Monday, July 13, 2009

Cult Oddities: Friday the 13th Part 3: 3-D (1982)

"Meet Jason in a whole new dimension" prompts the tagline for Friday the 13th Part 3: 3-D. Naturally the joke is on the 3-D visual gag, but I take it to refer to the irony involved in a film with zero dimensions. Then again... no one cares, myself included. There is pleasure to be found in disgust, and this series proves it consistently with bad acting, extraneous bloodshed, rip-off scripts, and maybe a moment or two that is genuinely memorable or new. The first Friday is a pretty solid genre film, and other sequels in the series do show signs of a knowing wit towards the bludgeon-by-numbers plot formula (Part VI: Jason Lives is just as much a comedy, and pathetically so is Freddy vs. Jason.) Stupid, simple, lighthearted slaughterhouses, maybe still with a hint of suspense; Friday the 13th did invariably add some new elements into American horror in its heyday. The real challenge in being the third part in a series is to be THE sequel with the distinct dilemma of combining a burgeoning horror legacy with easy money and disco.

"Make it work."
Even backwoods fashion evolves.

I had to give an ode to this film upon seeing it for the first time within that touted third dimension -- with those eye-deteriorating paper 3-D glasses no less. It was a viewing filled with laughter, headaches and tears -- mostly from the paper 3-D glasses. But something is still so very special about these films for just how worthless they are. You go in expecting dead teenagers and you leave sa-tis-fied. And 3-D is a tried and true gimmick that I've felt could be exploited brilliantly by filmmakers interested in showing great depth of field. Imagine the long tracking shots in a film by Gus Van Sant or Paul Thomas Anderson, or through the windows and colors of Wong Kar Wai. Even inessential films like this or My Bloody Valentine 3-D gain some interest in the way that inessential moments look surprisingly roomy, visually speaking. Even without 3-D a bad movie seems somehow knowingly so. Objects are thrust at the camera with reckless abandon. Watch out for that child's baseball bat! Venomous snakes! Flying arrows! Hippies! If Friday the 13th Part 3 passes you the joint, you take it.

At this time Jason Voorheas wasn't even the homicidal horror icon or backwoods-rotted-muscle-man that he is today. Jason was just starting out; defining his look and methods for splatter. As far as we knew he was just a little mama's boy who drowned in a lake, revived from the dead only to see his avenging mother beheaded, and returned solemnly to his cabin in the woods. Props to his memorial ode to Mom being that of her severed head as home decor. Thoughtful, bold... loving. He seemed so modest and wholesome with a bag over his face. Part 3 is NOT the series' highpoint, but by god is it NOT the series' lowpoint. What it lacks in inspiration and worthwhile characters, it all but surpasses in those singular moments lost to the eighties -- like a "previously on Friday the 13th" intro, convenience store biker gangs, and a scary soundtrack that will make you want to step out on the floor and dance!

"Is this your rubber?
Didn't your Mama teach you manners?

If you want something, you ask... Nice."

It was an innocent time to be a franchise serial killer. Torture porn would seem so tedious to a killer like Jason - who offs kids with the same passion he gives to doing laundry (which he ironically neglects in pursuit of offing kids). It's work as usual 'round these parts. He knows this campground like the back of his rotted hand, and he certainly knows there's no dearth of stupid, horny youth.

Screenwriting 101: Establish character through dialogue...

Chris: Sex, sex, sex. You guys are getting boring, you know that?

Andy: What would a weekend in the country be without sex?

Pregnant Friend #1: Cool it Andy.

Andy: I didn't mean it that way.

This most recent batch of hormones is young, fresh, and lacking in personality. Our final girl, Chris, is dreadfully boring, but she's... pretty. Sure, she's a prude and would rather unpack than skinny dip with her pals, but she has her reasons. After running away from a family feud at this lakeside cabin two years prior, Chris was attacked by a "hideous looking man!" Inexplicably Jason chose not to kill Chris, instead returning her safely to her cabin bed. (Still so wholesome he was...) The attack has left her wounded and scarred, yet Chris's somehow surprised at feeling uncomfortable upon returning to this very same locale just to fuck and party with friends. Reason enough so that she can tease her beefcake boyfriend, and be distracted from her non-descript pregnant friends, stoners, and your standard doom-and-gloom country bumpkin...

"Go back from whence ye came! I have warned thee! Warned thee..."

Stock characters seems too complimentary a description. It's at this point in the series where the formula was solidified and the audience would identify more with Jason than his disposable income of hapless youth. Jason's most notable quality in this sequel is the first appearance of THE hockey mask that would ultimately define him. Unfortunately he has to give credit to the film's most grating creation, Shelley, for leaving this new look behind. Shelley is the resident prankster, but for all that fun he seems to be having, he's a total downer. ("Would you be yourself if you looked like this?") A frizzy-haired sad clown with an inevitable end... Whether that makes you cry or laugh, it's probably just those paper 3-D glasses.

Director Steve Miner has a long history with horror, having worked on the sets of The Last House on the Left and the original Friday. He then took the reigns on the second and third in this series, as well as the seventh outing for Michael Myers, Halloween: H20. If this entry seems at all uninspired, it's also a marvel of how streamlined these films had become at this stage. In due time Jason would have his Final Chapter, only to return for a tour of Manhattan and the outer realms of space. Friday Part 3 is the modest side of that spectrum. Its pleasures come in those "death by handstand" moments, the careless T&A, and extreme yo-yo action. And if that ending seems at all familiar, its just been "borrowed" from Friday the 13th Part 1 - alongside other needless aspects such as setting and plot. Friday Part 3 looks a lot better in that third dimension, seeing as any lack of depth is fully exploited and thrust into the audiences' faces. Jason's dead in a whole new dimension... Let's disco.

Watch this Movie online at

(Also watch Part 2.)


Pax Romano said...

Excellent take on a really dreadful movie. Other than the hockey mask finally showing up, Friday 3-D was pretty lame. Even having Mrs. Voorhees pop out of the lake at the end (but since her son could not be killed, wouldn't it have been awesome if she did the same - mother and son tag team slashers; ah the mind reels).

I have the title song on my MP3 player and slipped it into a Halloween mix last year. Complete with the driving disco beat and the "ki, ki, ki, ma, ma, ma" chant - does not get much better than that. `

Adam said...

Yeah, pretty dreadful/enjoyable movie, and I agree a tag-team killer would have upped the bar... which is currently buried under the floor. The remake could have used that setup and still offed Mrs. Voorheas later in the film, rather than offing her in the first frame. Mothers need time to avenge!

Cinema Du Meep said...

Friday 3D is a total cheese-fest, but a fun time. I totally have the memory of seeing it in a big old dilapidated theater in times square stuck in my head. '83 was such the year for cheesy 3D...

Great write up!


Glenn said...

This movie is amazing!

Cathy said...

Friday the 13th is the highest grossing film among the recent slasher remakes!I will definitely buy the dvd collection for my brother.