Even though only one day has passed between Friday the 13th Part 2 and this third offering in the franchise, the entire world has changed. The horny teenagers all seem like banal, plastic, eager-to-please refugees from a sitcom, desperately hoping with their every line of dialogue for a canned laugh. When they venture into town in an ostentatious bright yellow Volkswagen bug, they are harangued by lazy, good-for-nothing hick storekeepers who don’t accept food stamps, thank you, and by motorcycle gang members who seem like they belong in the music video “Beat It.” Everything seems like a hasty caricature, painted in the gauche bright colors of 1980s excess. Even our resident monster has morphed, not unlike John Rambo’s transformation from grim lone wolf in First Blood to steroid-pumped American avenger in the patriotic circles. Lumbering, deformed maniac Jason Voorhees (Richard Brooker) has gone from a scrawny little mutant farm boy in overalls into a hulking goon, shaved completely bald and looking like a former convict-turned-gas-station attendant.
Shot in such a way to capitalize on the brief fad of Reagan-era 3D movies, there’s less memorable POV shots from the killer and more images from the perspective of the victims, as Jason shoots spear guns directly at us, jumps through windows and over furniture toward the screen, and squeezes one victim’s heads until their eyeballs pop out of their sockets and hurtle through the air. (At any given opportunity, the victims similarly overcompensate toward the lens with juggling acts, dangling yo-yos, and athletic handstands). But easily the weirdest moment is the long, talky sequence where prim heroine Chris (Dana Kimmell) shares a secret with her on-again, off-again boyfriend Rick (Paul Kratka). One night after a fight with her parents that ended with an unforgivable slap in the face, she punished them by fleeing into the deep, dark woods. Once there, she encountered a grotesque, almost inhuman man (guess who?), and if this macabre power-ballad-style monologue weren’t enough, Friday the 13th Part 3 cuts to a rape-fantasy flashback where our final girl crawls through weeds as Jason clutches at her leg. The scene plays out like a fairy tale on a therapist’s couch. Who knew that the characters in lowest-common-denominator pulp horror would find themselves saddled with Freudian hang-ups?