not to exploit, although the film’s overall mixture of the goofy and the grisly is probably best embodied in the laughable disco-techno-remix version of the Friday the 13th theme music that plays over the opening credits.

The story picks up almost immediately after the end of Part 2, with television news coverage showing the lone survivor of Jason’s rampage being loaded into an ambulance even as the killer begins stalking again, dispatching two minor characters within the first five minutes--the slasher genre’s answer to the narratively extraneous action sequences used to kick off James Bond films. We are then introduced to a new set of victims, who are decidedly more cartoonish and less human than the previous two films, particularly a Tommy Chong lookalike (David Katims) and a pudgy loser named Shelly (Larry Zerner) who is as pathetic as he is annoying. We can spot the Final Girl right away in Chris (Dana Kimmell), not only because she decides to unload the van instead of go skinny-dipping, but because she gently resists the immediate physical come-ons from Rick (Paul Kratka), a former boyfriend she hasn’t seen in months. Chris and her friends are returning to her family’s lake house (which we are left to assume is near Crystal Lake) several months after something really bad happened to Chris there.

Screenwriters Martin Kitrosser (who worked as a script supervisor on the first two films and later cowrote the much despised Part V) and Carol Watson seem to have been genuinely disinterested in coming up with anything particularly new, as they literally regurgitate entire sequences from Friday the 13th (1980), including a character being stabbed from underneath a bed and the heroine floating out into the middle of the lake on a canoe after her nightmarish ordeal. The best they can do is introduce the presence of a cheesy motorcycle gang, whose members look like they wandered out of a music video and prove to be far less interesting as victims than ordinary teenagers looking to have a good time.

Granted, Part III is notable in Friday the 13th lore for introducing the infamous hockey mask, which Jason dons halfway through the film and doesn’t take off for eight more movies. Yet, despite the inherent fun of the silly 3-D effects, Part III is easily the worst film in the series up until that point, partially because it was so redundant, but also because it is the most technically clumsy. Despite a budget that is obviously much higher than Sean S. Cunningham’s independent original (note all the crane and Steadicam shots), the special effects work is at times downright laughable (for example, you can always see the wires used to pull things toward the camera). The MPAA ratings board let Miner and company get away with a much higher gore quotient than in Part 2 (one character is literally cut in half), but it is done with such a sense of step-by-step obligation that it lacks any cleverness or danger, which is always lethal in a horror movie, no matter how rote.

Friday the 13th Part III Deluxe Edition DVD

Aspect Ratio2.35:1
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
  • English Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural
  • SubtitlesEnglish, French, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • DistributorParamount Home Entertainment
    Release DateFebruary 3, 2009

    This new DVD of Friday the 13th Part III offers two viewing options, 2-D and 3-D (two pairs of 3-D glasses are included). This is a first for Paramount, whose previous DVD releases were only in 2-D, much to the chagrin of the film’s fans. The inclusion of the 3-D version is certainly noteworthy, although it has been converted to the red-blue anaglyph format from the over/under SpaceVision format that was originally used in theaters. The resulting 3-D effect isn’t bad as long as we’re talking about the separation of planes in space, but any elaborate 3-D effects tend to suffer from blurriness and ghosting, and the anaglyph system unavoidably washes out a lot of the color and makes the image overall fuzzy. To be fair, though, this is the only option for viewers who don’t have a special field-sequential system hooked up to their home theater, so it’s not surprising that Paramount took this route. Unfortunately, the 2-D version isn’t a whole lot better as it is the weakest transfer of the three newly released Friday the 13th discs. The image is a bit soft throughout, lacking in fine detail in many shots, and there is a surprising amount of dirt on the screen, which is possibly inherent to the original elements. Colors in the 2-D version look good, but the darker sequences tend to suffer from graininess and lack of definition. The newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is effective enough, especially considering that it was created from an original monaural track, which is also included.
    Although billed as a “Deluxe Edition” DVD, the only supplement included is the original theatrical trailer in anamorphic widescreen, which is odd given that there was an audio commentary featuring members of the cast included on the disc in the 2004 “From Crystal Lake to Manhattan” box set.

    Copyright ©2009 James Kendrick

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    Overall Rating: (1.5)

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