Thursday, June 11, 2009

Friday the 13th: now with one more dimension!

How does a filmmaker go about distinguishing a sequel from its predecessor? Theoretically, you could try to write a better, more sophisticated story that challenges your audience and defies all expectations. Or you could not be a total douche, and just film the thing in 3D . So it was with Friday the 13th Part 3, the next film in the slasher franchise that I plan to blog through. Sadly, I don't have the 3D version, so I'll have to settle for a measly 2 dimensions. As always, I'll include minute marks with my comments for anyone who plans to watch the movies on their own.

Friday the 13th Part 3
Directed by Steve Miner
3-D Supervisor: Martin Jay Sadoff

Prologue: Once again, a Friday the 13th movie recaps the final climactic minutes from the previous installment. The producers must believe that the audience is too stoned to remember anything without visual aids. Given the target demographic for these flicks, that's probably a fair assumption. So the heroine of the previous movie dresses up like Jason's dead mom and drives a machete through his left shoulder. Of course, Jason doesn't die. The funkiest music of 1982 starts playing as the credits zoom toward the viewer ... in 3D! (6:00)

The movie opens on a road-side market near Crystal Lake, run by a delightfully white trash couple. The husband sticks a pole toward the camera for no apparent reason, the first of many gratuitous 3D shots that I won't be able to enjoy because Paramount DVD is run by cheap bastards. A news broadcast discusses the murders of last night, which means that this movie takes place on Saturday the 14th. Not quite as ominous as Friday the 13th. On the other hand, why shouldn't Jason kill over the weekend? Anyway, the white trash husband gets attacked by a snake (in another gratuitous 3D shot in less than 3 minutes!) and then Jason drives a cleaver into his chest. White trash wife, who has a dozen curlers in her hair, so you know for sure she's white trash royalty, gets a knitting needle jammed into the back of her head. Not bad movie, two kills in the first fifteen minutes. (16:25)

Improbably attractive teens drive down a suburban road in a Dodge Ram van, a.k.a. the pedo-van. The driver is Chris, the heroine of the movie. Next to Chris is her attractive friend Debbie and Debbie's boyfriend, Andy. We learn that Chris and her friends are heading down to her lakehouse (guess which lake!) and that Chris was attacked there a few years earlier. Because she's crazy, Chris wants to go unwind in the place where she was attacked. We're also introduced to Shelley, the fat one. He's also the "funny" one, in that he thinks it's funny to stab his friend in the back with a fake knife. We also meet Vera, an extremely attractive girl who's Shelley's date, though I'm guessing nobody mentioned this to Vera. Finally, we meet Chuck and Chili, two glorious stoner stereotypes. (18:45)

The pedo-van heads down a country road. We learn that Debbie is pregnant. I'm sure the filmmakers will spare the pregnant chick, right? And in the best use of 3D ever, Chuck passes a joint to Andy, but it's filmed so that Chuck is passing it to the viewer ... in 3D! (21:20)

In my last post, I expressed surprise that they killed off Crazy Ralph, the resident crackpot who ineffectually warns the teens to stay away from Crystal Lake. The filmmakers seem to have realized how essential a character Ralph was, because they've replaced him with Abel, another drunk that the kids almost run over because he fell asleep in the middle of the road. Abel thanks the kids for not killing him by showing them an eyeball he found (clearly one of Jason's previous kills). He thrust the eyeball out toward the camera ... in 3D! He warns the kids not to go to Crystal Lake, but they ignore him because if they listened to him the movie would suck. (22:20)

So Chris's lakehouse is in a place called Higgins Haven. The pedo-van has to cross a rickety bridge to get there, which I'm sure won't cause them trouble later. When Chris walks into the house to check around, she gets surprised by her sort-of boyfriend, Rick. Chris is nervous because of the previous attack, and Rick is horny because, well, this is Friday the 13th. But Rick made the mistake of falling for the virginal heroine, so the poor bastard isn't getting any. We head outside and Chris runs into Shelley, who's missing out on some skinny dipping because he's embarrassed about his weight. Crass attempts at sympathy aren't gonna save you, Shelley. (26:20)

