Ed. note- The writers of this movie chose Larry Zerner to play Shelly as he was handing out tickets to a movie. Absolute brilliance. Maybe God doesn’t hate us all after all.- P.F.
Randomly choosing a FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel for review was sort of fun. Do I go with the second or seventh flick, my favorites of the series? Do I choose the fourth, a phony final chapter? Do I select the fifth, an outlier in the series? The sixth, which first presents zombie Jason? How about the eighth… well, no, not that one. Very quickly I chose FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III, the one that scared me the most as a kid, but does little for me now.
That choice makes for a streamline review, because there are really only three things that deserve discussion: 3-D, the hockey mask, and Shelly.
To be fair, I’ll give you the first 16 minutes of the flick. The opening six minutes are a rehash of the ending of PART II. Because of the technology at the time, this portion is not in 3-D. It is, however, the best portion of this film, because of potato sack Jason and the awesome Ginny, my favorite FRIDAY girl. 90 seconds of opening credits follow. They shoot out at the audience, as if to announce, Put your 3-D glasses on here, folks! As a bonus, it includes a funky disco tune four years after disco’s death. The eight minutes that follow involve a shrewish wife and her harried husband who run a general store. So in a movie that’s about 90 minutes, approximately one-sixth of it doesn’t even involve our main characters. But hey, the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies were never about expert plotting.
That scene with the couple has no relation to the plot, but plenty to the flick’s gimmick. It opens with Harold propping up a clothesline pole by thrusting its back end directly into the camera. Unlike today, where the 3-D is more organic, in its last big wave back in the 1980s the idea was throw everything at the camera. And believe me, director Steve Miner throws EVERYTHING AT THE CAMERA. The list of objects includes, but is not limited to: a snake, a spear, a yoyo, apples and oranges, a joint, two— count ‘em, two— eyeballs, a Black dude’s fist wrapped in a chain, and Shelly’s wallet. There is of course an inherent problem in this when watching it in 2-D. If I didn’t know it was shot in 3-D, the obvious question would be, Why does the director keep throwing everything at the camera? It also doesn’t help that in many of these shots, I can easily see the string pulling the object out towards the screen. I accept that this was primitive filmmaking in comparison to today’s state-of-the-art, but still, this is inexcusable.
Even with the gimmick, if only Miner had restrained himself and kept it to the horror elements, it may have worked. Instead, it’s an eyesore, and a superfluous one at that.
I should mention that I’ve only seen the flick in 3-D once, not with the blue-and-red lenses, but with stereoscopic glasses on a bootleg DVD. They literally gave me an eyesore, and a headache. Admittedly, the effect itself works well. I’m aware Paramount has released legit 3-D copies, but I’ve never viewed one. The eleven-year-old Phillie that first saw this film would’ve been even more terrified with the gimmick. But adult Big Evil Phil wouldn’t go out of his way to watch it.
The hockey mask
I really should save this for last, as it’s Part III’s greatest legacy within the franchise, and Shelly is the guy responsible for it. But Shelly deserves to anchor this review, so I’ll talk hockey mask first.
During his last of many gags, Shelly wears a hockey mask. After Jason dispatches him (and no, this is not a spoiler, because Shelly is not a final girl), he dons the mask for the rest of the movie, and in turn the rest of the franchise. It’s become so iconic that it’s easy to forget that there is no hockey mask in the first two films. If you don’t believe me, try to imagine Jason Voorhees in any later entry without it. You can’t, right? The mask has been grafted onto the series, and it all started here.
That’s kind of funny, because it’s so random. Nobody plays hockey in the flick, and there’s no buildup to its appearance at all. The flick does a lot to hide Jason’s face early on, maybe to save time on makeup appliance. But on a character level, he seems to have no problem walking around unmasked. Why then, all of a sudden, does Voorhees decide he needs a mask? Did he catch his reflection in the lake, and decide he was so goddamn ugly, he needed to cover his face? What a narcissist. Maybe he figured swimming was never his sport, so maybe he could make it as a goalie? Small town mongoloid makes it big in the Olympics? Hey, it’s an honest way to make a living that doesn’t involve killing a dozen kids every sequel.
The 3-D doesn’t hold up, but the hockey mask certainly did. Credit Steve Miner with that, at least.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III hosts an eclectic group of victims, to put it mildly. Chris is basically the main, and the only one with a real backstory. Her boyfriend Rick is the All-American farm boy. There’s Debbie, who’s pregnant, though the flick has her casually mention this then drops the thread completely. Her boyfriend Andy is a generic teen who suddenly develops the ability to walk on his hands. Vera is roughly defined as a sassy Latina who takes no guff from her mom, Shelly or anyone else. These five fit in with the series’ stock characters. So how do they know Chuck and Chili, hippie leftovers from Woodstock (and stand-ins for Cheech and Chong)? Why would the rest hang out with these two?
No matter. These characters are only here for the slaughter. But Shelly, he’s the main event.
Shelly is a nerd who’s probably never been laid before. He’s a chubby kid with a White guy Afro, and he completely lacks social skills. He’s also a horror enthusiast who likes masks and gore gags. Shelly is the one character with whom many of the franchise’s devotees likely identify. I’ve met many horror fans who lack looks and are socially awkward. So in a way, there are Shellys everywhere.
But no one does Shelly like Shelly. From his line about why he’s not skinny dipping with the rest of the kids; to his, “I like you. I really like you,” dialogue with Vera, that leads to a minor rejection, which he caps off by calling her, “Bitch” after she’s left the room, Shelly’s an original, often imitated in horror, but never duplicated. If he’d had a little more patience, I really believe that he’d have scored with Vera (and thus, Jason would have no hockey mask). His greatest triumph, against the bikers at a different general store, impressed Vera and in a romantic comedy would’ve led them to a cute coupling. In this horror movie, it leads to unrequited romance as Shelly dies a virgin.
I need to note that Shelly is one annoying character at times. He tries too hard, and grates not only on the other characters, but on me. I’m not a man of violence, but there are times I want to slap him. Unlike Franklin from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE who exists solely to annoy, Shelly’s just a pathetic schmuck with bad hair. I was rooting for Shelly to get some action when I first saw this flick, certainly not to die. And so he doesn’t qualify for the Law of Annoying Characters’ Pleasing Deaths. For me, anyway. You may cheer his demise, and I wouldn’t hold it against you.
I could’ve written this review about all the illogical things that happen within this flick, the awful dialogue and poorly drawn characters, or how it wholesale rips off shots from the first flick, which was only two flicks back. But I chose to review it on a gimmick, a piece of sports equipment and Shelly. If you’re making your way through the franchise, take a look at PART III for the 3-D. Admire the importance of the hockey mask. And stay for the Shelly.