Friday the 13th Part III

Friday the 13th Part III ★★★

Hooptober 8.0, pt.4- In which Ethan returns to Crystal Lake and remembers why he doesn't go on holiday that often.

4/6 Countries (Australia, Belgium, UK, USA)
3/8- Decades (1980s, 2010s, 1960s)
1/1- Films set in the woods

2nd Steve Miner (after Friday the 13th Part 2)

CW- Sexual Assault

Look, the woods connection may be a bit tenuous here. I know most people would have chosen something folky, because "spooky things happen in woods" usually involving creepy people willing to sacrifice you to appease their elder god or something, but people forget that sometimes the dangers are a little more tangible. Like a supernaturally powerful serial killer who has an obsessive fixation on his mother's head. Yes, the choice of Part III was purely because I wanted to continue my watching of the series. Savage bullied me, what can I say.

Watching the three films of the series so far has been a strange experience, because you'd expect them to either improve with every subsequent outing, or at least go into a terminal decline. But Part III improves on a number of areas while stepping back in others. The plot feels at once tauter and more coherent than the ridiculously choppy second film, with far less filler material to boot. The kills are also pretty damned great, including the head crushing and the speargun through the eye. Those are probably the best uses of the 3D process too, which otherwise feels terribly hackneyed. I also preferred the interpretation of Jason here. It moves away from him being something of an animal operating on instinct to a ruthless sadist. Watch his movements during the aforementioned speargun death, especially the way he drops the gun on the deck; a move filled with callous smugness. And the opening disco theme is a strange but quite catchy little number too. Apparently it was quite popular at gay clubs!

Where the film falls down badly is in its characterisation. As a number of the actors have attested, the crew were more interested in the 3D elements then actually crafting characters, and while they struggle to inject some individuality into their roles it ultimately leaves them flat and colourless figures. The pot-smoker couple are particularly hard done by, appearing in a limited number of scenes that repeat the same joke over and over. It does also mean that Chris's backstory, revolving around an assault by Jason in the woods, is also given short shift. Much debate has centred around whether Jason assaults Chris sexually, something that was explicitly a plot point in the early drafts of the script. In the final film, it's a lot more ambiguous, with some indication that this may have happened when she remarks 'I then blacked out'. However, the film's treatment of her trauma feels too surface level, with not enough of the ramifications of her assault explored in her tentative relationship with Rick. I actually think that the trauma aspect is worked out better in Part 2, where there is a detailed attempt at understanding Jason's predicament thanks to the character of Ginny and her background in child psychology. It also helps in that film that Ginny is a far more interesting, resourceful and determined hero than Chris, whose role seems to involve far too much screaming for my tastes. She also suffers from an incredible amount of terrible dialogue, which could charitably be called expositionary and uncharitably called bloody pointless. While Part III is perhaps more enjoyable to watch thanks to its stronger structure, I think it's Part 2 that I'd like to return to more often.

Before I close, I should comment on the makeup and the general appearance of Jason. I'm not talking about the mask, though that looks really good on him. Rather, it's the facial prostheses that give him his under-the-mask appearance. I mention all this because of how different he looks to the breaking-window shot of Part 2, where he has his famously long mane of red hair. This raises an interesting question in-universe. Was what Ginny saw a projection of her own anxieties and nightmares after seeing his face under the mask? Was it distorted by another unpleasant memory so that he appeared the way he did? Certainly Chris's flashback and her eventual confrontation of Jason in the barn implies that this is his True Face, so with this in mind, we must consider the scene in Part 2 retroactively in this manner. Is this giving the film too much credit? Possibly. But that may well be part of the fun of getting on this carnival ride of a series.

Miner in Order:
1. Friday the 13th Part 2
2. Friday the 13th Part III

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