RavensFilm Productions presents the Forever Cinematic Friday The 13th movie retrospective covering all twelve films in the slasher franchise. Reviews by Nick Michalak.
Friday The 13th (1980)
Friday The 13th, Part 2 (1981)
Friday The 13th, Part 3 (1982)
Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Friday The 13th, Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Friday The 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Oh, 3D. You are the current bane of my cinematic existence. Back in the 1980s, there was a short run of 3D horror movies trying to revive this quick cash grab gimmick, and they all sucked – Amityville 3D, Jaws 3D, and Friday The 13th, Part 3: 3D. Straight up, this film is a prime example of leaning heavily on the 3D sight gag gimmicks to provide entertainment value instead of actually making a good film. Even in current times, this is still done, but my disdain for 3D is the fact that it’s never worked right for me despite me having no visual impairments. It detracts and distracts from the theatre going experience instead of enhancing it. I have never seen this film in a 3D presentation, and so, there will be no assessment on it. Still, it does factor into the lightweight quality of the film.
F13, Part 3 begins where Part 2 left off where Jason Voorhees has been wounded, but is able to slip away into the woods and the night. He wanders to a small market in Crystal Lake, and while he kills the cranky couple which own it, he grabs himself a new set of clothes (and apparently a shave as well). Meanwhile, a sizeable group of teens set out on a weekend at Crystal Lake at Higgins Haven, the woodland retreat for Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell) and her family. Also, tagging along is the uptight Rick (Paul Kratka), and the jokey Shelly (Larry Zerner) along with a pair of old stoners. Chris is very weary of returning to the area because of an attack by a freakish man in the woods two years prior, but Rick does what little he can to comfort her. In the meantime, Shelly and one of the teenage girls take a ride to a convenience store where a trio of bikers cause them a bit of trouble, but Shelly leaves them a bit humiliated. This provokes the trio to follow them back to Higgins Haven, but their snooping around the barn costs them a great deal more than they bargained for. Jason gradually kills off each and every person in the area – as per usual – until the climactic confrontation with the heroine.
This is the first misstep in the franchise for me. After a great outing with Friday The 13th, Part 2, I’m rather disappointed in how uneven and disjointed the direction and story are here. Not to mention the quality of the cast and characters fall down one big notch, and the makeup effects aren’t anything to note. Steve Miner does return as director, but it just feels a little lazy. I think the problems mainly boil down to a flimsy script and the irritating and stupid 3D sight gags. Co-writer Martin Kitrosser also co-wrote Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning, an even worse entry in the series, and so, you can easily judge his lower grade talents by that. Aside from a few sparse screenwriting credits, Kitrosser essentially only works as a script supervisor since this film. That means he just maintains a film’s internal continuity during production and records the daily filming progress. The other co-writer, Carol Watson, has extremely little on her filmography. So, it really doesn’t inspire confidence looking back on everything. Ron Kurz, writer of Part 2, also has very little on his résumé, but he wrote a solid and coherent script that worked and flowed well. The same cannot be said for this movie.
Whereas Part 2 had some vibrant performances, this falls into flat stereotypical characters. These screenwriters attempted to bring some emotional depth to Chris Higgins with her previous frightening encounter with Jason, but it falls flat because of the actress in the role. Amy Steel and Adrienne King were head and shoulders above Dana Kimmell. Her performance is a little too one dimensional to fill the character out, but even then, it’s written with nothing but vulnerability. The best female heroes of the series have always been ones that had a strength to pull on to fight back in the end despite their emotionally vulnerable sides. Chris Higgins really is just an increasingly hysterical would-be victim. Her uptight boyfriend Rick does not inspire strength or confidence, either. Larry Zerner’s Shelly is a loveable misfit that pulls too many cheap practical jokes, and ends up pissing everyone off – unlike Stu Charno’s Ted from the previous film who was a master of practical jokes, and everyone still had a good laugh afterwards. The difference? Ted was everyone’s friend. Nobody seems to really like Shelly even though he is supposed to be, at least, someone’s friend in this group. They treat him like a lame annoyance, and I can’t disagree with that sentiment. His only redeeming act is that he provides Jason with his very first hockey mask.
