Film Review: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

Jason_goes_to_hell
… yes, I’ll say it, another cool Friday the 13th film poster.

While it took the longest gap yet in franchise history at almost four years exactly (four years, 16 days), we not only get another Friday the 13th film with 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, but we get Sean S. Cunningham back as a producer, aka, the director and producer of the original in 1980.

From the get-go, two things jump out to me: Just like how they repeat “new” in two titles for the franchise, they also repeat “final,” first with 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and here with this film. But also, this feels like a direct rip-off of what they did only two years prior with 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. After all, New Line Cinema at the time owned both horror icons, and well, it sure seems like they were tired of ’em. Both are getting killed off in the early 1990s, neither to be seen again in true form until the early 2000s. So you have to hand it to New Line Cinema in that regard: They did stick to killing off Freddy Krueger and sending Jason Voorhees to hell … for a decent chunk of time.

Adam Marcus directed this one, and also receives story credit. He was only 23-years-old at the time! What the heck. Imagine being only 23 and getting tapped to direct one of the most iconic horror franchise in Hollywood. Even though he was right out of film school, Marcus was apparently a fan of the franchise, so there’s that.

Dean Lorey is one of the credited screenwriters and also gets credit for the story. He was also only 26-ish years old here. Man, I should have gotten into Hollywood a decade ago! He did go on to help write one of my favorite movies as a kid, 1995’s Major Payne, which was also directed, incidentally, by Nick Castle, aka, Michael Myers in 1978’s Halloween. I never knew that until this moment.

Jay Huguely is the other guy who gets screenplay and story credit. Prior to this film, the only other notable thing he’s done is a few episodes of Magnum, P.I. with Tom Selleck.

Huguely’s original script, based on Marcus’ ideas, for the film isn’t too far off of what we did get. He wanted to have Elias Voorhees, a newly created brother of Jason Voorhees, dig up Jason Voorhees’ body, eat his heart, and take his supernatural powers so as to continue the killing. Marcus also wanted to bring back Tommy, but New Line Cinema didn’t have the rights to Tommy, and also didn’t have the rights to use, “Friday the 13th,” hence the different title name.

Leslie Bohem (if that name sounds familiar from my other reviews, it’s because she co-wrote 1989’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) was brought in to clean up Huguely’s script and make sure Jason Voorhees (and not Elias) was kept as the central character. I’m not sure the latter was necessarily accomplished given what we got with this film.

Marcus also also supposedly told podcasts in recent years that he was trying to draw a connection to the Evil Dead franchise, and that to explain why Jason Voorhees was able to be a zombie supernatural character, he was actually a Deadite, the primary antagonists, out of that franchise. I’m not as familiar with the Evil Dead franchise, but I prefer McLoughlin’s idea that Jason Voorhees is Frankenstein.

“Deadites are undead spirits that seek to possess a body and feast on the souls of living creatures.” – Evil Dead Wiki

Goes to hell

Hodder is back as Jason Voorhees, and he even plays one of the FBI guards and he’s the one at the end who does Freddy Krueger’s finger knives glove (spoiler!).

Otherwise, again, I don’t know much about the cast. Allison Smith, who plays Vicki, did a few episodes of The West Wing, and numerous other TV shows. As usual, most of the cast is more known for being relatively one-and-done or making a name for themselves on the small screen. Julie Michaels, who plays FBI Special Agent Elizabeth Marcus, is one of the strippers in 1989’s Road House, a terribly underrated film. Whenever I get a chance to point that out, I’m going to take it.

The synopsis reads, “Jason Voorhees, living, breathing essence of evil is back for one fierce, final fling! Tracked down and blown to bits by special FBI task force everyone now assumes that he’s finally dead.”

As a starting premise, the FBI finally getting involved in all of these killings over a two decade, or whatever it is at this point, stretch, is smart. I was always confused watching this one as a kid, though, wondering, “Where’s Jason Voorhees?” Because you do get thrown off at the beginning when he gets blown up by the FBI. I always thought that scene was a dream sequence, and it didn’t actually happen. I couldn’t believe it, they actually trapped and killed Jason Voorhees!

But lo and behold … that’s not quite the end of the story.

I would love to know more of the backstory, as I mused in the previous review, of how Jason Voorhees made his way back to Camp Crystal Lake, and why the FBI has a task force on him and what that looks like. In short, imagine a scene where the president of the United States (a good fictional president, that is) talking about the horror of Jason Voorhees! You could even call it: Jason Voorhees Takes the White House. I’m down.

Also, we’re thankfully back to that 90-minute sweet spot for this film.

On re-watch for the first time in well over a decade, this opening scene is still great subversion. As a kid/teen, I figured we were setting up another woman randomly in the woods getting attacked by Jason Voorhees, and instead, they were setting us (and Jason Voorhees) up by having him get blasted by FBI agents. However, Hollywood, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, much like the gangsters I’ve razzed in earlier reviews, always made FBI agents come across like cornballs and cheesy. On top of that, when Jason Voorhees starts getting blasted, he’s making all of these weird grunting noises that also come off more cheesy than serious.

