Since the launch of Friday the 13th: The Game, the Friday the 13th franchise has had a major revival. The series has always been important in the horror genre, as well as cherished by fans, but the excitement and conversation is definitely more prevalent. Looking around in social media groups and topics dedicated to the films always brings the question: “What is your favorite Friday the 13th film?” My answer is always the same- Friday the 13th Part III.
Released on August 13, 1982, Friday the 13th Part III was directed by Steve Miner, who also directed Friday the 13th Part 2 the previous year, and produced by Frank Mancuso Jr. The screenplay was written by Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson, and Petru Popescu, although Popescu is uncredited. As with the first two Friday the 13th installments, composer Harry Manfredini created the film’s music.
Friday the 13th Part III takes place immediately after the events of Friday the 13th Part 2. Originally, the film was to feature Part 2 final girl Ginny Field (Amy Steel) confined in a mental hospital, only to get found by Jason once again. Sound familiar? Well, it should if you’ve ever seen 1981’s Halloween II. When Amy Steel was unavailable for the role, and perhaps to distance the film from Halloween II, the script went in an entirely different direction. For that, I am thankful.
The film wastes no time getting into the action as Jason wanders to a small general store, ran by the lovely Edna (Cheri Maugans) and her husband Harold (Steve Susskind). The couple quickly meet their demise when Jason makes good use of a meat cleaver and sewing needle before moving on. We’re then introduced to our new group of teens as they go to Higgins Haven for vacation. The group includes final girl Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell), Chris’ boyfriend Rick (Paul Kratka), prankster Shelly (Larry Zerner), Shelly’s blind date (gone wrong) Vera (Catherine Parks), the pregnant Debbie (Tracie Savage), Debbie’s boyfriend Andy (Jeffrey Rogers), and stoners Chuck (David Katims) and Chili (Rachel Howard). We also meet a ruthless biker gang who set out to torment the teens- Ali (Nick Savage), Loco (Kevin O’ Brien) and Fox (Gloria Charles).
Over the course of the film, everyone except heroine Chris gets slaughtered at the hands of Jason. Although, in an alternate ending, Chris actually gets decapitated. But alas, she indeed survives in the final version. After Edna and Harold, Jason’s third victim is Fox, who is found by Loco, impaled by a pitchfork in the barn. He quickly meets the business end of a pitchfork himself. The fifth victim is Vera, who mistakes Jason for Shelly after a prank. A spear through the eye proves that it was, in fact, not Shelly. Next came one of my personal favorites, Andy cut in half with a machete while walking on his hands…from groin to stomach. Debbie, who is reading a Tom Savini article in Fangoria Magazine (nice little Easter egg), meets the same fate as Kevin Bacon in the first film, except with the machete. The next kill happens off-screen, as Shelly stumbles into the cabin with his throat slit. The ninth kill is perhaps the lamest kill of them all as Jason throws Chuck into the fuse box, causing a minor explosion and electrocuting him. Believe me, it sounds more impressive than it was. Next up was Chili, who got a red hot fire poker through the belly. Chris’ boyfriend Rick makes victim eleven, with some of the most awesomely bad effects we see during the film as his head is crushed, complete with a popping eyeball in all its 3D glory. The last of Jason’s victim is biker Ali, who we thought had died earlier in the film, only to come back and get hacked almost immediately. At least he tried, and he gave Chris an opportunity to ax Jason in the head, leaving him for dead. Or so she thought.
Stuntman and actor Richard Brooker took on the role of Jason Voorhees, replacing Warrington Gillette from Friday the 13th Part 2. As a skilled trapeze artist, Brooker had a tall, slim, and fit build and was able to do all of his own stunts. He added foam padding under his clothes to appear bulkier on-screen. Although no one realized at the time, Richard Brooker’s Jason would be one of the most iconic in the franchise because he is the first to wear the signature hockey mask.
The hockey mask wasn’t initially thought out and came about by convenience during a lighting test. Effects supervisor Martin Jay Sadoff happened to have a Detroit Red Wings mask, tried it on Brooker, and got the approval of director Steve Miner. Due to it being too small for his face, a larger mold was created by VacuForm, with new markings and holes added. In the film, the mask is discovered by Jason after Shelly pulls a prank on Vera at the lake and leaves it behind. Similar with Richard Brooker, Larry Zerner probably had no way of knowing how important his character would end up being in the series and horror genre.
Another thing that made Friday the 13th Part III stand out in the franchise was the use of 3D. It was the first Paramount film in 3D since the 1950’s and it was the first 3D film to get a wide theatrical release in North America, opening in 700 theaters. Big 3D releases weren’t common because of the hefty costs involved. Theaters weren’t equipped to show the films, so Paramount had to send the equipment and instructions. The studio spent between $8 and $10 million dollars to do this for Friday the 13th Part III. The crew shot the film using ArriVision, which was the same system used for Jaws 3-D (1983) and Amityville 3-D (1983). To get the most out of this technology, there are several gratuitous scenes of random objects flying at our faces- a yo-yo, fruit, and popping popcorn just to name a few. Most of the death scenes were also set up to show off the 3D effects.
It seems that Paramount’s efforts for 3D paid off, however. On a budget of $2.3 million, Friday the 13th Part III brought in over $36.6 million, making it the second most successful horror film in the box office in 1982. The first most successful was Poltergeist, which brought in $121.7 million on a $10.7 million budget. Friday the 13th Part III did not receive positive reviews from the critics, but that certainly didn’t hold the film back. It managed to entertain, give us great kills, add so much to the franchise’s lore, and remain a beloved film 35 years later.
Although Friday the 13th Part III was meant to be the end of a trilogy, Jason continued to rack up the body count in Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984) and went on to star in eight more films. The Friday the 13th legacy is alive and well, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll see him on the big screen again.
Hopefully you enjoyed taking a look back at Friday the 13th Part III with me. I’d love to hear your favorite moments, kills, and characters in comments below or on social media!