Frightening Friday: ‘Friday the 13th: Part III’ (1982) not quite eye-popping, but it does introduce the iconic mask (Movie review)

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ith “Friday the 13th: Part III” (1982), Jason (played by Richard Brooker this time) enters iconic status as he acquires his trademark hockey mask; from this point forward until they start adopting full helmets, goalies will look particularly sinister. It’s also the point where a viewer starts to realize this saga either doesn’t have continuity editors or simply does not care.

Director Steve Miner returns from “Part 2,” but the story – written by Martin Kitrosser and Carol Watson – doesn’t resolve the lingering issues in satisfying fashion. After an overlong repeat of the end of previous film, we drop that Final Girl, Ginny, and cut over to a bickering couple who own a roadside convenience store near Crystal Lake. On the news, we hear of the eight murders from “Part 2” and the fact that Ginny survived.

“Part III” is a step forward in characterizations, at least. Of particular interest is Final Girl Chris, who tells her boyfriend about how she encountered Jason in the woods in the recent past and she blacked out.

Law enforcement should be swarming the area looking for Jason, and even if they don’t find him, their presence should be enough that he goes into hiding for a long time. At any rate, the action then jumps over to a vanload of young folks – including one weed-loving pair, natch — bound for their farmhouse presumably on another part of Crystal Lake. We aren’t told how far of a jump into the future this is. I’d guess it’s a year later, which moves the saga into 1986. Suffice it to say that “Part 2” is basically irrelevant now.

“Part III” is a step forward in characterizations, at least. Of particular interest is Final Girl Chris (Dana Kimmell), who tells her boyfriend, Rick (Paul Kratka), a story (complete with flashbacks for the viewer) about how she encountered Jason in the woods in the recent past and she blacked out. Combined with her pregnancy – via Rick, she thinks – this is a cue to the audience that Jason raped Chris. However, I have no confidence this thread will continue in “Part IV.”

We also get some comic relief from prankster Shelly (Larry Zerner), who lacks confidence around the ladies and is the answer to a trivia question: He’s the first character to wear the hockey mask. He’s also a lesson in crying wolf. Shelly’s fake death early on is funny, but it doesn’t serve him well when he needs help later.

The atmospherics here are slightly different from the first two films, with the weather nicely ratcheting up into a windstorm. And there’s a lot of barn-based horror; Jason still favors pitchforks, but he’s versatile, and not above working with his hands. When he kills a victim by squeezing his head until an eyeball pops out (one of the kills that take advantage of the film’s 3D format), it’s the funniest murder of the saga so far. (Wait, I am supposed to be laughing, right?)

Raising one last question that will probably be ignored in the next entry, Chris is attacked by a “lady in the lake” in the final scare. Is this some connection to Mrs. Voorhees? Is it intended as a jumping-off point for a new branch of stories, like what the “Halloween” saga tried with “Halloween III?” Or is it simply the makeup and prosthetics team showing off one last effect? It’s an admittedly awesome one, with that worm wriggling out of the lady’s face.

I guess all we can do is judge each “Friday the 13th” film on its own merits and not worry about what it ignores from the previous chapter and what might be ignored in later chapters. In that sense, Minor proves himself as someone who technically knows how to deliver competent shlock. I have a nagging feeling that the storyline should be building into something more interesting by now, but maybe I’d be better off letting that go.

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