Film Review: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Friday the 13th part 4
Yet again, we have an awesome movie poster for the film; this one alluding to its title: Jason gonna die … lol.

Even with nearly 3,000 words on the previous entry in the Friday the 13th franchise, I forgot to mention Friday the 13th Part III 3D’s box office and critical response. The box office was quite successful, to say the least. It grossed $36.7 million in the United States on a budget of $2.2 million. I can see why they kept making the films. That’s despite, of course, awful critical reviews. The Rottentomatoes critical consensus is rather funny, though, saying the third film relies on a “tired formula of stab and repeat.” I mean, yeah, but that’s the fun of the Jason Voorhees slasher film! In all seriousness, I get it; I get that critics aren’t going to think too much of these films. For reasons I extensively outlined, though, I enjoyed the film.

But now on to the fourth film in the franchise, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. In the course of researching prior to watching, none of this film seems as familiar to me as the prior three films did. This might end up being a new watch! (To circle back on this now that I’ve seen the film all the way through: I do remember the closing shot of the bald kid (this will make more sense soon), but I don’t remember any of the film prior to that. So, mostly a new watch!

After three years in a row of back-to-back-to-back films, we actually get a 20-month break between the last installment and this one, which to be fair, is only five months longer than the previous gap, but still. When you consider that the first three films were supposed to be a one-and-done trilogy, and now they’re back with something called the Final Chapter, they sure seem hell-bent on ending it!

Despite it making cuckoo money … which is why this isn’t actually the “final chapter.”

In fact, producer Frank Mancuso Jr., who produced the previous film, and was an assistant producer on the first film, apparently threw a hissy fit that he wasn’t given enough credit for the success of the films, so he wanted to kill of Jason Voorhees. Womp womp.

We do have a new director in the chair for this installment, Joseph Zito. He didn’t do much else besides a couple previous horror films and a slew of action films in the 1980s featuring Chuck Norris and Dolph Lundgren (of 1985’s Rocky IV fame). According to trivia on the film, Zito was the real monster on set, not Jason Voorhees. Due to budget constraints (a silly reason), some of the actors were expected to do their own dangerous stunts, and Zito didn’t seem to care about their safety. Ted White, who plays Jason Voorhees, apparently advocated for the actors against Zito, but Zito didn’t care. White was so fed up with it, he wanted his name taken out of the credits calling the film a “piece of sh*t.” On Wikipedia, White is listed as “uncredited.”

Credited with the screenplay is Barney Cohen, who also hasn’t done a whole lot, but he did do a few episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996-2003), one of my favorite shows as a kid, so there’s that. Story credit goes to Bruce Hidemi Sadow, who, if you notice the theme so far, didn’t do a whole lot else either.

You know, it’s almost as if there is actually a “stab and repeat” formula that any Joe Schmo Mancuso Jr. and/or Paramount Pictures taps can do the job! That said, I like to think if I randomly got tapped to do a Friday the 13th film, I could do some of that “stab and repeat” that fans want, but also add some other elements to make it horrifying and interesting beyond the usual. I’m just saying.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Tom Savini, who does the fantastic makeup and special effects work, is back on this one, supposedly feeling as if he had to be the one to properly age and kill his creation from the first film. There is no killing Jason Voorhees, Tom. I don’t get what it is between all these horror franchises where those involved only wanted to do one film and be done with it. These are great characters! What’s the harm?

As far as I can tell, in front of the camera, we have no returning cast members, but we do have a cast that stands out a bit. For starters, playing Tommy Jarvis is Corey Feldman. A few months after this film, Feldman would take off in the 1980s with 1984’s Gremlins, 1985’s The Goonies, 1986’s Stand by Me, and 1987’s The Lost Boys. That’s quite the stretch of films. I’m impressed. All of those films are either classics or cult classics, and of course this one is part of the Friday the 13th franchise, so it’ll always be immortal.

Then there’s Crispin Glover, who plays Jimmy, and I can’t look at him without thinking of George McFly in 1985’s Back to the Future. So again, another actor who took off after this film.

