Thursday, October 7, 2010

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

How naive we were back in 1984.  "The Final Chapter"?  Jason Voorhees has been in eight (seven if you're picky) more movies after this, so this isn't even close to being "Final."  Regardless of what the future held for the Friday the 13th franchise, this fourth movie really was intended by some to be the final Friday, or at least the final appearance of Jason.  As such, the filmmakers brought back special effects wizard Tom Savini to give Jason an appropriately gory and epic ending.

After a brief (and surprisingly effective) recap of the previous movies, the action picks up where it left off, at the barn where Part 3D ended.  Jason was dead and sent to the morgue.  Or was he?  Dead, I mean...he definitely went to the morgue.  The short answer is no, Jason was not dead; he survived his shoulder injury, being hanged and an axe to the forehead and he was pissed off, ready to avenge himself on...somebody, seemingly anybody.  After killing his way out of the morgue (including a great head ripping scene), Jason headed back toward Crystal Lake.  As luck would have it, a group of six teens (including a young Crispin Glover) just rented a house by the lake, right next door to the Jarvis family's (which include a young Corey Feldman) lake home.  The teens have their typical teen problems; they involve having sex, not having sex, and being good at sex.  The group's ranks are swelled by the addition of a pair of identical twin sisters who dress identically, and the group does some dancing, skinny dipping, and other naughty things until a mysterious visitor pays them a visit.  For whatever reason, Jason decides to pay a visit to the neighbors of these naughty teens, the Jarvii.  Big mistake, Jason.  You never take on a recognizable child actor in any movie, much less a horror flick.

I love this movie.  This is definitely one of the best slasher movies ever.  It doesn't have the direction of Halloween or the strong acting, I can't think of any outstanding slasher movies for acting, but this is still a classic.  Why?  Because it hits all the right notes for what makes slasher movies fun to watch.  First, it has a nigh-unstoppable killer with unknown motives.  Second, it has a pretty decent, if dated, script with dialogue that doesn't sound out of place in a teen movie.  Third, it has sex; this definitely has the most boobies of any slasher movie I've seen (although, to be fair, most of them were in a 1920s-era stag film) and even a piar of man butts, for the ladies.  Finally, this movie has a lot of dead bodies; counting the killer himself, there are fourteen deaths in this movie (fifteen, if you count the dog that committed suicide) (seriously, that happened).

This is the first of the Jason Fridays to truly stand on its own.  Yes, it takes place the day after Part 3D, which takes place the day after Part II, which means that this movie occurs on Sunday, the 15th, 1986.  If you don't believe me, check my math.  Despite the strong ties to the previous two films, this movie makes no attempt to justify Jason's attacks or even explain how the hell he survived A) an axe wound to the head B) unnoticed after paramedics checked his corpse for vital signs.  Director Joseph Zito and co. must have just figured "to hell with it," and decided to waste no time getting this killing spree started.

One of the more unique aspects of this entry into the series is the Jarvis family (Trish, Tommy AKA Corey, and Mrs.).  For the first time in Friday history, Jason is killing people who were not in his way, teens, or around Camp Crystal Lake.  Instead, they are an apparently loving family with no obvious signs of drug use or any overt sexuality.  In fact, they seem like pleasant people.  And yet, Jason decides to eliminate them.  The characters were pretty decent, too, with Tommy having several interests, including the construction of some pretty sweet latex masks.  Having Tommy as one of the main characters was a brilliant move for two reasons; first, the stakes always seem higher in horror movies when kids can get killed, and second, the preteens who love to scare themselves by watching horror movies before they're supposed to need someone to identify with.  I'm not saying that we should add Jake Lloyd to the next Resident Evil, but good child actors can do great things in horror movies.  My goodness...does this mean the series finally has likable characters?  It's a milestone!

As I said before, the acting isn't great, but it's the best in the series so far.  Crispin Glover is definitely more Back to the Future-era than Willard-era, so he's not obviously weird, but he's pleasantly awkward.  Axel, the ill-fated morgue doctor who loves watching women's aerobics on television, was played to perfection (read: over-acting perfection) by Bruce Mahler.  Samantha, the girl voted Most Willing to Be Filmed Nude, was played with surprising competence by Judie Aronson.  The star is obviously Corey Feldman, who was in his child acting prime in 1984, when this was released.  He starts out as just a (weird, but mostly) regular kid, but his what-the-hell-made-you-think-that-would-work way of handling Jason toward the film's end was creepy looking as all get out.  Oh, and for the second straight movie, a fat person was used (and killed) for comic effect.  The rest of the cast is mediocre, but they're not distractingly bad.

