Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘Friday The 13th: Part III’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Once in a blood moon, a franchise will come along which redefines a subgenre and takes it to the next level. Such is the case with the Friday the 13th franchise, which essentially created the horror subgenre of slasher flicks as we know them to this day. While it’s unlikely that we’ll get a new installment in the series any time soon, now’s still the perfect time to review this franchise as it celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. To commemorate the occasion, the fine folks over at Scream Factory have released The Friday the 13th Collection on Blu-Ray! As such, I’ll be reviewing not only the movies in this franchise but these new Blu-Ray releases as well. So, let’s return to Camp Crystal look at the movie that made Jason Voorhees an icon: Friday The 13th: Part III (1982)!
Sometimes a movie is such a hit that the studio wants to release a sequel lickity-split. Of course, the easiest way to expedite the sequel making process is to do what I like to call “the sitdown-turnaround.” This is when the director and many crew members reconvene to produce a follow-up almost immediately after releasing the previous picture. Such is the case with Friday The 13th: Part III in 3-D (1982), which sees Friday The 13th: Part II (1981) director Steve Miner returning to helm this ever-growing franchise less than a year after his last effort. Perhaps that seemed simple to the director as he originally intended to make a much more direct follow-up to the first film as his prior installment. Although, this time, he had other ideas.
Initially, Miner pitched Part II screenwriter Ron Kurz on a very different idea for this film. In his outline for Part III, the focus was once again on final girl Ginny (Amy Steel). Picking up a year after the previous entry events and far away from Crystal Lake, Ginny has been institutionalized due to severe PTSD. She’s well on the road to recovery until the titular holiday rolls around, and her fellow patients start getting killed off. That’s right, Jason has come back to finish what he started!
Alas, both the writer and star rejected Miner’s idea. Kurz did not want to become “the sequel guy,” and Steel desired to move onto bigger-and-better things. (Ironically, and as tends to happen in the horror genre, Friday The 13th: Part II is still what these fine folks are known for to this day.) Then again, I’m not sure how far this storyline would have gotten, even with Kurz and Steel’s full participation. See, the Boston-based investors who financed the various projects under Georgetown Productions felt this approach was too far astray of what audiences wanted from this series — teens getting slain out in the woods. So, like his mentor, Sean S. Cunningham, before him, Miner relented and agreed to take the tried-and-true approach.
Still, the director needed a fresh scribe to come up with some more expected franchise fare since Kurz declined screenplay duty. Enter husband-and-wife screenwriting duo Martin Kitrosser and Carol Watson (Model Behavior), who changed things up just enough and ensured that their screenplay embraced the 3D gimmick. Picking up a mere day after its predecessor, Friday the 13th: Part III finds a surviving Jason Voorhees (Richard Brooker) having wandered to a nearby cabin property dubbed Higgins Haven. As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, a group of early twenty-somethings has arrived for a little vacation. Alas, the young people’s R&R is short-lived as they soon cross a trifecta of local biker gang members, who are now looking to get even with them. But, soon enough, Jason is a killer problem for all these folks!
While the screenplay is serviceable, it has one major problem which trickles down and effects everything about this flick. Unlike the previous couple of entries in this series, the vast majority of characters in Part III are not at all likable. With the exception for Vera (Catherine Parks), this group does not feel real (like the casts of the previous films) and are merely bland, agitating stereotypes; right down to the married couple of stoners named Chuck (David Katims) and Chili (Rachel Howard), who are a weak sauce rip-off Cheech and Chong.
Worst of all, the female lead, Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell), is portrayed as the victim (both figuratively and literally) for the vast majority of the runtime and never gets as much redemption or perseverance as she deserves. These weak characterizations are bolstered because most of the cast portraying them can’t seem to act their way out of a paper bag; the worst of being Kimmell herself and Paul Kratka, who plays Chris’ estranged boyfriend, Rick. As a result, Part III is the first sequel in this franchise guilty of making its villain more likable than his victims. Although, I suppose that’s somewhat fitting since Brooker uses his skill set as a former trapeze artist to bring a new life to Jason and, frankly, delivers the best performance in the picture.
Then again, maybe having an unlikable group of victims is one of the intentional decisions which makes Friday the 13th: Part III into a more exploitative exploitation film. Sure, up to this point, all of them have been exploitation films. But, both Friday the 13th (1980) and Friday the 13th: Part II (1981) are about as mainstream examples of the genre you can make. Yes, they showcase sex, violence, gore, and nudity; but it’s all done with a sense of fun. Friday the 13th: Part III, on the other hand, just feels like it has a nasty edge to it. This is no doubt thanks to the uncredited rewrites by novelist and screenwriter Petru Popescu, who was brought onboard by Paramount Pictures to “make it (the script) more sinister and menacing.”
Popescu did just that when he created the cause of Chris’ PTSD and her fear of returning to Higgins Haven. I am, of course, referring to her being attacked by Jason in the woods years earlier. While such an event would’ve been enough to justify the final girl’s condition, Popescu goes so far as to heavily imply that Jason also sexually assaulted Chris during this horrific encounter (Which is also precisely how Miner and crew brought the scene from the page to the screen). Although such a plot point is pretty common in rougher exploitation fare, the implication is heinous here because it’s absolutely out of character for Jason as he’s been established. If anything, I’d say Jason is asexual and has little understanding of the act itself. Furthermore, the only time he mixes sex and violence is when he kills people who are mid-coitus.
