Today, we continue to consider the Friday the 13th film franchise with Friday the 13th Part 3, a film that many (like me) consider to be one of the worst slasher films ever made. Certainly, it’s a contender for the title of the worst Friday the 13th film.
Taking place a day after the end of Part 2 (and with John Furey still nowhere to be seen), Friday the 13th Part 3 tells the story of Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell), her annoying friends, and their weekend at Crystal Lake. Her friends include pregnant Debbie (Tracie Savage) and her boyfriend Andy (Jeffrey Rogers), who is cute but for some reason is always walking on his hands. There’s also the fat and rather depressing Shelly (played by Larry Zerner) and Vera Sanchez (Catherine Parks), who comes from the wrong side of the tracks and has been recruited to serve as Shelly’s date. And then finally, there are two hippies (David Katims and Rachel Howard) who appear to be in their late 30s and who appear to just pop up mysteriously in the back of Andy’s van at one point. Seriously, I’ve seen this film a few dozen times and I’ve never figured out just why the hippies are there.
Anyway, once at Crystal Lake, Chris goes off with her ex-boyfriend Rick (Paul Kratka) while her friends spend their time having sex, smoking weed, and dealing with three angry bikers who apparently belong to the Red Herring Motorcycle Gang. Chris tells Rick about how, two years previously, she was attacked by a disfigured maniac who just happens to hang out around Crystal Lake…
Anyway, pretty much what you would expect to happen happens. Soon Jason Voorhees (played in this one by Richard Brooker, who is very physical and intimidating in the role) is killing everyone. Along the way, he puts on his hockey mask for the first time and the legend, as they say, is born.
Friday the 13th Part 3 was originally filmed in 3-D and was apparently initially released under the title Friday The 13th 3-D. This makes it a somewhat weird experience to watch the film on video because you spend the whole time spotting scenes that were obviously included just to exploit the 3-D. Sometimes, the scenes shot for the 3-D are still effective even in 2-D. The scenes where an arrow flies straight at the camera and poor old Rick’s eye literally pops out of his head remain surprisingly effective. However, for the most part, the film is made up of scenes where Andy plays with a yo-yo or some weird kid points a softball bat the camera. Seen in 2-D, the majority of these scenes feel weird but yet they still have an oddly ludicrous appeal to them. If nothing else, spotting these scenes make for a fun drinking game.
So, why is Friday the 13th Part 3 widely considered to be the worst of the Friday the 13th films? There are several reasons but a lot of it comes down to the fact that the film is badly acted even by the standards of Friday the 13th. Whereas previous (and future) installments featured casts that, at the very least, seemed to be trying to at least keep things interesting, the cast of this one seems to be incredibly bored with the whole thing. (In their defence, I’m sure the filming was more about getting the 3-D right than worrying about crafting an interesting ensemble dynamic.) As portrayed by Dana Kimmell, Chris Higgins is probably one of the least sympathetic final girls in the history of the slasher genre. Essentially, she drags all of her friends off to a place that she knows is inhabited by a maniac (though she apparently doesn’t bother to say anything about it until they’re already there) and then — surprise, surprise — all of her friends get killed! Good job, Chris. Way to go.
Oddly enough, everything I’ve read about Friday the 13th Part 3 seems to suggest that Dana Kimmel actually played a surprisingly large role in the production of this film. Kimmel was reportedly pretty religious and somehow talked the filmmakers into removing several scenes of excessive violence and gratuitous sex, which kind of seems to defeat the whole purpose of making a film like Friday the 13th in the first place. Strangely, even after the film was watered down, it’s still probably the most mean-spirited of the entire franchise. This after all is the film where Jason kills a pregnant girl, an outspoken chicana who has bravely defied her mother just so she can take part in the Chris Higgins Weekend of Death, a poor fat kid who is desperate to be loved, and not one but two comic relief hippies.
Director Steve Miner, who did such a good job keeping Part 2 creepy and exciting, seems to have been bored when he directed this film and the whole thing has a harsh, YouTube feel to it. Some of that may be due to the fact that the film was originally done in 3D but it’s hard to deny that Friday the 13th Part 3 is exactly everything that its many critics claim it to be. Luckily, in the next chapter of the Friday the 13th saga, a new director would breathe new life into the franchise even as he attempted to kill it for good.
Coming tomorrow…my review of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.