Paramount say goodbye to Jason Vorhees. Or did they? Rod revisits the final Friday that wasn’t.
Artwork by A.D. Black
Who made it?: Joseph Zito (Director), Barney Cohen (Writer), Frank Mancuso Jr. (Producer), Paramount Pictures.
Who’s in it?: Erich Anderson, Judie Aronson, Peter Barton, Crispin Glover, Corey Feldman, Ted White.
Tagline: “Jason’s Back, and this is the one you’ve been screaming for.”
IMDb rating: 5.9/10.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is, would you believe it, the final film in the Friday the 13th franchise. Well, if you’re living back in 1984 and seeing this for the first time. But, as we all know, the franchise didn’t end there. Some may argue that’s where it should have concluded, and I can definitely understand that perspective. For me, this is my favourite in the series. I do like a lot of the others, though, such as Part II (1981), Part III (1982), and even Part V: A New Beginning (1985)! But I feel this entry is where the formula established in the original flick was executed the most effectively. It may be blasphemous to some for me to say this, but I honestly feel this is better than the first Friday the 13th (1980). Not to take away anything from the original, of course, such as the great performance by the late Betsy Palmer as Jason’s mother, Pamela Voorhees. And I do have a lot of respect for what Sean S. Cunningham accomplished. However, The Final Chapter has a better pace overall, and the formula was much improved by the time this one arrived.
After the events of the previous outing, Jason’s “dead” body is taken to the morgue. But you can’t keep a good slasher villain down forever, and as expected, he escapes and returns, of course, to Crystal Lake. Living not far away are three members of the Jarvis family, consisting of the mother, Mrs. Jarvis (Joan Freeman), her daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck), and her son Tommy (Corey Feldman). Of course, there’s also a group of teenagers thrown into the mix to serve as cannon fodder for Jason. And then you have a guy named Rob (Erich Anderson) who is seeking revenge against Vorhees for killing his sister Sandra (Marta Kober) in Part II. The events of the past two sequels have happened over the last few days, and yet this group of teens coming to Crystal Lake don’t seem to have any idea. That’s a flaw I must admit, but I don’t really think it ruins a movie like this.
Tom Savini, who worked on the original Friday the 13th, returns to provide the awesome gore effects. You have Axel the coroner having his throat slit with a hacksaw, Jimmy (the one and only Crispin Glover) getting a machete to the head, and even Jason himself getting his face impaled on that very machete as it slides gorily down to the base, to name just a few. And Savini’s influence also goes beyond Jason’s kills because Tommy Jarvis is, in many ways, a kid version of Savini. He’s interested in monsters, and making and using puppets, which is a nice touch. Later in the film, Tommy distracts Jason using a tactic where, based on newspaper clippings he sees in Rob’s possession, he cuts his hair to go bald and resemble Jason as a kid. This is a similar tactic used by Ginny to distract Jason towards the end of Part II by putting on Pamela’s sweater. A very memorable moment is when Tommy keeps attacking Jason whilst repeating the word “Die!” Such is the character’s popularity that Tommy would go on to be played by two other actors in future films. Feldman was certainly one of the better child actors to have starred in horror flicks over the decades.
At the time of its release, The Final Chapter was bashed by the late critic Roger Ebert because he saw it as “an immoral and reprehensible piece of trash.” And while I can certainly see it as immoral, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since we are discussing a horror film, and last time I checked, horror films tend to be immoral by purposeful design. The slasher genre has been a target for a lot of criticism, especially in regards to female characters being killed horribly. The genre has been seen by some as an analogy for its females being sexually penetrated since it is usually a male character doing the killing. But regardless of how you see slashers, to complain about a horror film including murder and death when it is intrinsic to the genre is like complaining that a comedy film has humour. Ultimately, with all due respect to Mr. Ebert, I cannot agree with this outlook.
Jason is played this time around by stunt actor Ted White. He does a very good job as the hockey masked mother’s boy. Many view Kane Hodder as the best Jason. While I agree he does a really good job, White is also a great choice for the character. You certainly believe he’s playing Jason and not some kind of try hard wannabe attempting a Jason portrayal. This is actually the last time in the franchise – prior to the remake of Friday the 13th (2009) – that Jason is more human than zombie-like. That’s not to say he is completely human in this entry, considering the injuries he has sustained in the previous three films, but he isn’t classifiable as Zombie Jason here. In any case, he is still a slasher villain you don’t want to mess with. And a Friday the 13th film isn’t complete unless it has the iconic “Ki ki ki, ma, ma, ma” musical cue to accompany the gore. The score is once again provided by composer Harry Manfredini, and he once again does a great job.
I cannot do a review of The Final Chapter without talking about one of the highlights; one of the most hilarious moments in the entire film is when Jimmy does his over-the-top dance with one of the hot twin sisters. This is a very Crispin Glover moment (a year before Back to the Future) which you would expect from the eccentric thesp, but in my opinion, he is really good and unique actor. Then you have the unintentionally funny moment when Rob is being killed by Jason in the basement of the Jarvis house and, as he gets killed, he yells “He’s killing me!” Talk about pointing out the obvious! Another unintentional moment of humour is when Samantha (Judie Aronson) is killed by Jason while she’s naked on an inflatable raft. As she dies, her head resting on the edge of the raft with her tongue hanging out, she makes a very funny croaking noise. More humour is also added with Ted (Lawrence Monoson) giving Jimmy crap about how he is a “Dead fuck!” according to the results of his invisible computer. This is paid off later when Jimmy ends up having sex with one of the twins, who Ted wanted to get laid with, and Jimmy receives positive feedback about his performance and dutifully lets Ted know about it.
Overall, The (Not So) Final Chapter is a solid entry in a franchise that, after this point, went in so many different directions with sometimes mixed or terrible results. I would have been happy and satisfied if this ended up being the last Friday the 13th film. If you want a higher standard with this franchise, then I would recommend checking this one out if you haven’t, and if it has been a while since you last watched it, then give it another viewing around Halloween.
Jason sure knows how to answer a question…
- Director Joseph Zito was opposed to using clips from previous instalments at the beginning of the film.
- The video which Axel watches is called Aerobicise (1982), and stars Darcy DeMoss, who went on to play Nikki in Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986).
- The strange dance which Jimbo performs at the party was contributed by actor, Crispin Glover, and was based on the eccentric way he actually danced in clubs. On the set, he was dancing to “Back in Black” by AC/DC, as the scene was filmed. In the film, an edited version of “Love Is a Lie”, by Lion, was dubbed into the scene.
- During filming, Kimberly Beck, who plays Trish, experienced strange occurrences, including a man watching her while she ran in the park and strange phone calls at all hours. This stopped when production was over.
- It has been suggested that the only reason Tom Savini worked as make-up artist on this film was in order that he could kill the character he created.
- The film was released on Friday the 13th: April 13, 1984.