by Jack Sommersby
Even a bunny rabbit isn't safe from the diabolical Jason here!After the disappointing mediocrity of its predecessor, it's my pleasure to report Friday the 13th 3-D is, while not great and lacking the primal terror of the satisfying original, perfectly satisfying entertainment. It's not just that a decent amount of the 3-D effects are good, but that it's reasonably well shot, deftly edited, and adorned with a fine amount of imaginative murder sequences. Which is quite the surprise being that the director is Steve Miner, who made his debut with the previous entry and whose work there was negligible and downright inept -- he knew how to turn the camera on and off, but that's about it; he displayed zero knowledge of expressively using film language to convey mood and conjure up genuine suspense, thus accentuating the pitiful screenplay's numerous flaws. Here, working in widescreen for the first time, his compositions are fairly handsome and multi-leveled: the foregrounds and backgrounds play off each other enjoyably, keeping us off-guard at times as to which one the foci of the action will play out in -- at times, it's like watching the movie through a prism but not in an overly artsy way. Miner hasn't visually designed the proceedings solely for 3-D effects that lean in and pop out at you: he enjoys using the 2.35:1 aspect ratio to pan and track with a lot of props in the interior and exterior settings giving the images both depth and verity -- everything's so vivid you feel like you could literally hop over the fences and dive into the bushes; it's a very active production that treats the viewer like they're a participant in the goings-on. That's not to say that the cinematography itself is stellar, though: while wearing 3-D glasses, the pigments and hues are wildly inconsistent, and sometimes it takes your eyes a few seconds to adjust until a blurry or "ghosting" figure becomes clear. It's a drawback, sure, but with a movie designed for 3-D, going in we know we're in for a "stunt" picture, so we're willing to forgive these kinds of imperfections -- it's eye candy that emphasizes placement and movement over color and acuity. The movie has to be appreciated mostly for how we're seeing things as opposed to what we're seeing being that the storyline and characters are, as was the case in the first two entries, no great shakes.
"A Perfectly Respectable Three-Star 3-D Offering"
We're not at camp anymore, but at the woodsy retreat of Higgins Haven, a two-story house with acreage and a barn. Apparently, though, it's in the general vicinity of Camp Crystal Lake, where the murders of the first entry took place and was just a hop, skip and a jump from the ones in the second entry, because, as the story opens, at a rustic convenience store right up the road from the retreat, the wife of the owner is watching the local TV news, reporting on the horrific slayings of the second entry the day after they've happened. We're supposed to assume, I guess, that the teenage characters who've traveled to the retreat have missed this tidbit of information on the radio in their van -- though they do see police cars rushing to the store where, Jason, being his innately inimical self, has slaughtered the married couple. The leader of the pack and owner of the house is Chris (Dana Kimmel), who inherited the place from her deceased folks and who hasn't been back in two years since she was attacked by an unknown assailant, whom she barely managed to escape from and who, as we see in a flashback, was in fact Jason. (In a really neat effect that Edgar Allen Poe would have approved of, as Chris relates that fateful night, her head is superimposed in the center of the frame as the attack plays out in the background.) Joining her on this outing is horny boyfriend/girlfriend Debbie (Tracie Savage) and Andy (Jeffrey Rogers), the latter of whom is pregnant and the former an agile practitioner of walking on his hands, nerdy practical joker Shelly (Larry Zerner) who's into grossing people out with his bloody make-up effects, Vera (Catherine Parks) who's been fixed up with the virginal Shelly, and middle-aged hippie couple Chuck (David Katims) and Chili (Rachel Howard), who, for all their pot-smoking, might as well be named Mr. Cheech and Mrs. Chong. Meeting them at the retreat is Rick (Paul Kratka), a former flame of Chris's who hopes to rekindle their romance after that traumatic event caused serious psychological damage to her. While these characters are fairly two-dimensional and lack the vivid everydayness of the ones from the original, they're pleasant enough to be around, especially Zerner, who manages to make his line reading, "Being a jerk is better than being a nothing" kinda sweet. As heroines go, Kimmel is far from exemplary, and her weak, high-pitched voice doesn't record particularly well, but the camera likes her well enough and, so, for the most part, do we.
Does a good deal of bloodletting ensue? You betcha. And it's done with a fair amount of inventiveness as far as these things go. There's a finely staged sequence in a barn where some bikers, who've sneaked onto the property to enact some revenge for Shelly having accidentally backed into their bikes while in town earlier, are methodically dispatched by an ever-patient Jason, who enjoys letting a soon-to-be victim see a dead friend of theirs before taking him out; one has a pitchfork rammed through his torso, and in an evilly delicious touch on the part of Miner, the man reaches around and feels the tines protruding out his back. Later on down the line, one has his head crushed so intensely by Jason's powerful hands that his eyeballs pop out, though this doesn't quite utilize 3-D as ghoulishly and garishly as one would like; also noteworthy is the doing-in of Andy while hand-walking -- Jason's machete splits his post-coital body like a wishbone. Shelly's crying-wolf pranks do indeed come back to haunt him (he keeps pretending to be dead, so nobody takes him seriously when he really does wind up so; besides, Jason, up until then wearing a ratty sack over his head, dons Shelly's white hockey mask), and darned if Jason making apt use of a spear gun to someone's eye socket doesn't produce the jump-back 3-D effect as intended (and there are some other praiseworthy non-violent 3-D effects involving a yo-yo, popcorn and juggled balls). Oh, there are some quibbles. Before reaching the retreat, the teens stop their van to tend to an old drunken man lying in the road, and when they bring him to his feet he produces something that looks like an eyeball, which sends them running; we expect this to somehow tie in later on down the line with Shelly's stock of gross-out makeup, and it doesn't. Chris is made the only one left alive with twenty minutes still to go in the running time, and so this section is more than a wee bit protracted. Still, Miner's timing is spot-on when Chris tries leaving in the van only for it to come to a halt on a rickety bridge because the bikers have siphoned the gas, the van partially collapses through, she switches on the reserve tank, it starts back up but won't go forward, Jason reaches through the open window and grabs her neck, she rolls the window up trapping his arms, she escapes out the other side, and Jason frees himself by smashing the window with his head. The movie itself isn't strong enough throughout to be smashing, but as an entertaining entry in the slasher subgenre it pulls its weight and deviously delivers.You could do far worse for a Halloween Night cinematic viewing.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1140&reviewer=327
originally posted: 10/30/11 02:01:01