I don’t know who Barbara Howard, who plays Sara, is, but like Amy Steel from the second film, who played Ginny Field, she eventually retired from acting to pursue a career in therapy.

Another sign of the awful Hollywoodness around this film: Bonnie Hellman, who plays the Hitchhiker, was referred to as “Fat Girl” in the script. Ugh. She doesn’t even get any lines. She tries to hitch a ride with a gaggle of teenagers to no avail, eats a banana, and then gets killed by Jason Voorhees in a fashion similar to prior kills in the series: A arrow (I think) through the back of the neck coming out of the throat. Then the banana goes limp in what I have to assume is a visual joke on Jimmy, who was being chided for being … limp … by Ted, who is played by Lawrence Monsoon. Oof.

I wonder if this film started the Crispin Glover typecast as a lovable loser? Because he’s a bit of a lovable loser in this, and would be a lovable loser in Back to the Future. The other characters here even refer to him as “Jimbo.” He does get “redemption” in the end, if you want to call it that, but still.

Finally, I suppose it’s notable that we have real life identical twins in this one: Camilla More and Carey More, who play Tina and Terri, respectively.

Jason6

Ah! I get the chance to switch streaming platforms. This film is on Hulu. The premise reads, “Having been revived at the hospital, Jason returns to Crystal Lake to meet more victims. However, this time has he met his match in Tommy Jarvis?” I’m actually switching back to Amazon Prime because they have a neat feature that lets you see trivia and other film notes in real time as you’re watching. That’s helpful for someone like me taking copious notes.

When this was filmed, Feldman would’ve been 12-years-old. I don’t know how old yet they’re going to say Tommy is, but even teasing that a CHILD might be the downfall of a mass serial killer is fascinating, and pulls me in!

Also, I just love that “returns to Crystal Lake to meet more victims,” as if they are waiting there as a mutually agreed upon meeting. Coffee and stabbing, anyone?

As with the two previous films, we have a flashback sequence at the beginning to let us know what happened in the films we all watched. This one is different in that it’s a flashback of all three prior films, which I appreciate in the sense of, there’s actually a nice throughline between all three prior films. They were trying to keep the continuity straight and simple enough. The first film taking place a little over 20 years after Jason Voorhees drowned, and when Pamela Voorhees did her first kills, then we go about five years into the future, 1985, for the second film, and then only the next day with the third film. This one picks up where the last one left off as well, as we see police and ambulance crews on the scene, and Jason Voorhees is still “dead” on the ground.

The opening title sequence is great; we get Jason Voorhees’ iconic hockey mask coming at us almost like a 3D effect (and it even has the chunk missing where Chris Higgins (played by Dana Kimmell) axed him in the head, and then the words “The Final Chapter” come roaring in behind the mask and explode through it. He’s dying! lol.

Actually, he probably did die because this is the first film where he comes across like Zombie Jason. After all, he did literally sit up in a morgue and attack the coroner. His skin tone also looks more … dead-ish.

We actually get some good, simple characterization with the family, where Tommy, his sister Trish Jarvis (played by Kimberly Beck), and Tracy Jarvis (played by Joan Freeman) have interactions at the house next door to where the main gaggle of teenagers will be staying. They have a playful “Jarvis sandwich,” aka, a three-way hug. It’s wholesome content inside a horror film to build character! I think had they stuck with the Jarvis family more than the teenagers having sex and getting naked and then getting obliterated by Jason Voorhees, it would’ve been a more meaningful film in terms of getting us to like these characters. But, you need meat suits for Jason Voorhees to run through, is how the thinking goes.

Back to the future
Crispin Glover’s on the right, and all I see is his Back to the Future character.

We also know, thanks to a mask he wears when we first see him and his room being decked out in them, that Tommy is into horror and all things creepy. Well, I don’t think he’s going to like the iconic mask he does encounter here soon.

But we’re back to the awfulness of Zito. For starters, I’m uncomfortable with the skinny dipping scene with the gaggle of teenagers. I get that that’s something often seen in horror films, but at the same time, given what we know about Hollywood and the sleaziness, I could easily imagine the writers, producers, and directors shooting those scenes in order to see naked teenager. However, it gets worse, filming took place between October 1983 and January 1984. As in, months not known for their warmth. These kids are skinny dipping. Judie Aronson, who plays Samantha, was expected to do her own stunt here, where she’s submerged in a freezing lake. She later developed hypothermia, in real life. That’s disgusting.

