After the events of Part 2, Jason retreats before the police arrive and comb the camp, promptly killing a couple who run a nearby grocery store as well as stealing some new clothes from their clothesline. The next day, a group of friends head up to a small farm property by the lake for a weekend of fun in the sun... and sex, of course. But unfortunately for them, Jason is hiding on the property and proceeds to kill each of them, along with a trio of bikers, one by one.
I really like the setting for this particular film. Even though it still takes place at Crystal Lake, the main house is a cozy cabin rather than a camp, allowing for a nice change of pace. I think the reason I like it so much is because my family owns a property very similar to it and, since I never went to summer camp, I'm able to relate to that more. Plus, instead of being would-be camp counselors in training, the characters here are just friends heading up there for a good time and I feel that makes what happens to them more unnerving. Just put yourself in this situation: you're going somewhere with your friends for a nice weekend, unaware that some psychopath is lurking nearby and ready to kill all you for no reason other than he knows you exist. That's a little more palpable of a situation for me personally.
Even though the acting in this one is pretty bad, I actually like the characters here quite a bit. Our lead this time is Chris Higgins, played by Dana Kimmell, who used to live on the property that serves as the setting until something horrific happened to her. She was attacked by a hideous man when she ran into the woods after having a fight with her parents, and I don't think it's any surprise that the man that attacked her turns out to have been Jason. I actually like this because she's the first person in the series since Mrs. Voorhees to actually have some sort of connection with Jason. She's never forgotten that horrible experience and now her worst fear has come true: the man who attacked her has returned. However, it could have been pulled off much more effectively if not for one problem: Dana Kimmell can't act for the love of crap. It's not bad to the point that it's unwatchable but still, her voice and the way she delivers her lines feels so awkward and unrealistic. The part that really makes me cringe is the scene where she tells her boyfriend Rick about her encounter with Jason. She tries, bless her heart, but she's just not good. Not only that but, during a moment when she's running scared, she tries to sound like she's crying but instead sounds more like she's laughing and even looks like she's smiling. Mrs. Kimmell, I love your character, but you're just not a very good actor.
Playing Rick, Chris' boyfriend, is Paul Kratka. Not much to say about this character. He does come off as a nice guy and there actually is some backstory between him and Chris: he hasn't seen her for a long time and now that she's finally back with him, she's distant towards him and, even though he understands that something's bothering, it's still rather frustrating for him. It's not often that you get any kind backstory between a couple in a Friday the 13th movie other than they want to bone each other, so I have to give them credit for that, but, as it is with Kimmell, Kratka's problem is that he's not a good actor. Again, he's not terrible, but you don't have to be an acting teacher to know his performance is pretty bad.
Our horny couple for this film is Andy and Debbie, played by Jeffrey Rogers and Tracie Savage. In fact, Debbie is actually pregnant, making her death as un-PC as Mark's death in Part 2. In addition, Andy's death has to be one of the most painful one ever in the series. (We'll get to that in a minute.) But acting wise, neither of them are that good. Rogers in particular is one-dimensional and Savage is really hot but there's not much else to her. There's literally nothing to Catherine Parks' role of Vera, the girl who's set up with the practical joker, Shelly. All we get is that she clearly doesn't like Shelly but can't bring herself to actually tell him. Another interesting couple is Chuck and Chili, played by David Katims and Rachel Howard. They're like a stoner, hippie couple left over from the 60's given how they dress and the fact that all they do is smoke dope. Not only that but they seem older than the other actors, like they're into their 30's or so. (For some reason, the first couple of times I watched this movie, I initially thought they were Shelly's parents. Yeah, I'm kind of stupid.) Katims is okay but Howard is unbelievably bad. Watch how she acts after discovering everybody's dead bodies right before her own death. Even for a slasher movie, her acting there is unforgivable!
The most memorable character in the film is Shelly, the prankster played by Larry Zerner. He's always scaring people and pulling horror movie-type tricks on them. It's not something he does out of malice, though; he just thinks it's fun. However everybody else can't stand him because of it. Vera, his proposed date, especially hates his guts and Shelly knows she does, but he tries his best to impress her; nfortunately, he goes about it in the worst way possible and makes her dislike even more. Shelly is also an important character in the whole of the series because he's the one who brings the hockey mask that Jason ultimately makes his trademark look. Now, it could be argued whether or not that particular hockey mask lasts past the fourth movie but at least Shelly probably gave Jason the inspiration to make it his go-to mask.
There are also three biker punks whose only purpose in the film is to act like major dicks to the main characters as well as serve as more cannon fodder: Fox, (Gloria Charles, who looks even better now than she did back then!), her boyfriend Ali (Nick Savage), and Loco (Kevin O'Brien). The minute they show up in the supermarket, they come across as complete assholes who just love harassing people and go as far as to try to burn down the barn after Shelly manages to get back at them for doing so to him and Vera. That's what ultimately leads to their demise. Ali actually proves to be pretty damn tough since he survives a serious beating that Jason gives him and shows up near the end of the film, although he ultimately gets killed in a particularly gruesome way when he tries to fight him again.
