If you’re a Friday the 13th fan as we are here at PopHorror (see past retro articles here and here), you still remember the first F13 movie that introduced you to the franchise. More than likely, your first Friday movie is your all time favorite. For me, Friday the 13th Part 3 was my first F13 flick, and yes, it is my all time favorite.
I feel as if the franchise reached its peak with part 3. Director Steve Miner had helped out on the original Friday the 13th and even directed part 2. By the time the third film came along, Miner knew all the basic ingredients that make a Friday the 13th movie work. He had experience, plus he knew you had to have a good group of kids that the viewers would care about, great kill scenes, an intimidating actor to play the terrifying Jason Voorhees, a great final girl, and a simple plot.
In this article, I want to give my own reasons as to why I believe Friday the 13th Part 3 is the best of the franchise. I believe that this film is the most fun you will get out of any of the Friday the 13th installments.
The Best Group Of Victims
In my opinion, Friday the 13th Part 3 has the best group of victims of any Friday film. First, there’s Chuck (David Katims: The Invisible Kid 1988) and Chili (Rachel Howard: Deep Space 1988), the stoners of the group representing Cheech and Chong. They certainly provide plenty of humor. How could you not love them? Then there’s Andy (Jeffrey Rogers: The Karate Kid Part II 1986) and his girlfriend, Debbie (Tracie Savage: Friendly Persuasion 1974). Andy is a good kid. You can tell he’s crazy about Debbie, since she’s pregnant and he’s actually sticking around. He even likes a nerdy guy like Shelly (Larry Zerner: Death House 2017). When the party gets boring, just have Andy amaze you with his juggling skills.
Debbie who is also my all time favorite female character in the franchise, is beautiful and easy going. She’s loyal to her friends and even tries to reassure Chris (Dana Kimmell: Lone Wolf McQuade 1983) that nothing bad is going to happen to them at Higgins Haven. It’s hard to watch a nice character like her get killed. She did have one flaw, though. She didn’t mind a beer while she was pregnant. Might want to rethink that one, Debbie.
My all time favorite character in the franchise is Shelly, the insecure nerdy kid we all were in high school. To mask his insecurity, he likes to scare people, whether it’s faking an ax wound to the forehead or jumping out of the water in a hockey mask and scuba gear. Yes, Shelly apparently always brings scuba gear with him when going on a trip. Never know when you might need it for a good scare.
There is also the beautiful Vera (Catherine Parks: Weekend At Bernie’s 1989) who is supposed to be Shelly’s date for the weekend. Vera is nice and a little sassy at times. Still, she’s nice to Shelly even though she’s not interested in him. Rick (Paul Kratka: Blood Was Everywhere 2011) is Chris’ date for the weekend. Rick seems like a good guy, except that he’s a little too eager to get it on with Chris. Did he steal that sweater from Mama Voorhees?
None of these guys are unlikable. It’s a bit hard to watch them get taken out. Indie directors should study Friday the 13th Part 3 to see what a likable group of kids should look like in a slasher and how well it works.
The Best Setting In Higgins Haven
Friday the 13th Part 3 is the only movie in the franchise where the setting feels like its own character. The cabin and barn are polar opposites. The cabin looks like a fun place to stay at for the weekend, whereas the barn just looks creepy. Something seems off every time that dirty red building is onscreen. When characters are walking through the place, it looks dark and unsettling.
The entire atmosphere of Higgins Haven makes Friday the 13th Part 3 seem like a perfect place for Jason to feel at home… a flawless setting for a Friday The 13th movie.
The Best Kills In The Franchise
Steve Miner hit a home run when it comes to the kill scenes in Friday the 13th Part 3. There’s the classic kill where Jason puts on the hockey mask for the first time, and the one where he shoots a dart into Vera’s eyeball. I always liked that, after he kills her, Jason drops the dart gun and walks away with a swagger.
How can you not love the shot of Rick getting his head squeezed in Jason’s vice-like grip, and his eyeball popping out at the screen? Then there’s Debbie looking at Fangoria magazine and getting killed like Kevin Bacon in the first film.
The creepiest scene for me is Chuck’s death. The way that Jason is standing right behind him in the darkness of the basement is one of the creepiest in the franchise. Then Jason hauls off and throws the guy right into the fuse box. It’s a brutal kill. Steve Miner did an excellent job creating this scene.
For me, the best and the most brutal kill in the entire franchise is Andy’s death. Walking on his hands, the guy is making his way down the hallway, and when he looks up, he sees Jason swing an ax, cutting him in half starting from stem to stern. It is absolutely brutal. No other kill in the franchise compares to this one.
Richard Brooker’s Lasting Impact On Jason Voorhees
If there is one actor who influenced who Jason was and how he acted, it was most certainly Richard Brooker. Something about Jason in Part 2 wasn’t working. In Friday the 13th Part 3, we have an almost complete turnaround from Jason. The hockey masked killer is taller, stronger, and even more brutal. He no longer has long hair. His face doesn’t resemble the backwoods hillbilly in Part 2, looking more like he did as a little kid in Part 1.
In Friday the 13th Part 3, Jason kills with confidence. There is almost a cockiness to the way he slays. He is simply a killing machine with no stop button. He takes out the kids one by one like a professional assassin. Later, Jason actors such as Ted White and Kane Hodder have said that Richard Brooker influenced them the most out any other Jason actors. Richard Brooker’s lasting impact on the franchise is undeniable.
The Best Final Girl
I’ve already written an article on why I think Chris Higgins is the best Final Girl in the franchise. She’s the bravest of anyone facing Jason… a few years earlier, she had met the madman, and then she came back to Higgins Haven to face him again. Her only focus is survival. She doesn’t fall apart or wimp out, and she fights to the bitter end. She doesn’t stop until Jason is dead, and luckily, she is the last one standing.
There is so much more I could say about Friday the 13th Part 3. Don’t be surprised if I end up writing a second article on the subject. There’s the dream sequence Chris has at the very end when she falls asleep in the boat, and it’s just so unnerving seeing Jason unmasked and looking at Chris through the upstairs window of the cabin. It still creeps me out. I could talk a bit more about Steve Miner’s masterful work on Part 3, and reminiscence with Rick as Chris recalls how she got in a fight with her parents, ran off to the woods, fell asleep, and awoke to Jason chasing her. There’s so much good stuff to talk about.
I believe if anyone out there wants to make a slasher, a good study would be Friday the 13th Part 3. It’s not only one of the best Friday the 13th movies, but it’s also one of the best slashers, period. It will always be my all time favorite Friday the 13th movie.