Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is a film I hated before I even pressed play. This is because Part IX is the first film in my Friday the 13th viewing odyssey that I was unable to watch on Amazon Prime. I gather because the first eight films are Paramount releases while Part IX is from New Line Cinema. I understand this is a completely arbitrary and unfair grievance in regards to the actual film, but when I have to go out of my way to watch a film I already know is bad, you better believe I’m going to be cranky.
“Why did Paramount sell the rights to New Line Cinema?” From what I understand there are two main reasons: 1) After a dismal box office showing from Jason Takes Manhattan, Paramount no longer saw the franchise as financially viable and 2) Sean S. Cunningham—the original film’s director and father of the franchise–wanted Jason to fight New Line’s favorite son: Freddy Krueger. The deal was made, but the project ended up on hold after Wes Craven decided to return to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and make Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) instead. Thus, Cunningham opted for a different story, signing on as a producer for Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday.
The genesis of this film almost sounds like a “Well, we don’t have anything better to do. Might as well send Jason to Hell.” It’s confusing. It sounded like Cunningham was interested in relaunching the character, while New Line Cinema was more interested in selling tickets by convincing the world Part IX would be the FINAL film in the franchise. “Final” there’s a word that no film franchise should ever use. Though in all fairness, it was almost nine years until they made another one.
As for the actual film, Part IX is difficult to put into words. It’s definitely bad, but it’s an admirable bad. I say “admirable” because at least the film looks good with high production value and decent special effects. The idea is bold as well. “What if Jason was merely the vessel for pure evil and that evil could be transmitted?” Yeah, dumb, but different. I don’t even know if I’d call this a slasher film. I don’t what you call this mess.
The film opens with scenic shots of Crystal Lake. A young woman drives to a cabin in the woods where she makes herself comfortable and draws a bath. The power goes out and as the woman makes her way to the fuse box she is attacked by who else, but Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder). I kind of like Jason’s look in this film. It looks like his mask has fused to his face and his head looks like a big brain. Kind of like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Jason chases the girl, only wearing a towel (the girl, not Jason) to an open field and suddenly, overhanging lights flash and an FBI swat team reveals themselves. They fire at Jason with everything they have and finish him off by exploding him to death. It’s a great opening and the best part of the film. The idea that in order to set up a slasher sting operation you have to follow the classic cliches is inspired. In a perfect world the film would have ended here, but alas it has just begun.
Before I move on to Jason’s autopsy, it’s important to note that after Jason is blown up the camera cuts to a man in a cowboy hat, Creighton Duke (Steven Williams), watching from the bushes who says to himself, “I don’t think so.” Later, we find out Creighton is a bounty hunter and the unofficial expert on everything Jason Voorhees but how did he find out about this secret sting operation? I guess he’s just that much of an expert. More on him in a bit.
The film segues into a rather bland title card accompanied by some of the worst horror movie music I’ve ever heard. I was shocked to find out the film’s soundtrack was done by longtime Friday the 13th composer Henry Manfredini. One could blame the time period (the early 90s) when the limits of synth music were pushed too far. “Hmm, so we can’t afford strings? I guess this Casio kind of sounds like strings.” *plucks away terribly.
Music aside, this is one of the most drawn out credit sequences I can recall. The reason being they continually cut back from five seconds of credits to thirty seconds of footage to five seconds of credits, etc. I crunched the numbers and the whole sequence runs about 4:48. I could listen to the song “Born to Run” in that time and still have 17 seconds to spare and that’s one of the great rock songs of all time. The only great thing about Jason Goes to Hell is the ending. Because then I don’t have to watch it anymore.
The credits are intercut with a mortician examining the remains of Jason’s Voorhees exploded corpse. Most of Jason is in pieces, albeit his black heart which during the procedure begins to beat. The mortician is transfixed by the beating heart and feels compelled to… eat it. Gross. I’m not sure what’s so alluring about Jason’s heart, but we eat a lot of gross stuff in America so I’ll give it a pass. The mortician becomes possessed by the spirit of Jason, kills his co-worker, two security guards, and escapes. Yet no security cameras capture any of this. Not much of a secret government facility.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world is celebrating Jason’s death. There’s even a hamburger joint selling Jason Voorhees burgers (the patties are hockey masks) with finger fries. Geez, it’s not like when Osama Bin Laden was killed Starbucks started selling Osama Bin Lattes. Then again, I think it’s supposed to be satire. There’s also a TV broadcast of an America’s Most Wanted type show where Jason expert Creighton Duke talks about the evil of Jason. It’s almost like this show is speaking more to us (the audience) than anyone in the film.
