When first released, the film was intended to end the series as a trilogy. However like its sequel Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984) and the later film, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993), Friday the 13th Part III did not include a moniker in its title to indicate it as such.
Following the events of the previous film, Jason, seriously injured after hs encounter, goes to a lakefront store to find clothes and a replacement mask. While there he kills owners Harold with a meat cleaver slammed into his chest, and Edna is stabbed in the back of the head with a knitting needle. At the same time, Chris Higgins and her friends return to Higgins Haven to spend the weekend. The gang includes pregnant Debbie, her boyfriend Andy, prankster Shelly, his love interest Vera (who does not reciprocate his feelings), stoners Chuck and Chili, and Chris's boyfriend Rick.
- Richard Brooker as Jason Voorhees
- Dana Kimmel as Chris Higgins
- Paul Kratka as Rick
- Tracie Savage as Debbie
- Jeffrey Rogers as Andy
- Chatherine Parks as Vera Sanchez
- Larry Zerner as Shelly
- David Katims as Chuck
- Rachel Howard as Chili
- Marilyn Poucher as Pamela Voorhees
- Amy Steel as Ginny Field (flashback from Part 2)
- John Furey as Paul Holt (flashback from Part 2)
- Nick Savage as Ali
- Gloria Charles as Fox
- Kevin O'Brien as Loco
- Cheri Maugans as Edna
- Steve Susskind as Harold
- Perla Walter as Mrs. Sanchez
- David Wiley as Abel
- Kirsten Baker as Terry (flashback from Part 2)
(Steve Daskawisz (also known as Steve Dash) appears as Jason during flashback from Part 2) (Betsy Palmer appears as Mrs. Voorhees during flashback from Part 2)
The film's music was composed by Harry Manfredini, who previously composed the scores of the series' first two installments. A disco theme was also included in the film, co-written by Manfredini and Michael Zager, who shared a credit with a fictional band called Hot Ice. The theme was included on releases of the film's soundtrack, and according to Manfredini, became popular at disco and gay clubs at the time.
Upon the release of the third film in 1982, Gramavision Records released a LP album of selected pieces of Manfredini's scores from the first three Friday the 13th films. On January 13, 2012, La-La Land Records released a limited edition 6-CD boxset containing Manfredini's scores from the first six films. It sold out in less than 24 hours.
The film grossed $9,406,522 in its opening weekend and broke the opening horror film record held by Friday the 13th (1980). Domestically, the film made a total of $36.7 million. It placed number 21 on the list of the top-grossing films of 1982, facing strong competition from other high-profile horror releases such as Poltergeist, Creepshow, The Thing, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, The Slumber Party Massacre, X-ray, Visiting Hours, Amityville II: The Possession, Silent Rage, The Beast Within, Cat People and Venom. As of 2018, it still stands as the fourth highest-grossing film in the Friday the 13th series and the third best selling in ticket sales; with approximately 11,762,400 tickets sold, it is surpassed only by the 1980 original with 14,778,700 tickets and Freddy vs. Jason with 13,701,900 tickets. The film also stands as the tenth highest-grossing R-rated film of 1982, the second-highest grossing horror film of 1982, the sixth largest box office opening of 1982, and adjusted for inflation it is the ninth highest-grossing slasher film of all time.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Friday the 13th Part III holds a 12% approval rating based on 26 reviews, with an average rating of 3.56/10. The consensus reads: “Jason may solidify his iconic wardrobe in this entry, but Friday the 13th Part 3 lacks any other distinguishing features, relying on a tired formula of stab and repeat.”
While criticizing the plot for being derivative, in a mixed review for The New York Times, film critic Janet Maslin praised the acting of Kimmell, Savage, Rogers, and Parks, in which she called a major improvement to the acting in the predecessors, and wrote that Miner's use of 3-D filmmaking was innovative and the most professional effort when compared to other films released at the time, stating: "As in each of the other recent 3-D movies, of which this is easily the most professional, there is a lot of time devoted to trying out the gimmick. Titles loom toward you. Yo-yos spin. Popcorn bounces. Snakes dart toward the camera and strike. Eventually, the novelty wears off, and what remains is the now-familiar spectacle of nice, dumb kids being lopped, chopped and perforated."
Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Linda Gross wrote: "Ironically, Friday the 13th Part 3 is so terrible that Friday the 13th Part 1 and Friday the 13th Part 2 don't seem so bad." Janet Maslin of The New York Times stated that it "would be a little better than Part I or Part II even without 3-D". In continuing to compare the film to its predecessors, Maslin commented that "it's a little more adept at teasing the audience." Richard Schickel of Time magazine wrote: "Maybe all sequels should be made in 3-D... It is all so gruesome that horror turns to humor and fun comes from the appreciation of being cleverly conned by Steve Miner. The way the eyeball of one of Jason's victims pops out of his skull and seems to sail over the audience's head is alone worth buying a ticket and putting on funny glasses." Gene Siskel praised the film's "impressive" 3-D effects, particularly in the opening credits, also noting its slowburn approach, as the "heavy-duty slaughter doesn't come until one hour into the film," but criticized it for "lingering over the impending deaths of the young women, who are stalked by the camera so we find ourselves in the revolting position of stalking them too."
The entertainment-trade magazine Variety provided a general consensus, stating, "Friday the 13th was dreadful and took in more than $17 million. Friday the 13th Part 2 was just as bad and took in more than $10 million. Friday the 13th Part 3 is terrible, too." The magazine added, "There are some dandy 3-D sequences, however, of a yo-yo going up and down and popcorn popping." Similarly, TV Guide awarded the film one out of five stars, writing that it "exploits precisely the same formula plot as its predecessors, though the gore is a bit deemphasized, with the special-effects crew concentrating on the nicely done 3-D depth work for a change. It's still trash, however, and also made a ridiculous amount of money."
Friday the 13th Part III was first made available on home video on VHS in 1983 by Paramount Home Entertainment. It was also released on CED. Paramount reissued the VHS on September 28, 1994. Paramount later issued a DVD edition, with the film presented only in standard 2-D form, on October 17, 2000. The 2-D version was subsequently included in a box set, titled From Crystal Lake to Manhattan, released in 2004, and featuring the first eight films in the series; this disc features an audio commentary track with several cast members, moderated by historian Peter Bracke.
The 3-D version of the film was eventually released on DVD by Paramount in February 2009, and included two pairs of cyan and red 3-D glasses. In June of that year, a "Deluxe Edition" Blu-ray edition (which includes both the 2-D and 3-D versions) was released, also with two pairs of cyan and red 3-D glasses designed to look like Jason's mask.
The film was included in a further two Blu-ray sets: Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection, released in 2013, and Friday the 13th: The Ultimate Collection, in 2018.