Friday the 13th Part 3 is known to most as “the one with the hockey mask”. It was also originally presented in 3D. Back in the day, this was my favourite of the original three movies, I’m not sure how I would rank it now, but my feelings remain fond.
The whole thing is brighter and crisper (due in part no doubt to the mass of lights needed for the 3D photography) but the special effects are also more gruesome and inventive than those in Part 2. The silly “things flying out at the audience” gags are fun. The best of which features Jason crushing a man’s head so his eyeball pops out at us. I like that the final girl, Chris, actually has a bit of history with Jason (she encountered him in the woods during those “missing years” between his drowning and re-appearance in Part 2) and that it is a bit ambiguous as to what transpired (did he want to rape her? Attack her?). Chris is a bit too much of a goody-two-shoes to become one of my favourite final girls but she’s a good foil for Jason.
I also enjoy that this takes place directly after the end of Part 2 and that it acts, between that film and The Final Chapter as the middle-spree in a very long weekend of terror that would turn Jason Vorhees into a mythical boogeyman at Camp Crystal Lake. This is really his defining rampage and I like to see the first three sequels as a three-part origin story. Of-course this one gets bonus points for being the one in which he first adopts his most recognisable guise. Ironically enough, this is also the only Friday movie in which nobody refers to Jason by name.
Part 3 has some of the more interesting dynamics with the group of teens as well. They are essentially paired up into three couples; Chris and Rick, Debbie and Andy and Shelly and Vera. There’s also a pair of stoner hippies and biker gang thrown in to up the body count into double digits. Shelly might be my favourite character of the original three films. Not only is he the one who provides Jason with his iconic mask but he acts as something of a mirror image to Jason. He is the outcast in the group, a prankster and do-gooder who can’t understand why he never gets the girl. He gets repeatedly frustrated with Vera for constantly turning down his advances and turns to dressing up and staging dopey jump-scares or murder scenes out of frustration. It’s not hard to imagine, if he wasn’t ultimately murdered by Jason, that Shelly himself might resort to some kind of forceful violence in light of never getting his way. Of-course I’m probably reading into all this way more than was intended, but there’s certainly something unsettling, tragic and off-key about Shelly. There’s a complexity there not present in most of the other characters in the franchise. It’s all the more fitting that Jason’s hockey mask is stolen off of Shelly’s lifeless corpse.
I dig this movie. It’s a solid cookie-cutter slasher with some dashing of complexity buried deep if you’re so inclined to dig for it. It’s not a good movie by any standards but it does what it wants to and is, at the very least, as good as Part 2 and more confidently directed by Steve Miner. It is in this movie that Jason’s appearance finally becomes locked down. It would be refined and elaborated on from movie-to-movie but the essentials are all there: deformed chrome dome, hulking upper body, earthy tones, machete and hockey mask. If for that reason alone, Friday the 13th Part 3 remains rather historic.