Rick and Chris flirt while they bail hay in the barn. Is it bailing whey they load hay in the upper area (I don't know barn terminology)? Ladies and gay lads take note, Rick is shirtless for the entire scene. Let it never be said that Friday the 13th only exploits women (just mostly). Their flirting is interrupted by a scream from the house, and Chris finds Shelley with a hatchet in his head. Except it's fake, because Shelley is an immature ass. Vera decides to head to town for a bit, and despite Shelley's general suckiness, she agrees to take him with her. (30:10)

Shelley and Vera are at a store where they're harrassed by a gang. Not a real gang mind you, but one of those multi-ethnic movie gangs that use chains rather than guns. Can you dig it? So jackass Shelley digs himself in deeper by accidentally backing over their motorbikes, and they attack his crappy VW Beetle with chains. CHAINS! Shelley mans up briefly and runs over their bikes again. What will the consequences be? (34:15)

3D yo-yo! Rick, who's slightly peeved that Shelley got his car fucked up, heads off with Chris to cool off somewhere. More importantly, Jason is hiding in their barn. Then the biker gang shows up and siphons the gas from the pedo-van (it's like Fate wants these kids to die!). So the female biker goes into the barn and gets pitchforked by Jason. Then the white biker goes looking for her, and he gets pitchforked too! It'd be great if Jason just had an endless supply of pitchforks, but when the last biker goes looking for his homies, he gets clubbed with a piece of wood. So the gang was introduced solely to inflate the body count? I approve. (43:45)

3D juggling! That confirms it. I'll have to get the damn 3D version on Blu-Ray. Andy and Debbie go upstairs to do it, but poor Shelley gets shot down by Vera. We cut to Chris, who tells Rick about the infamous attack two years ago: apparently Jason attacked her while she was wandering around in the woods. Chris doesn't explain how she got away or why Jason didn't kill her. I guess it wasn't Friday the 13th. Dumbass Rick left his carlights on, and now the battery is dead. Rick and Chris have to walk back to the lakehouse. (52:10)

Chuck the stoner heads out to the outhouse to take a dump and get high at the same time. He's a multitasker, that one. When he's done, he runs into Chili and they go off to get stoned somewhere. Vera hangs out on a dock on Crystal Lake until Shelley, dumbass that he is, scares her with his harpoon gun(?) and hockey mask. Yup, Shelley is responsible for giving Jason his iconic look. Vera yells at him, and Shelley wanders off to feel sorry for himself. He sees something in the barn and goes to investigate. Meanwhile, Vera is going thru Shelley's wallet (he gave it to her in the store) but then drops it in the lake. As she wades into the lake to pick it up, a familiar figure with a hockey mask walks out onto the dock. Jason has Shelley' harpoon gun, and fires a harpoon right into Vera's eye! In 3D! Jason keeps it hardcore. (1:00:30)

Debbie and Andy are post-coital, so of course they have to die. Debbie goes to take a shower, but sadly, it's rather light on T&A. Andy starts walking around on his hands, because it will make his death all the better. Jason agrees with me, and cuts Andy balls-to-torso with a machete. Debbie finishes with her shower, and goes to lay back down. In classic Friday formula, she notices drops of blood and looks up to see her boyfriend cut in half and stuffed on the support beam above. It's pretty damn gory. Jason, who takes after his mom, is hiding beneath her bed and shoves a knife through her. So the filmmakers were nasty enough to kill the pregnant girl. Good for them! (1:05:10)

Chuck and Chili are hanging out downstairs, cooking popcorn ... in 3D! The power goes out, and Chuck goes to investigate alone. Come on, Chuck! It's the oldest trick in the book! Chili hears some noises and finds Shelley with a cut throat. Chili naturally thinks that Shelley is faking, except this time, he ain't. Shelley never read "The Boy Who Cried Slasher." Meanwhile, Jason deals with the electricity problem by throwing Chuck into the fuse box, which naturally explodes into a shower of sparks. Chili finally figures out that something's wrong, and starts freaking out when she realizes that Shelley is really dead. Jason, being extra nasty, stabs her with a red hot poker. That's what you get for smoking pot! (1:09:25)

Rick and Chris arrive back, and quickly figure out that something is wrong. Rick goes outside to investigate but is ambushed by Jason. Jason then squeezes his head until his left eye explodes out ... in 3D! If this movie isn't the perfect advertisement for 3D filmmaking, I don't know what is. (1:12:10)

