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Friday the 13th Part III: 3D

Paramount // R // June 16, 2009
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 7, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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until Freddy vs. Jason clawed its way into theaters, Friday the 13th Part III held the record as the highest grossing of the legendary slasher franchise's sequels. It's the movie where Jason tossed aside that burlap sack from The Town That Dreaded Sundown and picked up his iconic hockey mask. It's also revered by the cult cinema set for its legendary 3D effects; as gimmicky as so many of them are, they're so dazzling well-executed technically that they eclipsed all of the other horror flicks from the early '80s 3D revival.

I could probably just cut the review off right there. I mean, there's really not even a plot to rattle off this time around. Picking up the day after part two, a gaggle of horny teenagers breeze into Camp Crystal Lake but only one of 'em makes it out alive. The end. I mean, I could mention that one of 'em is a dumpy gorehound who idolizes Tom Savini, a few bikers roll in looking for revenge, and foxy Chris (Dana Kimmell) is still reeling from bumping into Jason in the woods a couple years back, but none of that really amounts to much: 'sjust more red shirts for Jason to stab. No one trots into a slasher flick with their fingers crossed extra-tight for lush characterization or a grand, sweeping epic of a story, but the script really seems like an afterthought this time around. Actually...pretty much everything does. Friday the 13th Part III helped kick off a 3D revival -- shortly before other horror flicks like Amityville 3D and Jaws 3D -- and the movie really couldn't care less about anything that's not going to leap out to a theater packed with teenagers in cardboard glasses. Even the kills -- or at least what was left after the MPAA whipped out their scissors -- are disappointingly bland. Jason doesn't do much more than stab or impale this time around, and too much of what we get is a mostly bloodless swipe or two. All the best kills involve eyeballs, for whatever reason; maybe screenwriter Martin Kitrosser was on a Lucio Fulci kick back in 1982 or something.

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pacing is also off-kilter. The post-title sequence with a bickering, middle-aged married couple being carved apart drags on forever, and once the movie finally does get around to introducing the horny, pot-puffing lambs, Friday the 13th Part III waits until just past the hour mark to lead the first of 'em to the slaughter. Sure, Jason keeps busy until then, but it seems strange to introduce so many characters, avoid doing much of anything with them, and then butcher pretty much all of them in the space of 13 or 14 minutes. Still, the anticipation doesn't build for the next kill so much as what's going to leap off the screen next. The 3D effects are pretty shameless, lobbing out everything from a TV antenna to a couple of eyeballs, but as gimmicky as they can be, they're the real draw.

What does work, though...? The disco-fried theme song, for one! Friday the 13th Part III builds up to one of the series' most unrelentingly intense finalés, and kicking ass every step of the way, Dana Kimmell makes for a hell of a Final Girl. There's a decent amount of T&A, and Part III is packing one of the better looking sets of nubile young girls in any of the Friday flicks. The acting's kinda painful, sure, but...hey! The girls are cute, and that's gotta count for something. As many times as I've torn through Part III over the years, it's still kind of a thrill to see Jason don the iconic hockey mask for the first time. I'll admit that Friday the 13th Part III falls somewhere around the middle of the series for me, and I'd point to it as my least favorite of the first four flicks. It's still an essential purchase for Friday the 13th completists, though, especially now that the movie's not just being issued in high definition but in 3D to boot. I'll blame nostalgia for compelling me to give Friday the 13th Part III more of a nod than it really deserves, but still: Recommended.

Oh, and the 3D version of the movie clocks in twelve seconds longer than the flat cut thanks to a card about the glasses that plays after the Paramount logo, but that's the only difference.

Since the British Blu-ray disc from a few months back only bothered with the flat cut of Friday the 13th Part III, some of the early speculation swirling around was that Paramount's domestic high-def release wouldn't be in 3D either. No worries, though: this dual-layer Blu-ray disc does pile on both versions of the flick, both of which are encoded with AVC and together gobble up pretty much all of the space at its fingertips.