And instead of tight pacing, too much time is dragged out to indulge in those atrocious 3D sight gags. Beyond that, the screenwriters throw in a lot of extraneous characters who eat up screentime for the sole purpose of increasing the body count. They really add little to the entertainment value. Other films later did this, but they would be more to the point and the characters usually would have something to do with the plot. The three bikers are okay, but it just feels like a frivolous side plot which amounts to little. It’s just another blah element piled into this film that further disjoints the story’s flow. Not surprisingly, I have many of the same issues with A New Beginning.
And really? A disco theme? This movie was released in 1982. Disco was deader than Jason’s mother by then. Thankfully, this horrid opening credits tune is the extent of this bad 70s flashback. Still, Harry Manfredini and Michael Zager should be ashamed of this. It also horribly dates the film as older than it actually is because disco was long gone by the time of release. The hippy stoners don’t help either. In 1982, the big hit songs were Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III along with tracks from John Cougar Mellenkamp, Hall & Oates, Foreigner, The Cars, Journey, J. Geils Band, Tommy Tutone, Rick Springfield, Soft Cell, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, the Steve Miller Band, and Fleetwood Mac. All solid pop, rock, or new wave songs. Manfredini and Zager could’ve gone for something more contemporary, and made it fit into the musical landscape of the time. Instead, they drudge up disco for no good reason. The theme hardly sets a good tone for the movie seeming more akin to a parody than an actual straight horror film. Beyond that, the score is not too memorable. When the worst part of it is what you remember the most, that’s an ill sign.
The only real highlight of this movie is Richard Brooker’s performance as the now hockey masked Jason Voorhees. It’s a more nonchalant, confident performance that exudes a menacing quality. He’s more calculating and focused in his slaughter. The body language is very strong and deliberate. He takes his time and wastes no motion. He doesn’t need to rush his actions, he can stalk with patience, and strike at his leisure. What Brooker does also adds to the blankness of the character. He shows no panic, no rage, no urgency. He is without conscience or contempt. He merely kills because he’s imitating what his mother did, but possibly also due to a territorial mentality that these are his woods and anyone who enters is a trespasser.
The kills are still good, but the make-up effects fall down in quality a little more. I just know that little from this film has stuck with me in a good way. The climax is pretty good starting to show off more of Jason’s tolerance for pain and ability to survive injuries that would kill anyone else. Brooker just gives Jason a lot of consistent personality here, and the climax is boosted by his talent and physical ability.
I wish there was more to delve into with this sequel, but it’s just too thin and shallow. The tension is not very taut, and the storytelling is quite lax. There’s no real urgency or looming suspense to maintain interest for me. I just groan at the flat stereotypes that populate the screenplay – the stoners, the hysterical heroine, the heroine’s comforting boyfriend, the sexy girls, and so on. It comes off like a lesser grade film compared to its predecessors with less talent in front of and behind the camera, aside from Richard Brooker. No one was really trying to make a good horror film, they were just riding on the gimmickry of 3D to pull in the bucks, and of course, it worked. This out-grossed both of the previous films in the series with just over $36 million. However, bad movies that use 3D still top the box office today, and it makes me sick. Yes, I still hate you Jim Cameron. As for Friday The 13th, Part 3, I know there are people out there that do like this film, and so be it. That’s your opinion, and this is mine. I don’t like it very much because it pales in comparison to the far more tightly structured, more lively, and more intelligent Part 2. There won’t be another Friday The 13th film that I 100% enjoy until Jason is struck by lightning and rises from the grave. Let that act as a cliffhanger for my inevitable, almost entirely positive review of The Final Chapter.