And now the official Chase of the Final Girl begins. Chris goes upstairs to investigate and finds some bloody clothes in the bathtub. Jason is apparently a very clean killer. When she goes outside, one of the dead bikers almost falls on her. She runs back into the house, and starts locking windows. What Chris doesn't yet realize is that Jason opens windows by throwing dead boyfriends through them. Once Jason educates her on that, Chris runs upstairs. Just as Jason is about to follow she drops a bookcase on him. I feel sorry for the stuntman, since some of those books look pretty big. And their hardcovers. Jason follows her upstairs, where Chris has locked herself in a closet with the corpse of Debbie. Jason starts hacking through the door with an axe, but Chris notices that Jason left a knife in Debbie. Jason's gonna regret being too lazy to take the knife out, because Chris stabs his hand and then his leg. Chris escapes out a second floor window and then clobbers Jason with a log when he runs outside. She then runs to the pedo-van. (1:18:50)

Chris revs the van and almost runs over Jason, but when she reaches the rickety bridge the van stalls out. Of course, it's out of gas because the biker gang siphoned it. Then the van starts sinking through the crappy bridge, and Jason shows next to the van and grabs her throat. Awesomely, she traps Jason by cranking up the window. If she had power windows, she would have died. As Chris escapes through the passenger door, Jason face-butts the window, proving the hockey mask is as functional as it is cool. (1:20:30)

Chris hides in the barn and Jason follows her in, barring the door so she can't sneak out. Chris has climbed onto the rafters, and pulls a Splinter Cell move when she drops straight down on Jason's head. But she can't get out, so she climbs up to the loft. When Jason follows her she clobbers him again with a shovel. Then she wraps a rope connected to a pulley around his neck and throws him out this big opening on the second floor of the barn (is there a name for those things?). Jason is hung right outside the barn door. Chris is pretty damn capable, I gotta say. But Jason ain't dead, and he pulls the rope off from around his neck and in the process briefly removes his mask. Chris sees his ugly-ass face and realizes that Jason was the one who attacked her two years ago. Now she's pretty much a hysterical mess, and Jason's finally got her ... but wait! The biker that Jason clubbed isn't dead and he attacks Jason from behind. But Jason ain't fooling around anymore, and he cuts the guys hand off with a machete. Then he chops the guy up, but Chris takes the opportunity to grab an axe and bury it into Jason's head. Jason shambles toward her like Frankenstein's monster, but he finally collapses with the axe still sticking out of his head ... in 3D! (1:27:00)

And now the part where the film cannabilizes it's predecessors. Chris rows onto the lake in a canoe and falls asleep. When she wakes up, she sees Jason's ugly mug in a second floor window of the lakehouse. As she tries to row away, the rotten corpse of Mrs. Voorhees jumps out of the lake and drags her under. Of course, it's just a dream, and Chris is okay. Well, not entirely okay. As the police take her away, it's pretty obvious that Chris has gone completely insane. Jason's body is still lying on the floor of the barn. And we're out! (1:32:00)

Part 2 may have defined the franchise, but Part 3 is just a lot more fun. The filmmakers seem to have grasped that they're really only making a horror film in theory; in practice, Jason is the hero, and the audience takes sadistic pleasure whenever he gruesomely kills someone. While many people feel uncomfortable admitting it, this sadism has a powerful appeal. There are few things as genuinely satisfying as seeing obnoxious people get killed off in gory ways. Stoners, nerds, jocks, hippies, bikers, rednecks, yuppies, anyone and everyone who's ever pissed you off. Jason will kill them.

The lasting appeal of the Friday franchise is partly due to this viewer participation in framing the story. Even while Jason has evolved into an anti-hero, the franchise remain resolutely commited to the formula of B horror movies. They still have all the cheap scares, and the viewer is still expected to feel for the Final Girl. As long as the filmmakers pretend that Jason is the villain, the viewers get to secretly root for him. This conflict between the "intended" story and the "real" story that viewers create gives the franchise an interactive, as well as subversive, appeal.

As for the 3D elements, it's hard to say much without having experienced them in 3D. There are quite a few goofy scenes that exploit the 3D concept in ways that must have delighted the original audiences.

Next up, Part 4: The Final Chapter (not really).

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