I couldn’t help myself. My thought process was simple enough. I’ve seen the original, then I went and watched Part 2 last night. So what now? Hey I have Part 3 here too. It’s been a while, so why not. Those Friday The 13th films man, they’re just like [Insert drug of choice here].
The cracks were already starting to show by the time this third entry rolled around, and the wheels completely fell off soon after (Hooray for mixed metaphors). We start with the pre-requisite recap of Part 2, which does actually take place on a Friday the 13th, and then we start with this one taking place a day later. So at best we’re into a Saturday the 14th/Sunday the 15th situation. Already the film has lied to us.
Gone is the relative realism of the first two entries and now we’re into the realm of 3D, so the film has to follow suit. It fully embraces the tired formula of ‘stalk and slash’ and drags us along for the ride. We meet a couple closing up a shop and who are soon dispatched from this world, with a meat cleaver to the chest and a knitting needle to the head (IN 3D!).
Then the titles race out at us like it’s the start of Superman, and we have an awesome disco remix of the theme. Gone are the bombastic stylings of Harry Manfredini’s original score, it’s all just synths and strings now.
Finally we get to meet our main cast, and it’s almost twenty minutes into the film. They’re broad caricatures at this point, so the film just plays them even broader. The practical joker, Shelly, is not just any joker, he has to play the most elaborate gags on his friends. The stoners here are represented by a man who looks suspiciously like Tommy Chong of Cheech & Chong fame. The final, pure, girl is the purest girl that ever lived (Though there are reasons for that we’ll touch on in a bit). The filmmakers throw away any real sense of trying to get to know these people, as Part 2 did fairly well, and instead just introduces them in the thinnest possible terms before moving them along to the lake.
There’s no summer camp this time, no camp counsellors, just our final girls’ family home which I guess is situated somewhere around the same area that number two was. Anyway Chris, our final girl (complete with gender-neutral name, helllooooo film theory) hasn’t been back in a while since she got mad at her parents and ran out to the woods. There she was attacked by a man and blacked out. When she woke up she was “In my own bed.” and her parents refused to mention it since.
Now, here’s an odd thing. The film basically states that she was raped, which is an oddly mean spirited place for these films to go. More so since this is one of the lighter entries in the series. Don’t get me wrong it’s never explicitly stated, the film does a good job of skirting around the issue, but she has intimacy problems with her boyfriend too and these things add up. Oh and at the end, when she realises who Jason is, he takes his mask off and positively licks his lips. He remembers too.
I shouldn’t fault the filmmakers for trying to do something different, but it’s utterly inconsistent with a character who essentially hates sex. Not just hates sex, but punishes anyone for having it. So, like the reveal that one character is pregnant (Not visibly so), it instead comes across as a cheap trick to illicit some reaction from the audience. Now suddenly we don’t want to see this character die because she’s pregnant, even if it is her only character trait. Now we really want to see Jason die because he’s not just a killer but he’s a rapist as well.
I remember always half liking this entry into the series, but I never put my finger on why I half disliked it until now: It’s utterly transparent and lazy. Jason loses all his hair, is taller and musclebound in the span of a day. Then as a narrative it’s totally unfocused, with unrelated scenes used just to pad out some time (The opening for example, at least the opening of Part 2 directly relates to Part 1, this time there’s no such luck. We watch two people get killed just because). We take a brief sojourn where we meet the most ineffectual and least threatening biker gang of all time (There’s only three of them – guess what happens to them about 10 minutes after meeting them?) Part 2 felt like it was a film they actually wanted to make, with a heavy leaning on psychology and all around better performances it’s infinitely more interesting than this one. This time it just feels like a cash grab, stealing the best parts of the original installment and rehashing them, with the laziest gimmick that’s still being used today: 3D.
I usually hate 3D. It’s used for either one of two things, to hike up ticket prices or to make up for a lack of creativity. This one firmly falls into the latter camp. I will say this though, at least when horror movies use 3D they use it for the best reasons. Yes I want to see popcorn popping in my face, or someone pass me a joint, or an eye pop out at the screen. But there’s something so goofily endearing about the use of it. It’s those things that make me look back with some fondness at this installment, the overreaching of it all (Hey watch out that yo-yo is coming right at me!) even if the rest of it leaves me perturbed.
What’s odd is that with a new team in place, Part 4 (The supposed ‘Final Chapter‘) actually makes a marked return to form. Even if it does feature one Corey Feldman. There we have the franchise set up the odd rule that every other film turns out great. Parts 2, 4 and 6 are…then sadly there’s Part 8. Oh Jason Takes Manhattan, you have the best subtitle but why must you waste it on the death rattle of the franchise?
I’ll be viewing Parts 4 and 6 soon, but I think I need to take a few days away from Jason and those crazy kids. Maybe take in a good monster movie or two…