The premise within the general premise of the film is that Rob Dier, played by Erich Anderson, is trying to track down Jason Voorhees because he killed Rob’s sister, Sandra Dier (played by Marta Kober) in Friday the 13th Part II.

A note that I’m a bit confused about: Are we at Camp Crystal Lake? I assume so given the previously stated premise, but how? Again, these mass murders of the last two films took place over a couple of days, and it seems to have only been a day at best, maybe a week, depending on how you interpret a broadcast at the beginning of the film. And we know these murders are in the newspaper and on televisions. So kids are still going to Camp Crystal Lake? And the Jarvis family is not concerned still living there? The mom even sees the giant bold front page headline about the mass murderer’s body missing! What is going on here?! Not to mention, you get the sense that Rob has been on the hunt for Jason Voorhees to avenge his sister’s death for a long time, but in the timeline, it’s only been a few days. That’s a short window to hear about her death, process it, begin formulating a plan to go “hunting,” and then follow through on it.

Poor Paul (played by Alan Hayes), who gets perhaps the most gruesome death to date in the franchise: A harpoon shot through his … groin. GAH. He went out to check on Samantha, and welp, let’s just say, he was too late and uh, the real limp one of this movie. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself on that one.

FridayFinal

We then get one of the most well-done moments in the franchise so far when one of the twins, Tina, is looking at the window, just starting to sense something is amiss, when Jason Voorhees lunges through the second story window (he’s standing on some sort of vine ladder), grabs her, and flings her out of the window onto a car. Her launch from the window looks realistic for 1984. Impressive, Savini.

Another scene where Zito sucks is with making the actors do their own stunts is the shower scene. So, Sara (played by Barbara Howard) and Doug (played by Peter Barton, who only took the role, incidentally, because Amy Steel encouraged him to) are having sex in the shower. After Sara leaves the shower, Jason Voorhees comes, smashes through the shower door, and attacks Paul. It’s a brutal scene. And brutal in real life. White suggested to Zito that they use a crash pad for Barton. Wikipedia doesn’t mention if Zito actually allowed that to happen or not, but again, it’s a brutal, physical scene.

The best part of the film is when Trish and Rob, along with Gordon, the dog, go to search the teen’s house to figure out what’s going on. With Jason Voorhees about to attack, Gordon literally jumps out a window and nopes out of there. Good dog!

Pictured is Kitty Genovese
Picture is Kitty Genovese.

So supposedly, Zito based the killing on Rob (where Jason Voorhees surprises him in the basement and attacks him) on the infamous killing of Kitty Genovese in New York City, who was stabbed and screamed out, “Oh my god! He’s stabbing me! He’s killing me!” and 38 neighbors witnessed and/or heard the killing and did nothing. In other words, this scene is meant to come off as Jason Voorhees being a relentless killing machine, who shows no mercy. After all, Rob, despite Zito not showing this at all in the film, is supposed to be a formidable foe for Jason Voorhees. His sister was killed by this guy!

And yet. He goes down in the darkness, calling out to Trish, “He’s killing me!” and it comes across more corny and a laugh spot than engendering sympathy for Rob. That’s a sorry end for his character, who didn’t even get to achieve the smallest modicum of revenge against Jason Voorhees. I actually like Zito’s idea, but it doesn’t work for the Rob character, and the execution was off.

Like I’ve mentioned before, when the films get down to the final girl, in this case, Trish, Jason Voorhees then does his dead body teasing, by showing her all the bodies. We then get about 15 to 20 minutes of the final girl trying to survive and then take it to Jason Voorhees. The only difference in this one is that we still have Tommy alive.

