Feature: Remembering Richard Brooker and Friday The 13th Pt.3 Simon Fitzjohn April 23, 2013 Editor's Choice, Features 5766 For about as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fully paid-up member of the horror film fraternity. Now, one of the biggest downsides to that level of fandom is that it seems barely a month goes by without news of some star or actor from a film of yesteryear sadly passing away. Most of these names will barely register among the film world as a whole, but for battle-hardened genre fans like myself, the news always stops you in your tracks, forces you to emit and sigh and look back to the ‘good old days’. For that reason I thought I would pen a piece after hearing of the sad death of Richard Brooker recently. Now I can pretty much guarantee that very few people would ever have heard of Brooker – after all, you could count his film appearances on the fingers of one hand. But one of those appearances meant that he would forever be remembered – well, by myself and the other hordes of slasher fans anyway. You see Richard was one of those lucky few who got to play psychotic killer Jason Voorhees on screen – in Brooker’s case in Friday The 13th Pt.3, which I have absolutely no problem trumping as my favourite film in the franchise. Born in London, Brooker’s path to the role of one of the big screen’s most iconic villains is a strange one. Having worked, among other things, as a trapeze artist, the Brit was plucked from total obscurity for the part of Crystal Lake’s finest by Dramalogue magazine, who obviously saw what they liked. Acting was something that Richard never really had any intention of pursuing, as evidenced by his decision to go into stunt work, then production and directing after his early 80s detour into cinema. Now, I know there will be wags out there reading this that will bleat that playing Jason in a Friday the 13th flick can hardly be classed as ‘acting’, but I beg to differ. Indeed, it is quite a tough proposition, which I am sure fans of the genre will agree with – after all, I reckon most of us have had a ‘who is the best Jason/Michael Myers/Leatherface’ debate over the years – haven’t we? For obvious reasons Kane Hodder always seems to get the nod when it comes to the machete-wielding Jason, but my money’s on Brooker. The reason being that Friday the 13th Pt3 is a standout flick in the series that, by the time of Hodder’s arrival, was looking on its last legs. I watched the third instalment again this week as a tribute to Brooker, and it still holds up nicely. Which is all the more bizarre, as there is so much that works against it. The biggest pitfall is that F13 Pt3 came out in the midst of the early 80s 3D craze, and naturally producers tried to cash in on that format. Now that’s all well and good, but it does mean that when you watch the film without the benefit of those annoying glasses, the whole thing does come off as faintly ridiculous. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen another film that delights in spending so much time pointing things at the audience – in this case, poles, yo-yos – oh, and eyeballs of course. There is also a bizarre 80s funk soundtrack courtesy of series regular Harry Manfredini, which I must admit I hated at first, but now find myself loving. So, onto the film itself, and there is very little to surprise any viewer that has sat through slasher flicks in the past. As with most Friday films, the movie opens with the climax of Pt.2, with Jason slithering away from his forest cabin after being machete’d through the neck by Ginny (Amy Steel). Despite news reports highlighting a series of gruesome murders at the summer camp, a new batch of fresh-faced teens happily pile into a van and head to Crystal Lake – unsurprisingly to become Jason fodder of course. This new crew are headed by the feisty Chris (Dana Kimmell), who certainly registers on the ‘hot’ scale, even if her character is faintly annoying. The rest of the cast are standard slasher clichés – a pair of druggies, a sex-crazed couple, a loner who enjoys practical jokes etc. One by one they start being picked off, until we naturally get the final showdown between Jason and Chris – which I’m sure we all know will leave who coming out on top. Now, having read all this, you’re probably wondering why I love the film so much. Well, the main reason is the character of Jason in this instalment – and his kills. Rather than simply being the emotionless killing machine that he was in so many outings, in Pt.3 there was at least the faint appearance of personality – and the film is all the better for it. A lot of that is naturally down to Brooker, who does a great job handling the physicality of the role, as well as looking pretty imposing. And, as for the kills, well the third entry really delivers the goods. In fact, director Steve Miner’s flick contains my favourite death from the entire series – poor sap Andy (Jeffrey Rogers) being split in half by Jason’s machete (groin downwards no less) as he unwittingly attempts to handstand past the killer. By this stage Jason is also wearing his iconic hockey mask, swiped from joker Shelley, and he really looks the part when he is harpooning an unfortunate individual through the eye, or squeezing someone’s skull until an eyeball conveniently pops out into the audience’s lap. The pacing of the flick ensures the 91 minutes barely rattle by, and the tempo is handled pretty well, especially when you stack it up against the likes of the fifth or seventh film in the series. Brooker went on to star as Oghris in Deathstalker a year later and that was pretty much about it for his big-screen soiree, but he had already left his mark. I must admit his death, on April 8 aged just 59, did take me completely by surprise, which is probably why I took a time-out before penning this piece. Richard was a regular at fan conventions and I remember seeing him at a London event two years ago, where we exchanged a nod of recognition and a smile as we went about our business. But, despite mulling it over, I didn’t stop to part with some hard-earned cash for a signed photo. Looking back now, I really wish I had taken that opportunity. Here’s to you Richard.