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Friday the 13th Part III

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(Reviewed in 2002 as part of a retrospective on the “Friday the 13th” series.)

The most important issue we can address in regards to “Friday the 13th Part III” is consistency. For as similar as these movies all are to each other, they are shockingly bad about continuity.

This trend even spreads to the very title of this, the second sequel in the now-ten-part slasher series. The onscreen title is “Friday the 13th Part III.” The theatrical trailer, however, said, “Friday the 13th Part 3: 3D.” The video cover just says “Friday the 13th Part 3” and omits the “3D” part, possibly because the video, alas, only comes in two dimensions. (Well, the videotape itself is three-dimensional, obviously. I mean to say the MOVIE is flat.)

While “III” and “3” in these cases mean the same thing, the fact that someone thought they could be used interchangeably bespeaks a great deal of sloppiness. Movie titles aren’t nicknames or colloquialisms. They’re TITLES, for crying out loud. If your name is Fred, you don’t approve of people spelling it “Fredd” or “Phred.” It’s Fred, dammit, F-R-E-D. No exceptions.

(When “Star Wars: Episode One — The Phantom Menace” came out, we newspaper types fretted endlessly about getting the punctuation just right: There’s a colon after “Star Wars” and a dash after “Episode One.” The folks at 20th Century Fox were consistent with that, too. None of their promotional materials had “Star Wars — Episode One: The Phantom Menace,” or “Star Wars? Episode One! The Phantom Menace,” or even “Star Wars @ Episode One @ The Phantom Menace.com.”)

So anyway, “Friday the 13th Part Three” was indeed filmed in 3D. I’m guessing director Steve Miner, fresh off the comparative success of “Part 2,” was wondering how he could make his next sequel seem different despite being 100 percent the same. Then someone suggested 3D, which made sense, it being the third movie and all. (Too bad part four didn’t use the fourth dimension and take itself back in time to a point when film hadn’t been invented.)

A movie fan at the Internet Movie Database begins his praise of “Friday the 13th Part the Third” with this subject line: “Jason is back!! He gets the hockey mask.” That pretty much sums it up.

This film takes place the day after the last one, with Jason just having killed several folks at Crystal Lake. Despite this, a group of boldly stupid teen-agers are going to spend the weekend at a cabin on the lake. One presumes they are going to an entirely different part of the lake, as surely the part where Jason just got done killing everybody would be closed to the public for cleaning and fumigation.

Or maybe not. As I said, we’re not big on continuity. In this film, Jason has no hair and is a bit leaner than he was in the last one, despite it being only a day later. Apparently, he trimmed down and got a haircut between movies — except that, in a flashback that allegedly took place BETWEEN parts 1 and 2, he looks the way he does NOW, in part 3. Which means he was trim and hairless, then beefed up and got a crazy ‘fro for “Part 2,” then went back to his old look again, overnight, for “Part 3.” This guy has more styles than Madonna, and just as many chromosomes.

Jason also developed superhuman strength at some point. In “Part 3,” he uses his bare hands to squash a guy’s head. This is done only so the guy’s eyeball can pop out at the screen — 3D, remember — with no regard for the power it would take to do it in real life. The filmmakers are inadvertently and randomly building the “myth” of Jason — the Jason who is not just a “frightened retard” (to use one of the characters’ description) who loved his mama, but who is some kind of unnatural and immortal beast.

Once again, Jason is quite efficient in dispatching his victims (12 this time around, three more than each of the last two movies). He sneaks around stealthily, kills everyone in one blow, and never gets caught. Then, when it comes time to pursue the woman who is by default the “protagonist” and who therefore will live, he becomes embarrassingly sloppy. She pushes him, and he falls down. He gets knocked unconscious by the crudest of tools. Then, when she hangs him and he breaks his neck, he’s still alive. If it weren’t for the fact that he apparently can’t be killed, this clumsy ox would have died in the forest years ago.

“Part 3” ends exactly the same way the first film did, and pretty close to the second. The main character wakes up in a canoe after having escaped Jason. Then Jason’s mom — who in the first movie was decapitated and had her sweater taken as a souvenir — pops up out of the lake, head and sweater intact, and grabs the girl. Then we cut to her being hauled away by paramedics, the body-out-of-the-lake incident dismissed as a delusion.

“Part 3” is no better or worse than “Part 1.” Which is to say, it’s very bad, even for a dumb horror flick. At least they’re consistent on that point.

F (1 hr., 35 min.; R, not knowing its own title.)

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