One last group of characters I have to mention are Harold and Edna (Steve Susskind and Cheri Maugans), the couple who own a grocery store and serve as Jason's first victims in this movie. Harold is one of the most disgusting characters ever. He owns a store and yet, he has no problem going through all of the food, eating and drinking some of it, then putting it back. He even goes so far as to eat fish-food and then spit it out when he makes the mistake of reading the ingredients on the back! The worst part is after he gets scared by a snake in his rabbits' pen and he has to run to the bathroom because not only do we see him sitting on the toilet but we actually hear the turds hitting the toilet water! Good God, was I glad when Jason finally killed this gross piece of crap! Edna is a pretty nagging and shrewish wife but can you blame her after you see what she has to live with? To me, she looks and feels like something a precursor to the more outrageous and hilarious Ethel Hubbard in Friday the 13th Part V.
Steve Miner returns to direct from Part 2, going on to make this the most technically well made Friday the 13th yet. He and cinematographer Gerald Feil really made this one look good, particularly given how this one was filmed in 3-D on a fairly low budget and was the first in a resurgence of the gimmick by Jaws 3 and Amityville 3-D following it. As a result of the gimmick, there are a lot of shots where things come right at the camera (the credits, a yo-yo, apples and oranges, an eyeball, and the various weapons Jason uses) and it can seem a bit odd when you watch the movie in the regular format, which most probably have. I have heard that in 3-D, this film is a hoot and hopefully I'll have a chance to see it some time. (The 3-D on the Blu-Ray, by all accounts, doesn't work all that well.) Honestly, though, the 3-D shots have never bugged me that much, although they do look a bit hokey when viewed in the regular format. But like I said, 3-D aside, the film is very well shot and has some rather good camera techniques (the best being the long crane shot at the beginning and the angle on Andy's painful death).
In this film, Jason becomes a bit more developed as a character and, more importantly, starts to become the iconic horror movie villain that he now is. One way in which he does so is the evolution of his image and the biggest step in that aspect, of course, is the introduction of the hockey mask, although in retrospect, it's doubtful that anybody at the time knew that the mask would become so iconic and forever linked with the character. More than likely, they were just looking for a new mask to replace the bag which, by all accounts, no one on Part 2 was particularly fond of, and since the hockey mask looked good, they just left it on, turning it into an icon purely by accident. Jason also gets some new clothes from Edna's clothesline, replacing his overalls with a green button shirt and gray pants, which would become his standard wardrobe for a long while into the series. As for his actual physical look here, it's completely contradictory to how he was at the end of Part 2. He's completely bald now, as he was when he was a child, making one wonder what happened to all the stringy hair he had before. Plus, before he crawls away in the prologue, we see him remove the machete that Ginny plunged into his shoulder and yet, if you watched the ending scene in Part 2 where he bursts through the window very closely, you'd see that the machete is still in his shoulder, which makes some wonder if that scene really happened. Honestly, I chalk it up to just being a simple continuity error more than anything else. This series isn't known for being consistent on certain things. In any case, I like Jason's face in this film. I think it looks much more realistic than the way it did previously as well as really sinister, especially in the scene where Chris sees him unmasked in the window and he growls at her. Speaking of which, Jason also shows some real rage here, the best example being when he's looking for Chris in the barn and becomes clearly frustrated when he can't find her, throwing things and tearing stuff apart. The late Richard Brooker plays Jason this time and not only is he good at displaying such emotion, he's also really agile in his movements, no doubt due to the fact that he used to be a trapeze artist. When he runs after Chris, it feels very threatening.
that whole time), Vera gets one of the worst: a harpoon right in the
eye, fired from Shelly's harpoon gun (notably, she's the first person that Jason kills while wearing the hockey mask), and Andy's death is particularly painful. He tends to walk upside-down on his hands and while he's doing so, Jason slices him lengthwise with a machete and you later see his mangled body, with his legs completely cut
off. The idea alone just hurts. Debbie's death is similar to Kevin Bacon's in the original: she's lying in a hammock when Jason puts a knife up through her neck (how did he slip underneath that hammock without her noticing?) Chuck gets thrown into an electricity box and electrocuted to death. Chili gets a hot poker rammed right through her chest. Rick's death is probably the most
memorable: Jason squeezes his head until one of his eyes flies out. It would look a lot better if the head wasn't so obviously fake and you couldn't see the wire the eyeball is on. The last death, and a particularly nasty one, is that of Ali. As I mentioned earlier, he gets knocked senseless by Jason but shows up at the end to save Chris, only for Jason to slice his hand off with a machete before proceeding to do so again and again after he falls, with the sounds of the whacks being rather cringe-inducing.