Sunday, July 8, 2012

Friday the 13th - Part 3 (1982)

The Friday the 13th franchise – up until it was taken over by New Line Cinema  - has a special place in my heart. It’s really hard to explain why, but I’ll sum it up by saying that the first film in the series was the very first horror film I was exposed to when I was seven years old. It was actually the very first entry in this blog I did about three years ago and you can find it here if you’re interested. You can probably say that I was “traumatized” by it seeing is that I saw pieces of it at a very young age and it wasn’t until I was a pre-teen that was able to see it in its entirety. It’s no wonder I’m so messed up. Maybe I can blame all those camping trips I was forced to take every summer and being in the exact surroundings as the ones shown in these movies. Maybe I can blame my father for thinking it was cute to sit me through most of it thinking it wouldn’t affect me [the whole story on that is documented in the very first LL80sH entry, as well]. Well, it did, and it did in a rather big way. I was never the same after that one summer day back in 1982 and since that time, I have slowly became a prisoner to the slasher film, to which I am now serving a life-sentence. 

My first encounter with part III (can anyone tell me why it’s labeled as “part 3” on the poster but registered and show in the trailer(s) and the actual film as “part III”?) was in 1983. My family was on a shopping trip to the Fresno Zody’s (Wow, I bet it’s been years since you’ve heard that chain mentioned) and located right next to it was a UA movie theater. I remember stepping off the car and looking up into the sky to see the yellow marquee emblazoned with huge red letters saying, “FRIDAY THE 13TH – PART 3 in 3D”. I remember staring at it behind me as I walked into the store with my folks. That stayed with me. Months later, I came face to face with the poster at All That Video in Reedley – I don’t know why it scared me, but it did. The knife coming though the shower curtain with the knife coming through it – which, nothing of the sort was shown during the film. See below! – was an image I never forgot. (Speaking of: (slightly off-topic) I remember seeing a video poster for Part 2 in that same store that was comprised of only the head of Mrs. Voorhees. It scared the shit out of me then and I’ve never been able to locate it anywhere, even online. I wonder if I conjured that up in my own imagination?) 

My kid brother has an unhidden love for this one. Mainly because he has a soft spot (or better yet, a hard-on) for Dana Kimmel who was in Lone Wolf McQuade (one of his favorite films), but I know her as the little girl from Sweet Sixteen. But, before we get to her and the other actors, let’s start from el principio. This is not one of my favorite entries in the series. With every *gasp* out there I just heard, let me clarify by stating that I didn’t say I didn’t like the film, it’s just not one of my favorites -  which is funny because I’ve sat through this one a million times as the first three were the very first horror films I owned on videocassette as a teenager. Because of my “traumatizing” from the first film so young, I used to stand and hover over these at any/every video store we went to and there was a feeling of terror that would begin at the pinnacle of my scalp and travel rapidly down the back of my spine until it reached my toes. Especially when looking at the box art to this one. I can’t explain why, it just did.

 There is something about the atmospheres of parts 1 and 2 that still give me chills to this day. There’s a pronounced feeling of impending doom that I’m sorry to say the third installment lacks. Sure, it’s set on the usual clichéd “house in the middle of the country”-type setting, save for the campgrounds of the introductory two films, giving us a change in scenery of sorts to set up the Jason character in a deeper perspective. You can still feel the sadness of Part 2 in the opening flashback sequence, but once the camera looms down onto Jason with the machete stuck inside him and then we see him take it out, you can’t help but feel inclined to scoff loudly. I mean seriously, it just so happens Jason was strong enough and able to remove that big ‘ol machete from deep inside his shoulder?

 Now, let’s cut to the opening credits and that addicting disco song. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not chastising it in any way. In fact, I love that it oozes New Order’s “Blue Monday” – speaking in terms of the similarities in percussion, drum programming, and throbbing synth bass line – from all sides and love how eerily effective it really is. It was good enough to be a single and surprisingly, can still hold its own this many years later. Not for anything, but the theme on its own makes up the better part of the film.

 So we all know the movie’s premise and that Jason gets his trademark hockey mask in this installment and blah-blah-blah. That’s not what I’d really like to talk about because as horror fans – especially of this particular franchise – we know everything there is to know about them. We’ve done research, we’ve gone to and read information on website upon website, and we consider ourselves “pros” when it comes to trivia about these films. We know the running-scenarios: The group’s encounter with a Crazy Ralph-esque loon on their way to the campsite, the couple to have sex during the middle of the film get the worst death(s) (Jack and Marcie, Jeff and Sandra and now Debbie and Andy), the final girls’ boyfriend is always killed penultimately (Bill in part 1, Paul in part 2, and now Rick) and so on.  Some of the murder sequences in the film aren’t all that impressive, save Andy’s awesome torso-split-by-a-machete demise. Vera’s arrow-to-the-eye death was fantastic, also, but it loses a lot of clout due to the obvious wire that comes out from the gun as it hurls toward her. The others are cookie-cutter and unimaginative even with the whole 3D going on (Can you say “Rick’s obviously fake eye”?). And usually I wouldn’t complain about something like this, but if I see a girl taking a shower alone in a slasher film, I do expect to see her slashed to bits, especially if the one-sheet hanging in the theater suggests it.

 I wish that I could have seen this in its anaglyphic 3D version when it was first released. There is something about the standard “blue and red” 3D version on the deluxe edition DVD that just doesn’t do it for me. When it was first released, I sat down in front of a big-screen television and popped this in the player, slid on my 3D glasses and held my breath because I was finally going to see this the way it was meant to be seen. Or so I thought. Jason didn’t even get past Higgin’s Haven before I switched over to the original 2D version. I was disappointed, but at least it was available in 3D period.

 So why is it that I’m not awed by this one? I could sit here all night and point out every reason but we won’t go there. The ones that bug me the most though, are the so-called “backstory” between Chris and Jason. Her monologue to Rick as she recounts her nightmare encounter with Mr. Voorhees has got to be one of the most laughable in horror history. It’s so over-acted, it’s so inane and so unbelievable that you have no choice but to buy it. So was Jason following her? Is that why he showed up and recognized her enough to lift up his mask and make sure she knew who he was at the film’s finale? Was there more to their relationship than she led on? Because I’d like to know more about the alternate ending that was never used. You know, the one where Jason beheads her? I have this idea that Jason knew Chris more than she was willing to admit. That would explain why she is so terrified of him to the point of madness. But, this is only my opinion. They should have put the stills of this ending on the DVD so everyone could see it and make their own decision of which one could have/would have been better. Because this whole “let’s-copy-the-first-ending-but-replace-Jason-with-Mrs.-Voorhees-and-maybe-nobody-will-notice” ending really stinks, let’s be honest. To me, it felt like a cop out. As if the ending was thrown together because maybe the Chris-gets-her-head-chopped-off ending wasn’t going to work? Or would it have worked so well that the heads at Paramount didn’t want to risk it and order the generic re-tread of the first film’s scare the green light?

 Hands down, it isn’t the best in the series for me. But, it isn’t the worst either. That honor goes to parts V and Jason Takes Manhattan. I will admit that is has its moments worth looking at and it does have its charm in some spots. Keep in your collection for just the historical value and what this entry brought into the mainstream: a horror icon that forever has its place in pop culture and the lives of millions.