The last 15 minutes is also different from the prior two films where this is really the first time we get some full-on shots of Jason Voorhees and how he moves. Prior to that, we mostly saw his hands, feet or he was shrouded in darkness or he was popping up behind people and you couldn’t make him out. White’s version of Jason Voorhees is certainly the most menacing so far, as there’s not an ounce of bumbling anymore. It’s pure on zombie monster movie Jason Voorhees coming at you. He also takes half a dozen hammer shots to the head, then gets hit with the back of the hammer through the neck, and shrugs it all off, whereas in the prior film, a few books fell on his shoulder and he fell down.

Savini strikes again. When Trish smashes a television set over Jason Voorhees’ head, it looks great!

whoops

I guess I never realized this, and maybe it’s only present in this film (the last one he did more of a bumbling half-jog), but Jason Voorhees, unlike Michael Myers, is full on running after Trish in the final 10 minutes of the film here. Michael Myers never needs to run. I’m just saying.

Again, another great falling out (or in this case, jumping out) the window spot, when Trish, to evade Jason Voorhees, jumps out of the window.

Oh my. This is a brilliant, brilliant throwback to the second film when Ginny pretends to be Pamela Voorhees to fool Jason Voorhees long enough to try to kill him. In this version of the psychological trick, Tommy pretends to be Jason Voorhees when he was a kid and drowned. He cuts off his hair.

Although, I have to admit, it’s rather amusing how long it takes Tommy to shave his head to look like Jason Voorhees, all the while his sister is literally going toe-to-toe with the adult version of Jason Voorhees, barely evading him.

Trish is warming up on me. At first, I was thinking she wasn’t nearly as good of a “final girl” as Alice, Ginny or Chris (my favorite) were in the prior films, but she starts talking TRASH TO JASON VOORHEES while she’s going TOE-TO-TOE with him. I don’t know of any final girl, besides maybe Nancy Thompson in the Nightmare series (to tell Freddy Krueger she isn’t afraid of him to take away his power) who straight up talks trash while going toe-to-toe with the killer. Trish just shot up in my book.

She tells Jason Voorhees she’s going to give him something to remember her by, and stabs him with a machete.

But once Tommy does his kid Jason Voorhees impression, he actually becomes the “final girl” by stabbing Jason Voorhees repeatedly with a machete, and thanks to Savini, it’s gross. The machete goes right into his head, then he falls to the ground and the machete slides further through his skull to gross effect.

He’s still alive though, and that’s when Tommy begins hitting him repeatedly. Honestly, the grossest thing about the scene is Jason Voorhees’ fingernails. He needs a manicure badly.

Finally, at the end, when Trish is in the hospital room and Tommy comes to hug her, we end on a menacing shot of Tommy looking at the camera. This came out four years before they would do something similar in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, where Jamie Lloyd seemed to get Michael Myers’ powers passed down to her. In this case, I guess Tommy went bad because he killed (lol) Jason Voorhees? I’m not sure what they are going with here.

But it is unique that in 1984, they switched up the “final girl” formula by adding a kid to the mix, and who is ultimately the one to save the day. Like I said, though, if Zito had focused more on the Jarvis family, then it’s a better film. They had to get to that 14 (and I guess 15, if you count Jason Voorhees) body count in, though, which I believe is the most at this point in the franchise. It’s also the most sexed up one, probably half the film feels like it’s seeing sex or naked bodies. And thanks to Savini, perhaps the goriest.

Naturally, fans loved it. On a budget of $2.2 million, it made $33 million, which as mentioned at the beginning, that’s slightly down from the $36 million the prior installment made. But still, that’s a heck of a return on investment.

And naturally, critics hated it again, calling it rote and “increasingly labored.”

I think the Savini work is great. I think White does a commendable job as Jason Voorhees, although not nearly as interesting as the prior two iterations nor Pamela Voorhees. Trish was lacking much of the film, and then stood out toward the end, but wasn’t as good as the three final girls prior to her. I think Tommy bringing back the psychological game on Jason Voorhees was a great touch (and I’m curious about the tease of his menacing look).

I do think, however, it did get more formulaic, relying on the tropes at this point of sexed up and drugged up teenagers, oblivious to the killing going on around them. There wasn’t much characterization and the gaggle of teens just got in the way of a better potential story.

Still, one thing you can say about Friday the 13th films is that they are fun trash. Sorry, Roger Ebert.

Tommy

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