Friday the 13th Part III is one of the most beloved entries in the series canon. It’s an incredibly important feature to the overall franchise, as it is the movie where Jason Voorhees finds his hockey mask. A fresh take on the blank, white mask of Michael Myers, the hockey mask added a much needed sense of mystery to Jason and gave him an iconic image just as the series was becoming a pop culture phenomenon.
As it stands, there’s a reason why fans take to Part III the way they do. It brought back Steve Miner, who had managed to top the original slasher with the stylistic Part 2. He brought that same approach to the third film, that mixture of character-driven humor with genuine atmosphere and dread. Those are the things that make Part III work as well as it does.
Richard Brooker gives a fan-favorite, menacing performance as Jason. There’s something almost natural to the way he plays the character. It doesn’t feel like acting, and I mean that in the best way possible. It feels effortless, as if they just found this wild man roaming around and pointed him in the direction of the set. The characters, much in the same vein as Part 2, begin to finally take on their own personalities.
Many of the classic slasher archetypes cement themselves for the first time in Part III. The counselors in the second film had started to take on their own personalities, but they didn’t have the gimmicks that Part III introduced in a straightforward way. Here, we have the stoners, the horny couple, the prankster, the heroine, the boyfriend, etc. The characters are fun and engaging and that’s what matters.
Part III can get away with the gimmicks because it’s a gimmick movie and that’s kind of its only problem. The thing it’s remembered for is also the worst thing about it, and that’s the 3-D.
To be fair, I don’t know how well the 3-D played in theaters. I’d like to assume it was great. But the point is that I don’t know because most people who have watched it in the thirty-plus years since its release have never seen it in the 3-D version it was meant to be seen. You can watch a 3-D version on the DVD and Blu-ray but it’s a home video attempt and not the way it was originally intended to be watched. The only way to truly recapture that experience is to catch a screening of the original theatrical print.
Most fans will never get to do that. And that’s why, as much as it pains me to admit it, there will always be something that feels off when I watch it. Because Part III barely ever gives you a moment to forget that it is a 3-D movie. It is constantly throwing things at the camera left and right. Most of them completely lose their magic when being viewed on a flat TV screen.
It just takes you out of the movie. And it’s even worse because the film is so completely engaging otherwise. But then you have those moments where a rubber snake on a string lunges toward he camera and holds that freeze-frame position, giving you just enough time to soak in how bad it looks before cutting away.
The worst thing is that the 3-D gimmick affects the way the film is shot. I know there were a lot of complications with the new 3-D camera they used on the film and it took a lot of effort to get it to work. I want to see it in theaters because I want to see how great it can look. But right now it just doesn’t look great. There are times, sometimes after an effect, sometimes just in a brief moment of quiet dialogue, where the camera is genuinely blurry.
That’s not good and it’s not something I want to see in films that I love. I want to see a completely restored version of Friday the 13th Part III that gives me the full experience the way it was meant to be seen.
I love the movie. It was one of the first Fridays I ever saw. It was the first one to give me Jason the way I wanted to see him. But there will always be something about it, every time it lingers on a dangling yo-yo or throws a snake at me, that I’ll just be taken out of it. And I don’t want to experience that from a movie that could easily have been the best in its franchise otherwise.