“Goddammit, Shelly, why do you always have to be such an asshole?” – Andy
Actually, that quote could be used toward just about any of the characters in this third Friday the 13th. But it’s thrown at a particularly annoying character, who unwittingly played a major part in the ongoing evolution of Jason Voorhees, as we’ll find out.
Much as I like the Friday the 13th series, I have to admit that in my opinion, this one is the weakest. But having said that, it’s also a pretty important one within the franchise mythology. The problem is, it’s not very good. I rate it as serviceable, but tepid – lacklustre with easily the worst performances in the entire series. And it could have been so much better – and that’s what agitates.
Originally, the concept was to follow Ginny (Amy Steel) the survivor of Pt 2, as she is committed to a psychiatric hospital following her ordeal, but Jason tracks her down and starts murdering the staff as closes in on his target, leading to a final showdown. (This sounds suspiciously similar to the plot of Halloween 2, also released in 1982) But Amy Steel declined and the producers went in a different direction.
One of the creative decisions was to film this in 3D. The old cyan & blue stereoscopic process used in the fifties. The novelty factor works well, when the film is shown in 3D – but when shown in 2D, the film falls flat (pun intended) with an annoying number of objects seemingly thrown at the camera for no reason other than to stick out at the audience. These include knives, pitchforks, spears, eyes, smoke, a yo-yo and a starlet’s butt. The process was embraced as a short-lived craze by a few other films before quietly being laid to rest, as it had in the fifties, until being resurrected again a few years ago. I believe it’s currently at rest again now.
The film kicks off with a reprise of the showdown scene between Ginny and Jason, but omits the sequence where Jason comes crashing through the window right at the end. Closing in on Pamela Voorhees’ decaying head, the 3D title sequence begins against a curiously upbeat disco styled main theme.
The film takes place immediately after the events of Pt 2, which saw Jason dressed in denim overalls, with a sack over her head as a mask, covering not only his deformity, but long black hair as well. He truly looked like a mutant hillbilly. Oddly, immediately after the film, he found time to not only change his clothes for a clean outfit, but he also somehow shaved his head. Wounded (temporarily, it seems) he limps off to a convenience store in the middle of nowhere, where he kills the shopkeeper and his shrew wife, for no reason whatsoever. I point this out because up to this point, he’s only killed people who’ve either beheaded his mother or have wandered into his area. But okay, he’s having a bad day – I get that.
Also, the shopkeeper’s personal hygiene is a cause for concern. Alarmed by a snake lunging at him, he runs to the toilet where he has a disturbingly loose sounding evacuation (one of the times I wish I didn’t have the surround system on). As Jason closes in and the creepy music creeps up, he gets off the toilet, pulls up his trousers and goes snooping. The man neither wipes his butt nor washes his hands, and he dies with a soiled ass. (This begins a trend in these movies of really awful toilet hygiene.)
Our teenagers this time around are headed to Higgins Haven, which seems to be right next to Camp Packanack which was established as being right next to Camp Crystal Lake, where it all started – so the lake we see in some scenes, has to be Crystal Lake even though the filming location has clearly moved from New Jersey to California.
So, a crowd of soon to be dead, forgettable teenagers are in a customised van, heading for Higgins Haven for the weekend. The main one is Dana Kimmell as Chris, returning to the area for the first time in two years, having had a traumatic encounter with a bald, deformed attacker that she barely escaped from. Waiting for her is All-American country boy Rick, played with all the dynamism and emotion of a block of wood by Paul Kratka – who seems a bit old to be her boyfriend, if I’m honest.
Also, on the trip we have two stoners who again seem to be a little old to be hanging out with teens. They look in their thirties, with their Grateful Dead fashion sense. There’s pregnant teen Debbie (Tracie Savage) – not that her pregnancy is anything other than a casually mentioned aside. It’s not a plot point, and her demise doesn’t seem any more or less tragic because of it. Her boyfriend Andy (Jeffrey Rogers) a Hispanic girl named Vera (Catherine Parks) and, well… Shelly (Larry Zerner).
Shelly is an incredibly annoying individual whose gimmick is to play practical jokes to bring attention to himself. He’s not played sympathetically, or even likeably. He’s a character you immediately want to punch in the face.
So, taking into account that Jason killed the shopkeepers the same night he barely survived pt 2, this takes place the following day and night which makes Jason pretty busy. He’s a killing machine. But none of his victims here elicit any empathy at all. They pretty much all have it coming as far as the slasher tropes are concerned. And believe me, this is the most slavishly formulaic of the F13 run (even if it does take place on Saturday the 14th).
First up is a generic trio of bikers who are beyond both stupid and stereotypical. Trying to burn the barn in Higgins Haven in retaliation for Shelly having driven over their motorcycles, Jason is waiting and takes care of them easily, reducing their roles in the film to mere padding. BUT – he picks up a randomly placed machete, which becomes his weapon of choice.
I have no idea why asshole/idiot Shelly would scare Vera by swimming underwater in the lake and grabbing at her dangling leg as she sits on a small jetty while wearing a hockey mask and brandishing a loaded spear gun – but he does, and provides Jason not only with a weapon to kill her (after he’s disposed of Shelly) – but he also unwittingly provides Jason with his iconic mask, which he’ll wear from now on.
I’ve always thought of the hockey mask as the most effective and terrifying of slasher movie masks. Michael Myers in Halloween’s still looks human, the Scream mask is an exaggerated skull – but the hockey mask is just blank, with no human attributes visible (they usually have a mesh over the eye holes) and it just looks blank and somehow brutal.
On with the killing spree then, so long, hippies – one electrocution and a red-hot poker to the gut of his girlfriend. Andy, walking on his hands, splits the difference and is bisected with a machete to his nether regions, while Debbie meets her end in a hammock while reading a copy of Fangoria. (That’s the way to go)
The block of wood known as Rick has his head squeezed so hard, his eyes pop out (it’d be horrifying were the wires not so clearly visible) leaving the virginal Chris to fight Jason in the barn.
It really comes as no surprise that she’s the final girl, the last survivor and beats Jason down having hung him by the neck first. By this time in the series, the formula was tediously predictable, as she pushes a canoe out to the lake and is pounced upon in a dream sequence by the mummified and soggy remains of Pamela Voorhees in the customary dream sequence; which begs the question, Chris never saw Pamela, so how could she dream about her in that detail?
A sadly silly ending to a film that plods laboriously through the usual conventions while offering nothing new, but gives us the machete and hockey mask which become forever associated with the character.
At this point, back in ’82, I was convinced that the F13 series was done. Overdone, in fact. The formula was stale. They were just repeating themselves. This would be the last F13 I’d see at the cinema, but Paramount were about to give the series a shot in the arm with what was proposed to be Jason’s final farewell.
But that’s another story.
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