Kimble2

The special effects on Jason Voorhees getting blown to literal smithereens, with his masked head rolling on the ground, but his heart still beating, looks great.

As a premise, I also love that there’s a bounty hunter, Creighton Duke (played by Steven Williams), who is keeping tabs on Jason Voorhees. It makes perfect sense that someone would put a bounty on Jason Voorhees’ head, and what a bounty that would be.

“I don’t think so.” – the bounty hunter, who is all of us, after seeing Jason Voorhees’ body blown up

This franchise has had Edgar Allan Poe influences before, so part of me likes that the coroner, Phil (played by Richard Gant), gets sort of hypnotized by the tale-tell heart of Jason Voorhees until he eats it and basically consumes Jason Voorhees’ essence. It’s a rather gross scene when he eats it, though.

The assistant coroner who, technically, is the first kill of the film (if you don’t count Phil himself), is played by Lorey, the aforementioned co-screenwriter.

Hmm. So, I’ve discussed a few times now how does the conceit work? How do people keep going back to Camp Crystal Lake? In earlier iterations of the franchise, they explained it as, the county literally changed it’s name to erase the stain of Jason Voorhees. Now, the newscaster Robert Campbell (played by Steven Culp) on the broadcast American Case File, explicitly makes Jason Voorhees out to be a national nightmare (which makes sense given the FBI had its sights set on him), with which the “mere mention of the name Jason Voorhees has been enough to send a shudder of fear through the heart of an entire nation.” So I guess we’re back to nationally-known mass serial killer Jason Voorhees?

Duke only wants $500,000 to finish off Jason Voorhees for good. Considering he’s claiming to know how to do it “for all time” and the FBI failed at it, that seems like a heck of a bargain to me! Duke feels like a missed opportunity, though. He mostly exists as a character to tell us the new mythos around Jason Voorhees, not to go toe-to-toe with him.

I personally love the crazy diner selling Jason Voorhees-style burgers and a celebratory two-for-one deal because he’s “dead.” It seems like something a small town diner might do.

The scene at the diner goes bad, though, between Duke, the waitress, Diana Kimble (played by Erin Gray) and her husband Sheriff Ed Landis (played by Billy Green Bush) because the latter is like 30 years older. Wait, I looked it up: Bush was 57 at the time of this film and Gray was 43, so a 14-year age difference. That’s not as bad as I expected. Bush looks even older than 57 and Gray looks younger than 43. All the same, Landis and Duke having a pissing contest over her is weird.

I will say, one thing to commend Marcus on: If you’re going to do nudity in these horrors films, I appreciate his mindset of, the previous films exclusively had female nudity, which is arguably sexist, so let’s equalize it by showing some male nudity in this film. There’s a fair amount here. I appreciate that to the extent of breaking with sexist convention in these and other horror films.

When I was a teenager and Jason Voorhees switched bodies from the coroner to Deputy Josh (played by Andrew Bloch), his character for some reason always freaked me out. He looks demented, which I suppose is the idea! Then we get something akin to the gross Freddy Krueger demon tongue when he tries to stick it down Diana’s mouth.

So, apparently, two years ahead of The Curse of Michael Myers, we get the bloodlines idea, wherein, Jason Voorhees is set out on killing his bloodline so that the bloodline in-turn can’t kill him, aka, he’s after a woman and her baby (or conversely, he’s trying to use the bloodline to get reborn into his regular body), just like Michael Myers was in the sixth film!

This is also the second time in the franchise we’ve had a, “Sheriff thinks a different guy did the killings [in this case, Steven Freeman, played by John LeMay and locks him up, and then he has to escape it.”

Goes to hell2

I also want to know how Duke knows all this lore around Jason Voorhees. How could he possibly have figured any of that out on his own? The FBI, which had a task force devoted to Jason Voorhees, didn’t even seem to know, and also decided to not continue searching for Jason Voorhees after the brutal murder of two of their agents and two coroners. That said, I’m fine with the lore. That it takes another Voorhees to kill him (or to “rebirth him” as it were), but it is … weird that we never knew anything about Jason Voorhees’ sister in the prior eight films in the franchise. That’s the problem with introducing something that monumental nine films deep. And what is she still doing in the area, although apparently oblivious to her true bloodlines? Oh, and she got killed before we knew much about her or cared about her, and then we moved on to the daughter, Jessica Kimble, played by Kari Keegan, who also doesn’t get built up much at all.

