Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982), directed by Steve Miner

The Friday the 13th movies are the purest of the slasher movies in many ways, and probably, along with Halloween, the most influential.

I’m a big fan of the first two, thought they were great films. Part 1 is legitimately compelling, if low budget and schlocky, and has that fantastic closing shot, which scared the pants off me the first time I saw it. Part 2 is a pure slasher movie, a little more playful than the first, but both tense and fun.

I had never actually watched the Friday the 13th films until last year. Having only been aware of the myths and cliches surrounding the series I loved a couple of facts that I would never have guessed. (SPOILERS) I thought it was amazing that Jason isn’t the killer in the first film, and that he doesn’t don his trademark hockey mask until this third installment.

I’m impressed by that, that the legend of these films is so large it has kind of taken over, so someone who has never seen the first film really has no idea what it’s all about. It made it all the more thrilling to watch the first two, in that they’re not a collection of cliches, but actually inventive and original films that created the cliches in the first place.

Or they’re utter, disgusting garbage if you’re Roger Ebert. I love the man, but he is not a fan. Which is fine, I get it.

By the time Part 3 roles around we are wading in fairly deep into cliche and self-reference territory. The first two Friday films take themselves seriously, even if they are kind of funny and fun. I like that.

For Part 3 though the filmmakers are starting to realize the camp potential and are less concerned with actually scaring people or making an atmospheric movie then they are with making college audiences laugh and cheer over “good kills.” Hence the cheesy biker gang dudes, the lack of any real characters or plot and the whole 3D thing.

I don’t know if this movie is a lot of fun in 3D, but when it’s not in 3D it has all these really annoying shots that were put in for the 3D version that just look terrible and slow the whole thing down on your TV. You know the ones, a yo-yo coming straight at the screen, the end of a pitchfork coming at you, that sort of stuff. Again, all great gags I’m sure in 3D, but they looking horrendously out of place otherwise.

Honestly I didn’t enjoy Part 3 nearly as much as the first two. I’m not the type of slasher film fan that only needs “good kills” to enjoy myself. Films like that (notably the Friday the 13th remake) do little for me. This is a grey area because I do like the playfulness of a slasher, but I only enjoy it if it’s taken seriously, as if that makes any sense. A film that is purely boobs and kills is not overly entertaining to me, or at least leaves no lasting impression. Slasher purist would probably balk at that.

Part 3 has no boobs, but it has a lot of kills, combined with very little story and a cheesy self-aware attitude that I don’t think works very well. Based upon what I know I can only assume they get worse from here on, but Part 3 is the first one that I’ve seen where it isn’t making the cliche, it is the cliche. And a pretty dull one at that.

So I actually agree with Ebert to an extent. But I don’t think slasher films have to be garbage. I do enjoy a violent, mayhem filled slasher if it’s atmospheric and actually tries to scare, shock or in some other way involve me, not just show me a series of progressively violent kills. Take High Tension. Or Halloween. Or even the first two Friday the 13th movies.

This, however, is too silly and underdeveloped for my taste.

Friday the 13th Part 3 is available on home video.