Additionally, Popescu also added the biker gang subplot, which is entirely extraneous. Then there’s that one last very exploitation flick element — though I’m not sure which of the writers is responsible — making Debbie (Tracy Savage) pregnant. It is an impulse I can only imagine came out of a thought like, “Well, we killed a guy in a wheelchair last time around. Why not pick-off an out-of-wedlock pregnant lady this time?” Again, that’s merely my theory as to how they came to such a pointless decision.
On the upside, at least I can enjoy knowing why Part III lacks in story and is uneven in the tone department. The cast and crew of this film have made no secret that the technical aspects of properly making a 3D movie were their primary concern here. After all, it’s what Miner, Paramount chairman and CEO Frank Mancuso, Sr. and his son, Frank Mancuso, Jr. (who had taken the reins as the film’s primary producer after Cunningham washed his hands of the series), wanted.
As a studio head, Mancuso, Sr. was adamant about making big event movies at Paramount; 70mm, 3D, etc. Therefore, 3D Supervisor Martin Jay Sadoff was hired to help ensure the 3D process was executed correctly. Thus making Friday the 13th: Part III in 3D the first 3D movie put out by Paramount since Ulysses (1954), 28 years prior. While I’ve never actually seen this film in proper 3D, I can tell the cast and crew did their best with the technology of the time. Don’t get me wrong, the 3D here was and is kitschy as hell; but I respect the effort!
Frankly, though, from a technical standpoint, I’m more impressed that most of the primary locations were all built for the film, including the lake. Albeit, this man-made lake ultimately failed to hold water after a week. The cabin and barn constructed to comprise Higgins Haven, however, stood until 2005, when it was burned down.
As flawed as I find this movie to be, I’ll be damned if it’s not still pretty entertaining! Furthermore, Friday the 13th: Part III in 3D manages to squeak by as a Franchise Expansion for two reasons. First and foremost, this is the entry that makes Jason into an icon! See, Jason’s burlap sack from the last picture was not used again due to its similarity to the recently released movie The Elephant Man (1980). Lest anyone forget the bag-head look was straight-up lifted from The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) — not that anyone involved in Friday the 13th: Part II (1980) has ever admitted as much. Oddly enough, the choice for Jason to hide his deformity under a hockey mask in Part III was decided on-set as opposed to in advance, and unsurprisingly, all involved want to take credit for this decision.
Secondly, Part III contains some of the most gnarly and memorable kills in the franchise’s history. I still wince when watching the respective harpoon gun and inverted bifurcation kill scenes! Therefore, between the kills and the iconography, I think Part III has earned its memorable place for me and many other fans despite its numerous, glaring flaws. Ultimately, Friday the 13th: Part III is a movie of one genre gimmick on top of another, to the point where it becomes the horror gimmick equivalent of Inception (2010), but it paid off for Paramount. Carrying a production budget of $2.3 million, the movie grossed more than $36 million worldwide (taking into account theatrical re-releases.) Thus, it may come as a surprise that the studio wanted to kill its blood-spattered golden goose; but more on that later.
Like many of the films in this beautiful Scream Factory boxset, Friday the 13th: Part III in 3D has been remastered with a new 4K Scan from the original camera negative. As a result, the movie looks and sounds better than it ever has on any prior release (that I’ve watched anyway). As a result, that warm, nostalgic cinematography by Gerald Feil is well showcased here. Furthermore, for the few of you who own 3D capable TV sets and Blu-ray players, this disc does offer that viewing option. And as with its predecessors, each side of the cover art sleeve features vintage original poster art!
(NEW EXTRAS INDICATED BY *)
- Fresh Cuts: 3D Terror — In this 12-minute featurette, Crystal Lake Memories author Peter Bracke and various Part III cast and crew members discuss the choice to make this installment in 3D and how the movie essentially kicked-off the short-lived of 3D craze of the 1980s. Moreover, they discuss the technical difficulties of making the movie in this gimmick format. While I’m admittedly not a huge fan of 3D in any of its various iterations, I couldn’t help but find this an interesting little featurette when it comes to the filmmaking process. I think any fan of the franchise who has an interest in moviemaking will also appreciate it.
- Lost Tales from Camp Blood: Part 3 — This entry in writer/director Andrew J. Ceperly’s fan film series is the shortest yet clocking-in with a runtime of 5 minutes. Thus, this is essentially just one kill scene, albeit enjoyable.
- *Vintage Original Fangoria Magazine Article *REQUIRES BD-ROM DISC DRIVE**
- *TV Spots*
- *Radio Spots*
- Theatrical Trailer
- Movie Stills Gallery
- Poster and Lobby Cards Gallery
- Commentary with Actors Larry Zerner, Paul Kratka, Richard Brooker, & Dana Kimmell, Moderated by Crystal Lake Memories Author Peter Bracke — As much is I don’t care for the performances of this cast overall, this is a fun and informative track nonetheless. I especially enjoyed the insights of Zerner and Booker.
The Friday the 13th Collection is Currently Available on Blu-Ray!
Next Time, Franchise Expansion or Implosion Will Return to for the premature “conclusion ” of the franchise with Friday the 13th, Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)!
The Franchise’s Body Count Thus Far:
Friday the 13th (1980):
Friday the 13th: Part II (1981):