For the next eight days until Friday, April 13th, I’ll be watching and reviewing the movies in the Friday the 13th franchise from the very first through Jason X (I’m up in the air about including Freddy vs Jason).
I’ll be counting kills, observing the bad behavior that gets teenagers
killed at Camp Crystal Lake, chronicling the ways Jason and the other
killers in the series bite it at the end, and awarding my favorite kill
of the movie. Needless to say this is going to be heavy on the
spoilers, so if you’re some kind of movie virgin who hasn’t yet bathed
in the spring of Jason Voorhees et al, be wary.
Special thanks to Litmus Configuration for the amazing image above!
Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)
Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)
12, or 13 if you’re pro-life (One meat cleaver to the chest, one
knitting needle to the back of the head, two pitchforkings, one slow,
slow death by throat slashing, one spear gun shot to the eye, one
machete to the groin/pelvis, one knifing from beneath, one fuse box
electrocution, one burning hot poker to the gut, one smooshed head with
eyeball pop, one bludgeoning that turns to a disarming that turns to a
machete chopping frenzy)
Best Kill: A Handwalking Dweeb gets a new definition of doing a split, thanks to Jason.
Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll:
Smoking – and eating! – dope in a van on the way to the woods sets up
everybody as fair game. Attempted arson lead to slaughter. Hammock sex
is a gateway to gore. Getting stoned on the john and not sharing it
with your lady is a killable offense.
The Comeuppance: When a hanging doesn’t take, Jason gets an axe to the face.
The Movie: Is Jason Voorhees a virgin? I have to confess that this thought never bothered me until I revisited Friday the 13th Part 3 for this series, and in this film I think I may have found the very disturbing answer.
Part 3 is probably most notable as the 3D entry to the series, and director Steve Miner (returning from Part 2) hugs the gimmick close like it’s a life preserver in a stormy sea. Friday the 13th Part 3 misses almost no opportunity to stick things right in the camera – time and again I felt like I was watching Dr. Tongue’s Evil House of Pancakes on
Count Floyd’s show. It’s surprising that a boner didn’t end up getting
poked into the camera, as everything from a pole to a yo-yo to a spear
to an eyeball to even popcorn ends up almost touching the lens.
But beneath all this goofiness is… an actually very strong entry in the series! After Part 2‘s
lifeless and mostly imagination-less events, Jason is on his game. He
even freestyles a little bit, using handy objects – like a fusebox or a
red hot poker – in fun ways. It’s like jazz. With killing. Part 3
has abandoned the camp concept but not the basic formula – these movies
unfold like clockwork. But this time the formula fully gels into one
that will be familiar to those who watched the later movies; in Part 3
Jason Voorhees finally becomes the iconic killing machine that would
fuel this franchise through decades and seven more sequels.
also really gets right into the kinds of continuity issues that would
be a hallmark of this series. The film opens with a recap of some of
the final minutes of Part 2: everything up until Survivor Girl and her boyfriend leave Jason’s
love shack. Then we see Jason pull the machete out of himself and crawl
off, but there’s no repeat of the slo-mo jump through the window that
ended the film. That’s likely because Jason looks totally different
this time out, more like Sloth from Goonies
than anything else, and without the long hair and beard he sported in
the last film. Were I going for a No-Prize I might venture that Jason
cut his hair and beard as a way of cleansing himself after the failed
rampage; he is out of sight for a whole day, as the third film picks
up the night after the killings. We can tell when it is because the
second victim of the film, a nagging wife, is watching the news
coverage of the murders… and the newsman says that our Survivor Girl
had stab wounds, multiple, despite just taking one slash from Big J.
Maybe the window jumping did happen? Aw, fuck it, I’ve already thought
about this more than the filmmakers.
Jason dispatches that nagging housewife and her goofy, rabbit-loving husband before the credits sequence. If you thought Part 2‘s
pre-credits sequence was overlong (and Christ did I ever), this one
clocks in at about three minutes longer, filled with long shots of
people doing nothing interesting. If I could go back in time and talk
to Steve Miner I would make him understand that a fake-out POV camera
shot of a guy eating donuts is not, in fact, scary. Anyway, the
differences between 2 and 3
become very clear right away with these first two kills, which are
pretty much bloodier than anything we saw in the previous film. We’re
off to a good start.
main story of the film has Chris taking a bunch of her friends to her
parent’s house on the shores of Crystal Lake. One of the biggest
problems with these films is that the victims are so interchangeable –
it can be hard to tell who is who within the film, and then when you
actually compare movies you see the same character types showing up
again and again. Maybe these movies are some kind of statement on the
cyclical nature of reality. Anyway, this group has some of the standard
Types: outcast nerd who plays pranks, stoners, Survivor Girl. What’s
unique in Part 3
is that at least one of the victims seems to be circus folk – this kid
is all about walking on his hands and juggling and shit. While the Friday
films have always struggled to create characters who you feel for and
whose deaths are kind of tragic, they have never had a problem with
creating characters whose grisly fate you are rooting for. This
Handwalking Dweeb is one of them, and when Jason finally introduces his
machete to the kid’s groin for the Best Kill I pretty much cheered.
