Change “lake” to “farm” and “camp counselors” to “random teenagers” and you can apparently attempt to make a movie seem new to an audience. These are the only changes made by the filmmakers from Friday the 13th: Part II to Part III. Oh, and there’s absolutely no reason for the killer, Jason (Richard Brooker), to be slicing up all of these teenagers, save for the fact that he’s now the serial killer of this franchise, and the only actual link between the films.
Part II was a marginal improvement over the first chapter, as it was shot nicer, had an ounce of creativity, and actually made an effort to differentiate its characters. It was directed by Steve Miner, who produced the first film and went on to also direct this one. I took a guess that he was unhappy with chapter #1, and took the director’s chair to fix what he didn’t like. With this film, he proves that perhaps that was a fluke. This film is just as bad, if not worse, as the franchise starter. If it wasn’t a Friday the 13th film, it would have sat on shelves and hopefully never would have seen release.
The film opens up with a poor framing device. A couple is going about their daily, after-dinner business, and then Jason kills them. There was also a rabbit there, who is the most sympathetic character in the series. I hope he made it out okay, although we don’t find out. This couple has no relation to the rest of the plot, and the only thing this opening kill sequence shows us is that Jason is on the move. If he stayed at the lake at least he could claim territorial protection as his motive. Now, he’s killing because the plot requires it.
Who are his targets this time around? A group of teenagers vacationing at a farm. Or a cottage. Or whatever word you use to describe it. There’s a barn with hay but there are no horses, and I tell you this because the film makes a point of explaining it to us, even though it doesn’t matter. The area is clearly not lived in anymore, which would explain why there are no horses, but never mind because we need to fill time with meaningless babble.
Before long, people wind up dying. The teenagers have interactions with each other, and I suppose some of them are in relationships and some aren’t, but it once again is unimportant. They’re all here to be targets for Jason’s knife. There’s also a motorcycle gang for some inexplicable reason — okay, I can explain it: a couple of characters upset them with motive at a gas station — and that just adds three more targets for Mr. Voorhees. I couldn’t care less about anyone in this film, save for that rabbit.
If you’re hoping for some creative kills, you’ll want to keep looking. The vast majority of deaths occur in the same way: a knife to some important part of the body, like the neck or heart. Jason knows what works and what doesn’t, but the problem is that it’s boring, especially if you’ve already sat through two of these things. You’ve seen the vast majority of this film already in the earlier installments of the franchise. You have little reason to watch this one.
Then again, isn’t that what fans of these films want? A new locale, a new crop of characters, and the same killer? If the film had interesting death scenes it might be worth watching for the initiated. Fans aren’t likely to care too much about characters you care for, dialogue that doesn’t make you want to cry, or acting that’s any good — if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be fans, as the earlier films had none of that — so if the elements that are necessary exist, then it might be okay.
I should mention that Friday the 13th: Part III has been released in 3D, so expect the cinematography to reflect that. There are a few moments scattered throughout while things will try to stick out of the screen at you, because why would the filmmakers want to attempt any sort of immersion in a horror movie? Any delusion of atmosphere is removed as soon as this happens, and if you ever start settling back in, you can be sure that you’ll be taken back out as soon as another one of these shots pops out at you.
The problem with all three of these films is that they’re rather dull. You see the same thing over and over again, and there’s nothing there to hold your attention. We see more of Jason this time around, as he finds an old-school hockey mask and therefore is more photogenic — I posit that’s the logic here, but I don’t know — but he’s less menacing when we see more of him. The same is true of the villains in almost all horror movies. When we know where they are and what they look like we can mentally handle them better. They’re less scary.
Friday the 13th: Part III is a terrible film in a series that’s not very good. It re-hashes moments from earlier chapters, does nothing original for itself, and absolutely ruins any attempt at immersion by presenting itself to us in 3D and needing to use that effect every now and then. The acting is bad, the dialogue makes you cringe, the kills are dull, the killer is seen far too much, and the entire experience feels at least an hour too long, even though the film only plays or 95 minutes.