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Friday the 13th Part III is the first and last of the original Paramount series to be filmed in scope. There's nothing particularly high definition about the exceptionally soft and grainy recap from part II, but the 2.39:1 image improves dramatically from the first frame of new footage. Sure, it still looks like a low-budget slasher flick whose thirtieth anniversary isn't all that far off, but clarity and detail are both pretty decent, there are plenty of shots where it's clear that this is a shiny new Blu-ray disc, and its palette and black levels are both punchy enough. The video's still softer than usual, especially in more expansive shots, the film stock doesn't hold up all that well under low light, and the finalé in particular is extremely grainy and muddy. That's really not any better or worse than I expected to see, though, so I won't pretend to be disappointed. The extras point out just how much time was spent lighting and meticulously plotting out each shot in 3D, but it doesn't look like the crew bothered to wipe down the lenses or check the gate between loads. There's plenty of crud and hair in this transfer, but the bulk of it looks like it dates back to the original photography. Damage and wear otherwise are pretty tolerable.

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The 3D cut does lean on red-and-blue anaglyph glasses, and two Friday the 13th-themed cardboard glasses have been tucked inside this set. The impact really varies from one shot to the next. Some stretches sport a pretty convincing sense of depth, but there's some really horrific ghosting, and some shots that are clearly supposed to leap out -- like the yo-yo that's zipping straight at the camera -- are blurry and poorly defined. Considering how legendary the polarized version that made the rounds in theaters back in 1982 is supposed to be, this anaglyph spin seems like it's settling for the bronze, and some of it's so clumsily translated that it'd have to be some sort of technical hiccup. Stranger still, the opening titles aren't in 3D in either cut even though they're very clearly designed to pop out. Whatever. It's not perfect by any stretch, but Friday the 13th Part III screams out to be watched in 3D, and I'd rather suffer through some bungled effects than slog through the flick again in 2D.

Friday the 13th Part III does include its original monaural soundtrack -- belted out here in a 224kbps Dolby Digital track -- but it's awfully shrill and trebly compared to the 24-bit Dolby TrueHD 5.1 remix. The lossless audio doesn't really take all that many liberties with the original sound design, though. The surrounds are reserved primarily for atmosphere -- crickets, chirping birds, and the howl of the wind -- as well as to reinforce the instantly recognizable score. There's a scare in the basement that gets a little extra punch to it thanks to the rear channels, but otherwise, I didn't really pick up on much directionality from the surrounds. There isn't all that much lurching around in the lower frequencies, and the stems still sound kind of dated, but it's all so much cleaner and more natural than the tinny mono mix. All in all...? Pretty much what I waltzed in expecting.

Also included are monaural dubs in French and Spanish. Subtitles are offered in English (traditional and SDH), French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

All of the extras on Friday the 13th Part III are served up in
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high-def. Annoyingly, though, the DVD boxed set from 2004 featured an audio commentary with quite a bit of the cast, but that track didn't make its way to this Blu-ray disc.
  • Fresh Cuts: 3D Terror (13 min.; HD): This retrospective breezes through one of the alternate backdrops considered for Friday the 13th Part III, why this sequel got the nod to be filmed in 3D and the toll that extra dimension took on this grueling shoot, the several different endings that were tossed around (including one that featured an otherwise-unused Jason designed by Stan Winston!), and a box office run so colossally successful that Paramount ran out of 3D glasses.

  • Legacy of the Mask (10 min.; HD): The second of this disc's featurettes runs through the evolution of Jason's appearance from the first flick through his jaunt to Manhattan. The hockey mask -- introduced here in Part III -- gets most of the attention, natch, from the design and fabrication of the original masks to how it transformed over the course of the series.

  • Slasher Films: Going for the Jugular (7 min.; HD): Featuring several Friday alums along with The Shape and The Candyman themselves, this featurette delves into the elements that define an effective slasher flick and what it is about these movies that keep drawing in hordes of screaming teenagers.

  • Lost Tales from Camp Blood: Part III (5 min.; HD): Another installment in the fan-made series -- set to Harry Manfredini's iconic score -- doesn't amount to much more than some schlub skulking around a bloody house, getting stabbed in the back by Jason, and clawing his way through a hallway and into the den. It's pretty forgettable.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): Last up is a theatrical trailer that's encoded in high-def but doesn't exactly look the part.

The Final Word
Part III isn't one of the better Friday the 13th flicks, no, but there's something about blood-spattered nostalgia in high-def and in 3D that the slasher completist in me can't shrug off. Recommended.

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