I could compile a seriously long list of nitpicks and problems with the FRIDAY THE 13TH films, but no matter how long the list grew, “continuity” would always be the first item on that list. Simply put, there isn't any. Keep in mind that from 1980 on, there was a new franchise entry released nearly every single year. Only 1983 and 1987 went by without a new installment. But even though the franchise was just about yearly with their releases, the diegetic time line of the series runs for well over a decade. The original film takes place in 1979 (we know this because we see Pamela Voorhees' tombstone in Part 4). It's never explicitly stated, but we can assume Parts 2, 3 and 4 occur over a single weekend in 1980.
Now this is where things become a bit odd. Parts 4, 5 and 6 all follow a single character, Tommy Jarvis. Again, it's never explicitly stated how old Tommy is in any of these films, but we can assume he is at least 13 (Corey Feldman's actual age at the time of production) in Part 4, 17 in Part 5 and 25 in Part 6. That would mean that the events of FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VI: JASON LIVES are taking place (approximately) in 1993 with the later sequels pushing the time line up into the mid to late 90s. Yet all of these films appear to be taking place in the year of their production with props like cassette players and rotary phones all prominent, and the fashion on display is representative of mid 80s fashion trends.
I'm not saying that the producers of these films should have somehow anticipated the rise of grunge rock or compact discs, but the look and feel of these films is incongruous with the diegetic time line of the franchise. But that isn't really a continuity problem. That's just a bunch of lazy oversights. So why am I even bringing it up?
Because I like to complain, that's why.
However, if you're looking for a glaring, perhaps THE MOST glaring, continuity problem in the entire franchise, FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART III is the place to look. The film begins with a “Previously On FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART II” segment. We see Ginny psyching out Jason in the rundown cabin. We see Paul and Jason tussle about. We see Ginny whack Jason with a machete. We see all of this. What we don't see is the stinger from the end of the film, that famous moment when an unmasked Jason, all scraggly haired and hideous, leaps through a cabin window to attack Ginny. And why don't we see that? It's because Jason is about to change dramatically.
If we're to treat FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART III as a direct continuation of the narrative of FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART II, we are expected to believe that Jason, a man who collapses in pain after being kicked in the nuts but can shrug off having his collarbone cleaved in half with a machete, changes not only his facial appearance but his size and weight in a matter of hours. We're expected to believe that Jason stopped off somewhere to shave his head and change his clothes. We see the new Jason within the first 15 minutes of the film, though only briefly. Anyone going to see this film in the theater had likely seen the previous entry too so I can imagine a few moviegoers were awfully confused by this metamorphosis. Worse, the film never once addresses it. Because it can't. It has no answer and no excuse to offer.
Truth is, the reason for this sudden change in appearance has nothing to do with the story. It has everything to do with returning director Steve Miner thinking that the look of old Jason wouldn't work in this film. So they changed it completely without regard for any kind of continuity. Fact is, these films are not telling a single, overarching story, no matter how much they pretend to be. They're just products, rushed into production if ticket tallies tickle the toes of the studio, and while there isn't really anything wrong with retconning bits of story here and there over a decade long franchise run, there is something a bit, shall we say, pathetically lazy about completely changing the look and design of the main villain less than a year after the previous film and hoping no one notices or cares.
A brief thought: maybe the killer in FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART III isn't really Jason? Maybe the real Jason crawled into a corner and died next to his mother's severed head after Ginny gave him what for with a machete? Maybe the killer in this film is someone completely different (he's never named in the film after all)? That would have been an odd but memorable series of events, eh? Just as Chris is about to bite it in the barn, in walks the real Jason to put the imposter down. That would have worked just as well as anything else in the film. But anyway, back to it.
So what exactly is this film about? Well, it's the same thing the previous film was about. We have a handful of characters, chief among them Chris Higgins, a pretty college-aged gal. She's returning to the family Summer home for a weekend with her friends. Chris is still a bit traumatized from an unfortunate series of events that happened a few years back. After having a fight with her parents, Chris ran into the woods. Later that night, she was attacked (and possibly raped; the film implies sexual assault but never flat out states it occurred) by Jason (sporting his new look, by the way, another continuity shattering moment). Returning to the Summer home is an attempt by Chris to gain some inner peace. Along for the weekend are two middle aged stoners, Andy and his pregnant girlfriend Debbie, and Shelly.