Of course, Creighton doubts that Jason is really dead, believing his body was merely a vessel for evil. Not sure how he came to that conclusion. It’s not like Jason has ever switched bodies before. He’s died plenty of times, but he always comes back in the same body. This is probably why most characters in the film consider Creighton a hack (I would). It doesn’t help when he delivers answers on TV like this:
Robert Campbell: I’m going to say a couple of words to you and I want you to say the first thing that comes into your mind.
Creighton Duke: Okay.
Robert Campbell: Jason Voorhees.
Creighton Duke: That makes me think of a little girl in a pink dress sticking a hot dog through a doughnut.
I have no idea what that means. Yet in the end, he’s the only person who knows how to stop Jason, so he must know what he’s talking about.
Whereas Part IX could have been one of the great horror comedies had it decided to make Creighton the film’s protagonist it of course wastes our time by making it some nerd, Steven (John D. LeMay), who looks like he could be one of Sam Rami’s brothers. Steven has a baby with his ex-girlfriend Jessica (Kari Keegan) which is important once we discover Jessica is Jason’s niece. Gasp!
In the other neck of the woods, the mortician, who is seen as Jason anytime he walks in front of a mirror, is on a killing spree. Jason is transferring his evil from person to person through a parasitic slug and makes his way back to Crystal Lake. The idea (explained by Creighton) is that in order for Jason to become whole again, he must pass the slug into the body of one of his relatives. And the only way to stop Jason is for one of his relatives to stab him in the heart with a magic dagger. Wow, and I thought Jason being resurrected by lighting in Part VI was silly. This is insane!
This means Jessica (Kari Keegan), her baby, and her mom, Jason’s half-sister Diana (Erin Gray) are Jason’s primary targets. Let’s skip ahead to the end, though, because everything in the middle sucks.
Jason takes over Diana’s body to become whole again and does battle with Steven and Jessica, but thankfully Creighton is there to take care of business. He hands Jessica the knife, she stabs Jason, demons drag him down into Hell and it’s done. Thank god. Oh wait, then Jason’s mask is dragged into the dirt by Freddy Krueger’s glove. Which is kind of cool, except for the fact Freddy vs. Jason didn’t come out for another ten years.
The film is a mess. Earlier I called it admirable and it is in its own way. Director Adam Marcus was only 23 when he directed the film. Even though they didn’t give him much control over the project he did have a few good ideas. But as a sequel, this film is horrendous, single-handedly ruining the series’ mythology and the franchise for nearly a decade.
Though the Jason Voorhees’s mythology has always been flimsy, the inciting incident at least gave Jason depth. He was a misunderstood boy, ignored by his counselors, and left to die. In case you were wondering, this film accepts the idea Jason did not die at Crystal Lake (which other films have before) but I’ve always hated. Part IX makes Jason a worse character by establishing that he’s always been evil. At least the slug inside of him has always been evil. I hate the slug. It’s kind of like when they included midi-chlorians into Star Wars. Every mystery has to have an even stupider explanation.
That means the counselors in the original film that ignored Jason drowning were right to do so. Which is terrible. I thought the whole idea was people need to be punished for letting their personal desires overtake their responsibilities. Kind of like “This is what you get for being greedy!” None of that matters now.
I don’t know if there’s anyone, in particular, to blame for this film. It sounds like a lot of different people wanted a lot of different things with a lot of studio interference. Supposedly, a far better Director’s Cut exists out in the ether. No way it makes the film good but maybe better than Jason Takes Manhattan. Sorry, Jason, you deserved to go to Hell… but what about space? Get ready for next week as we blast off with Jason X.
If the glove fits…