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

Friday the 13th Part 3 (1982)

Kills: 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. 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.

It 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.

The 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.

Most 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.”

If 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.

The 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?

As 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 it.

The Friday 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!