of these kids have come to Higgins Haven – yes, Chris’ parents have
named their country house. People like this deserve to be knifed to
death – to engage in the usual Jason-baiting activities like smoking
weed, burning popcorn and having sex in hammocks. But Chris has another
reason to be there, and her subplot almost offers a compelling
emotional center to the film. Almost. See, two years earlier Chris had
been up there with her folks and, for a contrived reason, fell asleep
in the woods. She awoke to see an unmasked Jason Voorhees coming at her
(wait a second… he’s bald in the flashback. Forget my shaving theory
from earlier, let’s go back to the tried and true The Filmmakers Just
Didn’t Give a Shit theory). They tussle, she kicks the knife from his
hand, he grabs her and drags her into the woods and… she wakes up in
her bed the next morning. As the kids today might say, “WTF?” Obviously
this is a Jason before he filled in the ‘My First Massacre’ section in
the baby book Mama Voorhees left for him, but to drag the girl back to
her bed seems like a pretty damn weird thing for him to do, even taking
into account that he’s retarded. But in a moment that actually
qualifies as subtle in the annals of Friday the 13thdom,
a clue had been dropped at the beginning of the movie. Handstand Dweeb
says that one of the main reasons to do a weekend in the woods is to
have sex and his girlfriend tells him to cool it with that talk because
of Chris. Later on, Chris sees her Country Boyfriend who really wants
to get his fuck on, but she’s afraid of intimacy. This all spells out
one thing: “Hulking Psychopathic Deformed Retard Rape.”
my theory is true, what does that mean for Jason and the films? Is it
more distasteful to root for a guy who doesn’t just hack up teenagers
but rapes them as well? Freddy Krueger’s backstory involves him being
not just a rapist but a child molester… but that element really rarely
gets brought up in the films. In the later films Jason is too much of a
rotting corpse to have sexual feelings, but it does make sense that
when he was a growing retard he would feel urges in his no-doubt
equally as deformed as his skull penis and perhaps act upon them. And
within the context of the film it actually gives the rampage some
sense. Jason goes and hides out in Chris’ barn at the beginning,
possibly because he connects the location with getting his rocks off
and that’s comforting. And unlike Part 2,
giving Chris a connection to Jason almost makes the final battle have
heft. I’m not advocating that Jason rape the Survivor Girl in the
impending remake, but the amount of history between the two in this
film only adds to the story, such as it is.
Jason’s massacre in 3
is the best of the series to date. After the prologue, his killings
begin with some bikers who come to Higgins Haven to get revenge for
earlier damage to their bikes (this is the stock Hollywood way of
pissing off bikers: knocking their bikes over). Pretty soon Jason is
moving on to the main house and killing the teens, and some of the
deaths even have irony: he throws the stoner hippie into a fuse box
where the guy gets fried. Get it? Get it? Jason also kills a pregnant
girl, which leads to one of the great debates about just what exactly
his kill total is – do we count the fetus? I’ll leave that one up to
you to decide.
nerdy kid who plays pranks supplies Jason with his iconic hockey mask
(and a spear gun. Why the fuck did this kid bring a spear gun to the
house for the weekend?), and once that mask is on the new Jason
paradigm is in place. In Part 2 Jason was running after the Survivor Girl. In Part 3
he’s just sort of ambling all over the place. It’s a very cool demeanor
indeed, and honestly scarier than Running Retard. It’s like Jason’s
attitude is “Fuck it, you’re not getting away no matter what, so I’ll
just take my time.” His confidence has definitely grown in between
movies, and I think confidence is one of the keys to being a successful
serial killer. If you don’t believe that you’re a walking holocaust,
how are the kids you’re killing going to believe it?
the gore factor is increased in this installment, it’s only correct
that the film should have a shout out to fans. In a moment that still
warms my heart, one of the victims is seen reading an issue of Fangoria – with an article about Tom Savini! It’s very fitting that her Fango is
splattered with blood, and she looks up to see her boyfriend,
Handwalking Dweeb, stuffed in the rafters of the house with the gristle
and grue of the inside of his split pelvis deliciously on display. The
sex content is almost nil in this one (although there is some nudity in
a shower scene, but how Steve Miner neglected to have a shot where the
girl soaps up her boobs in 3D is beyond me) but the gore makes up for
films are endlessly self-reflective, and they’re always doing things
that are like commentaries or riffs on what came before. This film is
no different – after finally dispatching Jason with an axe to his
misshapen skull, Survivor Girl gets in a canoe and rows out to the
middle of Crystal Lake (or more correctly the small water tank that is
on the Los Angeles set where this film was shot) where she falls
asleep… and dreams that Mama Voorhees, head weirdly back on, jumps out
of the lake and grabs her. Huh? It doesn’t make sense, but if sense is
something you’re going to be looking for in a film, you probably never
made it this far into the Friday series.
I liked Friday the 13th Part 3 a bunch. It works not just as the film that finally coalesces all the elements into the form that we now think of as the Friday the 13th
films, but it also has all these ridiculous 3D gimmicks that are
hilarious to watch in 2D. Of special beloved interest is how many of
the things that pop out at the viewer = a snake, for instance – are
clearly being held up by a wire. I have a special place in my
movielover heart for shoddiness, and Part 3 has that in spades.
Friday the 13th Part 3 scores:
Three Retard Jasons out of four.
Next: Corey Feldman. Dancing Crispin Glover. And the return of Tom Savini!
The New DVD: Zilch! The DVD comes packaged with two 3D glasses so that you and a friend can get mildly headachey from watching the not very good 3D on the DVD. But that’s it; I imagine the entire special features budget went into those pieces of cardboard.
But who can complain? We’ve wanted 3 in 3D for a while and now we have it. It’s not surprising that the 3D doesn’t work so well in this format, but we have it. The bummer is that Paramount didn’t take a moment to get the 3D supervisor – who still shows up at screenings of the movie to oversee the projection! – on film talking about 3D filmmaking, especially as it’s making a comeback. Missed opportunity to sell this DVD to 3D nerds, Paramount.