The following article contains spoilers for the 1982 horror film ‘Friday the 13th Part III’. For our review of the previous films in the franchise, click here and here.
What a surprise, two Friday the 13th reviews on the same day! Yes, following the delay for the review of Friday the 13th Part II, the critics team at Full Circle saw it fit to make it up to our audience by reviewing both Part II and III. It seemed like a simple enough task. After all, Friday the 13th Part III is once again helmed by Steve Miner and boasts a budget nearly twice that of the previous film. Yet, while Friday the 13th Part II is an improvement on the 1980 original, 1982’s Part III is a significant leap back.
First things first, Friday the 13th Part III isn’t technically the real title. The theatrical title is Friday the 13th Part III 3D, marking it as a symptom of the 3D resurgence that overtook horror movies in the 1980s. Due to its availability on home video, I was able to watch the 3D version of this film with a pair of good ole anaglyph red-and-blue glasses and surprisingly found that aspect of the film to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the film. Eye strain, characters haphazardly throwing objects in and out of the screen for audience “oohs” and “ahhs” is delicious camp for the cinephile’s soul.
The rest of the film… exists. Friday the 13th Part III is an extraordinarily unambitious affair that seems content to repeat the same plot as the first two movies. Only this time, there’s even less logic! Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell) and her group of friends aren’t even camp counselors. They’re just going to visit Higgins’ old childhood home in Crystal Lake.
This group of friends borders on insufferable. The four (!) writers responsible for this flick leaned on every cliche in the book for their characters. There’s a pair of stoners, a pair of horny teens, and a geeky prankster named Shelly who seems intent on annoying the ever-loving crap out of his friends. And succeed Shelly does. Larry Zerner gives a cringe-inducing, maddening performance as the afro-d nerd who is prone to being a nuisance, pranking his so-called “friends” at an inopportune time, or both. The only good thing this harebrained character contributes is he sets the stage for Jason’s signature hockey ma- okay, I’m getting ahead of myself.
For a director that came so close to knocking the previous film out of the park, Steve Miner doesn’t quite have the chops to make this film sing. There’s no sense of tension throughout the picture, instead it’s just waiting around for characters to get murdered by Jason. Despite the increased budget, everything about this movie looks cheap. It’s as if they pumped more money into the 3D effects than decent cinematography or production design.
It doesn’t frame the characters as empathetic human beings. They are merely lambs to the slaughter for us to gawk at. It might work if Jason was as threatening a presence as he was in the previous film. Alas, he is not. Richard Brooker makes no impression with his performance, merely a delivery system for kills. The only remarkable thing about his performance isn’t really even about his performance, it’s that Jason finally has his iconic hockey mask. And even that looks a little awkward!
Okay, maybe I’m giving Friday the 13th Part III a bum rap. If this film was viewed with no expectations, it’s sure to get the job done. The kills are solid- my favorite being a character’s eye popping right out of his skull and towards the camera. Harry Manfredini’s score is better than its even been! But Part III does nothing beyond the bare minimum.
The statement of intent for Friday the 13th Part III can be found in its closing moments. Our final girl lays in a canoe, floating through the lake- just like in the first film- when she’s ambushed by a zombified Pamela Voorhees. It’s derivative, not shocking, and mildly amusing at best. And that’s all Part III can hope to be. Amusing at best. –James Preston Poole