"Not distractingly bad" isn't exactly an endorsement, but their acting works because the film is clearly just trying to be an awesome slasher pic.  Sometimes the dialogue becomes cliche (like when characters repeatedly call out somebody's name --- Johnny's dead, girl, you had better run), but these cliches belong in a quintessential slasher movie.  What's important in movies like this?  Certainly not the acting, but this movie over-performs for what it is.

Let's talk about what makes this movie great, though: violence.  There are a lot of kills in this movie, and many of them are of pretty solid quality.  One of the horny teens gets killed by a corkscrew, thus fulfilling his desire to get...well, you can finish that pun yourself.  The morgue doctor gets his head partially torn off by a bone saw before being rotated 180 degrees.  One of the twins is pulled out of a second story window and plummets to her death.  Only moments before, Jason had killed in the kitchen downstairs; that means he went outside, scaled the side of the building and waited by one window, with the hope that somebody would wander close enough for him to break through the glass and kill.  Jason Voorhees, you are wasted in Crystal Lake; with luck like that, you should be in Vegas, baby!  The best kill is definitely Jason's death, which involves the best on-screen head wound of the 80s, bar none.  This movie also features the most alarming death in the series, that of Gordon the dog; while it is up to some speculation, most people assume that Jason threw the dog out of a second story window; I like to think that the dog just said "you can't fire me, I quit!" and did it himself.  Still, it came out of left field for me and undoubtedly would alarm many pet lovers more than the dozen or so human murders in this film.

Being a slasher movie, though, there is of course more focus on the killings than the plot, so there is the normal amount of head-scratching moments.
  • In the opening recap of the series; the way the filmmakers frame things, it looks like Jason was responsible for the kills in Part I.  That's inaccurate, of course, but it definitely simplifies the story, so I'm okay with that choice.  
  • When we meet the Jarvis family, they are excited about the new kids renting the house next door, making no mention of the presumed deceased homicidal maniac that killed over twenty people in the last two days, just down the road from their home.  
  • Pamela Voorhees' tombstone is seen on the side of the road; who paid for that burial, and why next to a road?  Did she kill there, or what?  
  • A character, Rob, pops up in the middle of the film and explains that he wants to hunt down Jason (who is presumed dead still) because he murdered Rob's sister in Part II...which happened two days ago; Rob knows that two morgue workers went "missing" last night, and Jason's body is gone, so Rob is going to kill Jason himself, with a rifle and maybe a pocketknife.  First of all, where does this kid get his information?  Secondly, Rob deserves props for learning about his sister's death, traveling to the area of her murder, and not being satisfied with the killer being sent to the morgue.  Points for persistence, Rob!
  • The murdered morgue people are just "missing"?  That means that Jason cleans up after himself.  Except when he doesn't.  It does explain why so few victims realize that they're in trouble before they die, though.  It also implies some sort of central corpse storage in the area, because Jason cleans up after himself, sure, but he also loves posing corpses in doorways to scare heroines.
  • The handsomest guy in the movie (Peter Barton) is the love interest for the Sarah Jessica Parker look-alike.  Gross.
  • Where did Jason pick up a nice, clean jumpsuit in his size, given all the hijinks he's been up to for the past few days?  I really would have liked to see him shopping in a Crystal Lake hardware store.
Despite these minor flaws, this is still an almost perfect slasher movie (for perfection, check out Freddy Vs. Jason) that gives a spectacular end to this franchise.  That end is not cheapened (much) by the fact that it is in no way the actual end of the series.  In fact, this Friday is actually the death of the original, humanoid, Jason.  After this film, there is no sympathy or excuses given for him and no pity for his disgusting face.  When Jason returns, it will be as a super-powered killer zombie...or something like that.  So, this marks the end of the Jason that can get hurt, run, and be killed by conventional weapons.  Think of this as the Viking funeral for the hardest working psychopath in show business.  To Valhalla, Jason!


  1. Jesus fucking Christmas, I agree! The best Friday movie to date. Only Manhattan (teletransportation anyone?) and Freddy Vs. can rival the throne. Although, I have to go with the handstand kill as my #1.

  2. Manhattan certainly wins the Lefty Gold award, but only FvJ can truly surpass this gem. And I respect your choice for #1 kill; I just have to go with the goriest, most awesome head wound in the series.