Tuesday, April 19th, 2024

FX WORKSHOP: Flying Eyeball (Friday the 13th Part 3)

Published on January 22, 2024 by Christian Sellers

Friday the 13th Part 3 would continue the tradition of the Grand Guignol-style theatrics that fans had grown accustomed to but and would feature some of the most graphic murders of the franchise, although as a combination of both the added 3-D effects and strict MPAA regulations, each set piece would ultimately be relatively blood-free. Despite this, throughout the duration of its ninety-five minute running time, the victims of the movie would be sliced in half whilst performing handstands, having hands severed and spears fired directly through the eyes. Perhaps the most outrageous of all, however, was reserved for Paul Kratka, whose head would be crushed to the point that his eyeballs literally burst out of his skull.

Director Steve Miner had taken every possible opportunity to have objects of all kinds reach out to his audience in groundbreaking 3-D, ranging from joints to yo-yos, but Kratka’s somewhat unlikely demise would prove the most memorable. The task of providing an array of gruesome gags would fall to Douglas White and his team at Make-up Effects Lab, whose prior experience with 3-D was Charles Band’s low budget feature Parasite. In keeping with not only the Friday the 13th series but the slasher genre as a whole, Kratka’s character, Rick, would put up little fight against the movie’s villain, Jason Voorhees, and would be dispatched with little effort. Although the filmmakers had set him up as the hero (alongside Dana Kimmell’s ‘final girl’), he would prove to be as incompetent and vulnerable as the other males and authority figures.

Two months before principal photography was set to commence at the Valuzet Movie Ranch in Saugus, California, Kratka was brought to the special effects workshop, where his upper body and head was covered in plaster and silicon. The experience would prove somewhat unpleasant for the twenty-six year old actor, whose only method of breathing was through two small straws that had been inserted into his nostrils. The effects team then used an electric saw to cut away the mould cast from around Kratka’s face and from there created a life-size replica of his head and torso. This would be the most demanding effect for White and his team, although the realism of having to perform the gag in 3-D would prove to be even more difficult.

With Rick surviving throughout most of the movie, Kratka’s death scene would be shot near the end of the production, when filming had moved to nighttime. By 3am, Miner was ready to shoot the scene and Kratka had performed his contribution, in which Jason grabs him from behind and lifts him up off the ground by his head. White then brought out the dummy and Kratka took a step back to watch his own death unfold before his eyes. The key to the gag was that White had created a collapsible head for the dummy, which actor Richard Brooker, in the role of Jason, would be able to crush relatively easy. This was designed using fiberglass that could be expanded back to its original form for multiple takes, something which Miner feared would be necessary due to the demands of 3-D.

White’s most difficult challenge was figuring out how the eyeball would burst out of the head and fly directly towards the audience. After discussing possibilities with his crew he had three solutions; one was to fire the eyeball out of the skull using compressed air, but the main concern with this technique was that they would be unable to guide it towards the camera, whilst the dual 3-D lenses meant that it had to hit a very specific target. Another suggestion was to run a rod through the back of the head that the eyeball could be led through, but this would prove impossible to hide from the camera. Eventually, it was decided that a wire would be be required in order to move the eyeball discretely, whilst also being able to control which direction it would run from.

Using a monofilament wire, which is so strong-yet-thin it would remain invisible to the camera, White ran a jerkline through the socket to the back of the eyeball. As Brooker began to crush the head, White pulled on a lever which caused the skull to collapse. At that exact moment, effects artist Martin Becker (who would ultimately work on the subsequent five sequels) pulled the eyeball from the socket using the wire and sent it directly to the target between the dual lenses which, given the angle, would keep the wire hidden from the camera. Miner would later express regret with the sequence, admitting that the effect by today’s standard looks less than impressive, but audiences who saw the film in 3-D back in 1982 gave the appropriate response.


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