I can’t finish this review without a sidebar about how fun Joey B. (played by Rusty Schwimmer), Shelby (played by Leslie Jordan), and Ward (played by Adam Cranner) at the diner are. They’re hilarious. And B. is my spirit animal when she asks Vicki (played by Allison Smith), “What the f*ck is that?” referring to Jessica’s baby. I don’t know how much, but they improvised some of their dialogue, and it’s so authentic and believable probably for that reason. Then B. later changes to telling Steven and Jessica that nobody is touching that ray of sunshine (the baby). I’m cracking up.

At this point is where we get an “easter egg” for the Evil Dead connection when Steven finds the The Necronomicon book (aka, the Book of the Dead) used in the first two Evil Dead films at the Voorhees’ house (which, I go back to, there’s a Voorhees house?!).

We have another scumbag alert with the Robert character (I wonder if his last name being Campbell is also an Evil Dead “easter egg”?), who literally stole Diana’s body from the morgue to be able to bring it to the house and show that Jason Voorhees is still alive for ratings. I don’t know how he thinks this is a smart plan in any sense of the word, never mind how immoral it all is.

Whatever you want to say about this film, you have to love the police stations scene where possessed Robert bursts in and kills everyone, well, almost everyone. Great makeup work, too, particularly when he smashes two of the deputies’ heads together. That’s not something you normally see Jason Voorhees do. Steven’s pretty resourceful, all things considered, for a guy who looks like he’d be your classic nerdy character. He’s handcuffed at the police station, brings the cuffs around to his front, steals the gun off of his friend, Deputy Randy Parker (played by Kipp Marcus), to save Jessica yet again. For some reason, though, he also back elbows Randy. Poor, Randy!

Sad to see the diner trio get brutally massacred, including one of the sickest kills of the entire franchise, when Robert (Jason Voorhees) back elbows B. in the face, smashing her face and turning her head grotesquely around in the process with the sheer force of it.

Adding to the mythos: There’s apparently a sacred dagger that can kill Jason Voorhees. WHERE HAS THAT BEEN ALL THIS TIME?!

Dagger
It would’ve been nice to have that dagger earlier …

They backtrack on their own mythos, though, because when Randy becomes Jason Voorhees, he talks! No other “body” before this one that Jason Voorhees has possessed has talked.

We may have jumped the shark, which feels insufficient a phrase, when Jason Voorhees’ heart becomes a demon crawling infant and crawls into HIS DEAD SISTER’S VAGINA TO BE REBORN AGAIN. That’s an honest-to-God true sentence.

And with less than 10 minutes left in the film, we get the true Jason Voorhees. We then get a line that makes no sense from Duke to Jason Voorhees, “Son of a b*itch, you remember me?” Apparently, in the original script, we learn that Duke’s girlfriend was killed by Jason Voorhees, which set Duke on his course to hunt the killer down. But with that out of the script, this line makes no sense.

Steven surely has set the record for going toe-to-toe with Jason Voorhees, including the actual form of him, than any other character and survived to tell the tale? It’s impressive, to be honest. He’s a good character, despite how much he beats up his friend Robert and is mean to Jessica.

We get a nice homage to the ending of the first film when Jessica comes up behind Jason Voorhees to stab him with the dagger, as it’s shot in slow-motion (the picture posted above).

To end Jason Voorhees (for now), we get a scene I most remember as a kid, with the demons of hell, including the fun tease of Freddy Krueger’s knives glove hand, dragging him to hell. I always remember thinking as a kid, before Freddy vs. Jason came out, when are they going to follow up on that?! It was exciting.

And don’t give me that Jessica and Steven kissing bit at the end because she hesitated to save him from the demons of hell! She ultimately did, but she did think about letting him go to hell at first.

This film, on a smaller budget of #3 million, did improve on Jason Takes Manhattan’s box office, with $15.9 million, but it was still off of earlier franchises. It surprises me that this is the one and only Friday the 13th film in the 1990s (my decade dangit!), but they seem to have run the concept to the ground, with no interest of resurrecting it until the early 2000s.

The way I look at this film now that I know Marcus was most certainly influenced by the Evil Dead, in addition to the fact that this is the first New Line Cinema film, is that this feels like a mashup of Evil Dead, the Nightmare films, and Friday the 13th, but ultimately, the latter the least since Jason Voorhees doesn’t even show up until the final 10 minutes (well, I forgot he was technically in the beginning for five minutes).

On that level, I actually appreciate it more because I understand the Evil Dead influence, and there are some memorable “kills” and scenes here, with unexpectedly good characters, like Steven, and if you ask me, Vicki, the babysitter, was more of a cool “final girl” than Jessica was. She was blasting Jason Voorhees with the gun, impaled him with some pole thing, and spit blood in his face telling him to go to hell.

But even at that sweet spot of 90 minutes, this film somehow feels like more of a drag than some of the other Friday the 13th films. I think a couple more rewrites (including fixing the Duke character) would have benefited the script. Still, it’s not the worst Friday the 13th film. There’s that, but we’re still a good drop-off from Jason Lives, for example.

Jason goes to hell

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