Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A New Dimension of Fear (oh the puns)

By 1982 the horror/sequel boom was in full swing with Friday the 13th and Halloween already having had successful returns to the box office and several more original films were cementing themselves on the public consciousness.  Paramount knew that Jason had been a success once, so naturally he could be again if he were somehow resurrected.  The un-killable monster angle had worked for Halloween so why couldn't Jason be similarly impervious to wounds that would kill a normal person?  But wait!  We don't want to simply do another rehash...that won't work at all, they must have thought.  So this film, rather than changing the formula (because why fix what isn't broken?) adds a gimmick.  When Part 3 opened, it opened in "bone-chilling 3D"...hence it's title Friday the 13th Part 3 3D. Would the gamble pay off?  Let's see shall we?

When we last joined our heroes, Ginny Field had taken  Jason out with his mother's machete at the end of Part 2 and had gone off with her boyfriend Paul to safety.  The opening credits then retcon (or rewrite) the ending of the previous film to show Jason rising up from the floor and wandering off into the woods to heal.  Later that evening, he happens upon the owners of a grocery store and dispatches of them while stealing some of the husband's clothing (this would then become Jason's standard outfit for the remainder of his life...fun fact).  The next day, despite the police cars and sirens about the place, Chris Higgins and her friends head up into the woods around Crystal Lake to spend the weekend in her parents' cabin.  But before you can say mass-murder, the kids (and some rather out-of-place bikers) begin ending up at the business end of several sharp objects.  What Jason doesn't count on is Chris, who is resourceful and has a history with the large brute that she plans to reconcile.

More of the same, is probably what I would write about Part 3...and that's exactly what it is.  The teens here, while still played by likable actors, are even more generic and non-descript than the ones who went through the meat grinder before them.  They are interchangeable and forgettable with a few exceptions including Chris, Shelley (her prank obsessed friend), and Vera (Shelly's fiery tempered blind-date).  It's a shame too, because once again we have actors employed who seem like they are dying (no pun intended) to be more than just machete fodder.  Nonetheless, the film does have a few things going for it.  One, this is the legendary film where Jason receives both his plain workman's outfit and where he receives his trademark hockey mask.  The mask was simply a design decision, something unusual that they could put on Jason and set him apart from other masked killers.  They couldn't have guessed that this mask would forever become the 'face' of the series and that it would be immediately associated with Jason forever after.  Second, this film does feature one of the most unexpectedly tough Final Girls of the series.  Chris spends much of the movie simpering and whining about her troubled past and then, when push comes to shove, she manages to be more than a match for Jason and throws just about everything she's got at him.  Three, and this is a minor thing, but the idea to use 3D in a slasher film was a great one.  It's a shame, however, that the technology was such that the majority of the effects are stupid gags like yo-yos flying toward camera and fake scares skittering at eye level.  Few of the 'real horror' effects are turned into 3D gags (though the scene where Jason reaches toward camera and walks toward it is pretty chilling).  At this point, you know whether Friday the 13th is a series that is worth watching or not for you so I'm not going to make any pleas about watching them.  However, if you happen to catch this one on TV...try to watch the chase scene at the end.  It's worth the price of admission.

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