Let's talk about Shelly for a moment, shall we? Shelly is a bit of a fan favorite. It's clear that he's meant to be the comic relief of the film, but unfortunately for Shelly, the kind of humor he displays is a bit tone deaf. There's simply nothing funny about a guy who fakes his own murder, especially given the fact that less than 24 hours earlier, nearly a dozen people were butchered less than a few miles away. Shelly is paired up with Vera, a beautiful girl he has no chance with. When Chris and Co. pick up Vera, they meet her mother. Vera's mom emphatically tells Chris that Vera is “not going!” before slamming the door in her face.
This is another thing about these films that just bugs the shit out of me. People talk about the murders at Camp Crystal Lake as if they're urban legends. In FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART II, Paul tells a campfire story all about it. But the story he's telling happened just one fucking year ago and every single character sitting around that campfire reacts like it's the first time they've ever heard about it. I understand that we didn't have email and text messaging back in 1980, but come on now. A mass murder would make the news EVERYWHERE. It would be national news, not some kind of obscure event. All this film had to do was replace the “she's not going!” line with a “hey, you know that about a bazillion people were just killed at the Lake by an unidentified, still-at-large killer, right?”.
But nope, not a single character in this film has heard of the mass murder that just happened 24 hours earlier so on they go, giggling like idiots, to their destination. Even after having a disembodied eyeball thrust in their faces by some drunken doomsayer on the side of the road, our van full of dipshits just keeps on trucking. Nothing will stop them, mass murderers be damned. A short trip over Chekhov's Rickety Wooden Bridge later and our characters arrive at Higgins Haven, a beautiful house in the boonies. It has everything you could want in a Summer home. Except for a phone. And beds. And an indoor toilet. But hey, it has a barn for seemingly no reason and is right next to the lake, even though we never once see the lake, just a creek and what appears to be a muddy pond in the front yard.
It's here that we meet Rick, Chris' on-again, off-again boyfriend. Simply put, Rick is an asshole. He treats Chris like shit, looks to be about 15 years older than her, and is clearly meant to be an upper class yuppie even though he drives a beat-up old VW Bug. After getting settled in, Vera and Shelly take Rick's hunk of junk to a shop in town where they run afoul of three bikers, two of whom are black because this is a 1980s horror film so of course they are. After Shelly knocks over their bikes, the gang follows them home with the intention of setting the barn on fire. They're quickly taken apart by Jason, two by pitchfork, the other smacked around the head with a wrench just hard enough to incapacitate him until the final five minutes of the movie.
After Chris and Rick take off for some alone time, the rest of the group (aka the Slaughter Fodder) settle down for the night, only to be bumped off one by one in a completely illogical series of events that include:
- a character taking a shit but not wiping his ass after he's done,
- a character trudging through a creek that only comes up to her ankles, but was deep enough to conceal a pranking Shelly moments beforehand,
- a bifurcation that doesn't leave behind a single drop of blood and is unheard by people literally 20 feet away,
- an electrocution via gently shoving someone into a circuit breaker box, and
- a stabbing that could have easily been avoided had Debbie not been born with severe peripheral vision deficiency.
I think the FRIDAY THE 13TH films (and slasher films in general) are often wrongly maligned by critics and naysayers. They like to throw out the words “sexist” and “misogynistic” with regards to these films. I don't share that perspective. The characters that have sex are almost always in relationships (but not marriages so… fucking whores, I guess). Very few characters indulge in the hard drug lifestyle that Conservative critics would have you believe these films are flaunting. The characters in the FRIDAY THE 13TH films aren't bad people or even grating stereotypes. They're just not very interesting. That's the single biggest complaint you can lodge against them. Very few are annoying, but almost all of them are dull.
Except for the Final Girls.
For as much as I dislike these films, the final 10 minutes of nearly every FRIDAY THE 13TH film are great and that is largely because of the Final Girls. We have Alice going hand to hand with Pamela Voorhees. Ginny stops running from Jason just so she can hide in a bush and kick him in the balls when he runs past. Trish leads Jason away so her little brother can escape. Pam grabs a chainsaw and bum-rushes Jason/Roy in Part 5. The Final Girls in these films (mostly) are not mere pushovers. Chris, more than any other Final Girl in the entire franchise, is my favorite and it is precisely because FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART III makes her into a character that actually has something to gain from surviving other than just her skin. There's a sense of finality in her showdown with Jason and a real sense of empowerment when she finally whacks him in the head with that axe.
I wish the film would have done the Jason reveal earlier. As it stands, Chris only realizes that the man in the hockey mask is her past tormentor with about five minutes to go in the film. It needed to come sooner, because that bit of the narrative is the single best thing this film has going for it and had the screenwriters played that angle better, we would have had a FRIDAY THE 13TH film with genuine dramatic oomph. What we have instead is a bit watered down, but it's nonetheless a satisfying conclusion to a film that is otherwise pretty dull overall.