Director: Steve Miner
Producer: Frank Mancuso, Jr.
Writers: Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson
Stars: Dana Kimmell, Richard Brooker, Paul Kratka
TRIGGER WARNING: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW DISCUSSES RACISM IN THE CONTEXT OF THE FILM.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART 3 is distinct in many ways—get ready for some serious shock value—but it opens like a classic slasher: in suburbia. The pre-credits sequence hearkens back to the franchise’s sequel, FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART 2, when viewers return to Alice (Adrienne King), the first film’s Final Girl, in her suburban apartment. Once more, the pre-credits sequence slowly, chillingly meanders its way to my favorite moment in the slasher: the victim’s paranoia, gradual suspicion, and the dawning realization that something is there. The usual motifs play out in thrilling detail: the dark shape in the window, an arm or leg visible through the linens hanging on the clothesline, and the pets reacting with the jitters before the circumstances sink in for the humans present.
I mention the opening sequence in such detail because I admire it greatly; it is a perfect microcosm of the slasher in itself, laying out the basic structure through which the film will progress (paranoia, suspicion, realization, attempts at self-defense, and death [with the exception of the Final Girl, of course]). PART 3 plays out this formula gracefully, adding plenty of surprises and scares along the way to keep viewers on their toes.
The FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise is notorious for its extreme violence and overt sexualizing of the teenage protagonists. To me, the first two films are fairly moderate in this regard, but PART 3, in both aspects, is jaw-dropping. I won’t give away the nuanced, punishing acts of violence that Jason brutally delivers, because that’s part of the fun of watching it (Note: Carefully check the trigger warnings tagged below before screening!), but the extra kick of sex that director Steve Miner imbues the characters with is worth noting.
The first time that we meet most of this installment’s protagonists—quiet, sweet Chris (Dana Kimmell); her hyper-masculine boyfriend, Rick (Paul Kratka); lighthearted and fun-loving friend Deb (Tracie Savage); and the painfully insecure, socially awkward Shelly (Larry Zerner)—they allude to sex almost immediately, teasing each other about who’s sharing rooms with whom. The FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise is famous for its inevitable sex scenes and playful drug use, and this film is no exception.
Rick is the most aggressively sexual of the group (which also includes Deb’s date, Andy [Jeffrey Rogers] and, as I have lovingly nicknamed them, the Stoner Couple—Chuck [David Katims] and Chili [Rachel Howard], who are never not hitting a bong). As the film goes on and he fails to seduce Chris—mostly because she, we come to find out, has already survived one of Jason’s bloodbaths at Crystal Lake and is suffering from PTSD as a result—he gets more and more frustrated. At first, he huffs at Chris: “I can only take so many cold showers!” Later, he remarks: “I believe there’s a time and a place for everything … and this is the time and the place, if you know what I mean.” (Yes, we absolutely know what you mean, Rick.) Near the end of the film, as Chris and Rick’s companions are, unfortunately for them, encountering Jason (Richard Brooker) back at Higgens Haven, the farm where they’re staying (which backs up to Crystal Lake), Rick is lecturing Chris for not having sex with him. He demands that Chris not place “a barrier between [them],” which is ludicrous, considering that Chris has been explaining her anxiety to him for the entirety of her stay. In other words, what’s bothering him is physical, not emotional: his lack of access to her body.
SPOILER ALERT: THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH REVEALS PLOT POINTS IN THE FILM.
To be perfectly honest, this movie is badass. But, to be further perfectly honest, from a social standpoint, FRIDAY THE 13TH: PART 3 is very problematic—riddled with ableism, fatphobia, and, more subtly, racism. A bizarre plot point in the film is the scene in which Shelly and Vera, his poor date, run to the store for supplies and are harassed by three tough bikers: a Black man, Ali (Nick Savage); a Black woman, Fox (Gloria Charles); and a white man, Loco (Kevin O’Brien). The group roughs up Shelly and Vera, and after that, they quickly leave. They have another brief tussle in the parking lot—Shelly accidentally hits Ali’s motorcycle with the car and Ali smashes in the car windows as revenge—but the bikers aren’t finished with Shelly and Vera yet. The three find their way to Higgins Haven and resolve to steal the gas from Chris’s station wagon. Little do they know that, here, they will meet their end. Fox, the Black woman dies first, in a cringe-worthy enactment of typical racism—conscious or subconscious on the part of the writers—in horror, considering that Black women are a particularly maligned minority, especially in film. What’s more, although Ali survives his first encounter with Jason, he dies much later in the film, during the Final Girl sequence—in order to save Chris (a white woman). This, too, parallels a troubling historical trend: the frequency with which Black men end up losing their lives in the service of white women. These are significant caveats to watching a film made in 1982 (Reagan era!), and one should be aware of them when screening the film.
As the Final Girl sequence rolled around, I found myself nervous—in such a problematic, overly sexualized, violent film, how well could I expect the Final Girl to fare? Though I won’t reveal the details, you will be as pleased as I was to find that Chris is a highly capable Final Girl, holding her own to an almost unbelievable point. Of course, it’s no surprise that Chris finds that Jason, like Michael Myers, cannot be killed. The good news is that, mighty as Jason is, he can’t kill all of his intended victims, either. And so the franchise goes on—thank goodness.