The Eighties Fever: ‘Friday the 13th Part III’ (1982)

What happens when you review thirty year old films from the perspective of someone who gets classified as a millennial, but wouldn’t really consider himself one? With both popular and obscure films on the list, it’s a mixture of new insights into old films, all while celebrating what might just be the greatest decade ever. This is The Eighties Fever.

Viewing: First Time

I had high hopes that Friday the 13th Part III would continue the uptick in quality experienced in Part 2. Unfortunately, I witnessed ninety minutes of terrible acting in a pointless narrative with the only saving grace being some cool deaths and the birth of an icon.

If you will recall, I mentioned in my review of Friday the 13th that despite many calling it a copycat of Halloween I found it more in line with Pyscho. Well, if all would have worked out, Part III would have ended up being a carbon copy of Halloween II to the point where plenty would have confused the two.

An early draft of Part III would have picked up right after the events of Part II Amy Steel’s Ginny being admitted into a psychiatric hospital. Jason would have tracked her down to the hospital killing the staff and patients along the way. Personally, I would have found this to have been a superior sequel and a true continuation of the events from Part II. Sadly, Amy Steel turned down the chance to reprise her character (something she later regretted) leaving us with the mess that is Part III.

Three films in, I am starting to notice some recurring elements in the Friday the 13th series. (1) They like to spend the first opening minutes recapping (and slightly retconning) the ending of the previous film. (2) There is always a old town prophet warning the group of teenagers of impending doom. (3) There is always a stupid ass “twist” at the end. (4) The heroine is taken away by the cops and/or ambulance.

Let’s start with the positives of this film before I completely shred it to pieces. Part III is probably best known for introducing Jason’s iconic hockey mask to the franchise. Sailor Monsoon and I were talking last week about whether or not Jason’s hockey mask was more iconic than whatever Freddy Kreuger calls clothing. I argued that the guy wielding a chainsaw while wearing a hockey mask to scare his friends cliche seen in countless films and TV shows wouldn’t exist without Jason’s hockey mask being so damn popular. Monsoon countered that Jason never wields a chainsaw. I argued back that if Jason never put on a hockey mask, you’d never see anyone wearing a hockey mask while wielding the chainsaw; they’d be wearing something else. I don’t think we actually settled the debate, but hockey mask over hideous sweater any (Fri)day.

Beyond the hockey mask, all this film really has going for it is some pretty badass kills. The speargun to the eye was probably my favorite, followed closely by the over the head cut (featured in the header image). Oh, and what-the-fuck was that head smash that Jason did? Holy shit, that was just gruesome. Otherwise, the rest of the kills were nothing we hadn’t seen before.

While on the topic of kills, I feel that this series has sort of lost its way. Originally, was it not Mrs. Voorhees killing sex-obsessed teenagers because they were responsible for letting her son Jason drown? That is the perfect angle for a slasher series. Kill the sexually active and reward the sexually abstinent by letting them live. At least that would give us, the audience, a little added tension of watching these characters flirt. We’d want to see boobs, but at the same time we knew we were just sending a death wish to those characters. Instead, Jason just kills whoever crosses his path which makes it sort of meh as the film rolls along. I mean, why does Jason even kill? We saw him get revenge on Alice Hardy back in the opening of Part 2. If he wanted revenge for his mother’s death he got it. There’s no reason for Jason to want to kill other than having no moral code due to raising himself. Is that a good enough reason? Eh.

Also, Part III has the worst batch of characters yet. Screenwriter Petru Popescu said casting was based on looks rather than talent and it shows. Every time Shelley (Larry Zerner) says that he wants to be an actor I feel like that is just Zerner breaking the fourth wall. God, is Shelley one of the most annoying characters you could have on screen. Socially awkward, he fucks himself by pretending to be dead early in the movie so when he stumbles into Mrs. Hippie with his throat slashed she just thinks he’s acting again. However, he is responsible for Jason getting that hockey mask, so he barely squeaks by on the tolerable list.

Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell) makes for an interesting Friday the 13th heroine as she actually had a previous encounter Jason… that makes no damn sense. Her parents got mad at her for staying out late one night so she ran away from home into the forest. She was chilling against a tree when she heard footsteps. Jason appears and tries to grab her. They wrestle around on the ground and then she blacks out. All Chris remembers next is waking up in bed. Her parents never mention anything. It could have easily been a dream, had Chris not mentioned that she would never forget the face of the man from the forest. She later learns that Jason is the man from the forest when he takes off the hockey mask. So the question here is, why did Jason let her go that night two years ago? It couldn’t have been a dream because Jason gave off some vibe that he remembered her too. It’s a weird plot detail that although gives Chris some much needed character development, leaves us with more questions than answers.

Overall, this is one dumb film. Especially the ending where Chris imagines that Jason is still alive and then the decomposing body of Mrs. Voorhees jumps from the lake and pulls Chris under the water in a direct homage to the twist ending from Friday the 13th. Does anybody ever really make the connection between the killer and the myth of Jason Voorhees? I never recalled anyone even uttering Jason’s name in the whole movie. It makes no damn sense that Chris would have imagined the body of Mrs. Voorhees dragging her under the water if she didn’t know that was Jason killing her friends. Seriously, I’m ready for these films to shake up the formula; something Monsoon has already laughed at me for thinking is going to happen. Hey, I can dream, can’t I (we’re still a ways off from the Nightmare on Elm Street crossover, right?).

Grade: 8.2/10