Chris Higgins (Dana Kimmell) returns to her family home for the weekend with her friends. The house is vacant, and sits on the shore of Crystal Lake – meaning that before long she and her friends are terrorised by the homicidal Jason Voorhees (Richard Brooker), the deformed serial killer who wanders the area.
Friday the 13th Part 3, released in August 1982, was not only the third annual installment of the franchise. It also helped to spearhead a mini-revival in 3D cinema in Hollywood. Using a single-strip technique, in which the left and right-eye images are laid on top of one another on each frame and then screened in Cinemascope format (2.35:1), the film claimed to offer cinema-goers ‘a new dimension in terror’. In theory that means plenty of gore, weapons and blood being hurled in the direction of the camera. In practice, and rather oddly, it means incessant shots of people juggling, cooking popcorn and holding random objects out for the viewer to see. Other horror franchises copied Friday the 13th over the next couple of years, particular if they were up to their third film like Jaws 3D or Amityville 3D, but as with every 3D cinema revival the craze eventually went away.
Take away the gimmick and Part 3 reveals a rapidly shallow well of material. There is a third group of sex-obsessed teenagers and twentysomethings, and Jason Voorhees is back to murder them one by one. These new characters for the most part have a vaguely unpleasant air about them. The stock comic relief character this time around is Shelley (Larry Zerner), whose gory practical jokes do not endear him to anybody – least of all the woman he is attempting to seduce with his childish antics. It is from Shelley’s dead body that Jason takes an old hockey mask, finally completing his iconic image that will continue through the remainder of the franchise.
There are some amusing moments and scenes peppered throughout the film. Shelley and Vera (Catherine Parks) upset a trio of criminal bikers in town, and when the bikers turn up at the lakeside house to make trouble their attempts to revenge just get them brutally slaughtered by Jason. Some of the other murders are laughably bad, including Vera getting shot through the eye with a ridiculously unconvincing 3D harpoon and the heroic Rick (Paul Kratka) having his head crushed between Jason’s hand – replete with ping-pong-style eyes popping out of his skull at the audience. For the most part you cannot take the material seriously, and instead have to take it as some sort of unknowing farce.
The film finally comes into its own with a neatly staged extended climax in a nearby barn, as ‘final girl’ Chris confronts Jason entirely on her own. The scene has a basic level of suspense and atmosphere almost entirely lacking in the rest of the film, and at least finishes the film off on a reasonably positive note. This was intended to be the final film of the series, with Jason visibly dead from an axe wound to the head. Market forces would keep the franchise coming back.