in The Vault

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Before I sat down to watch Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, I went to IMDB to try and find as many sequels as I could that included the subtitle: “The Final Chapter.” I’m sure I’m missing a few, but here are the titles I found:

Walking Tall: Final Chapter (1977)
Angel III: The Final Chapter (1988)
Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994)
Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010)
Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (2012)

And how many of these films received a sequel, remake, or crossover?

Walking Tall (2004)
Angel 4: Undercover (1993)
Curse of the Puppet Master (1998)
Jigsaw (2017)
Lake Placid vs. Anaconda (2015)

Yep, all of them. This doesn’t include THE Final Destination (2009), which was followed by Final Destination 5 (2011) and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017). Mark my words, in less than ten years there will be another Resident Evil, likely a reboot of the series.

Why do films use the word “Final” if they don’t mean it? I don’t know if there is a definitive answer. I would assume it’s a marketing tactic. “If we say it’s the last one people will come cuz it’s their last chance!” *cash register noise. Though it would appear in most cases, the people who made these genuinely believed they were the last installments.

If I had to take another stab at it, I would guess if a franchise is successful enough to hit three installments, there will be more movies no matter what the film’s subtitle. Now, this isn’t always true. Notable exceptions to this idea are The Man with No Name Trilogy and The Godfather Trilogy. Though both of these predate the Blockbuster era, they are nonetheless a valid counterpoint. As is Back to the Future and The Matrix. Though both those films constantly come up in the ever-churning sequel rumor mill. With the resurgence of Keanu Reeves, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a new Matrix in production before the end of the decade.

Look at all the franchises we all at one point in our lives thought were over: Spiderman 3 (a reboot, a sequel to the reboot, a reboot/crossover and more) Toy Story 3 (sequel due out in 2019), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (sequel rumored for 2019), Iron Man 3 (numerous crossovers) Evil Dead (remake and TV spinoff), Mad Max (received fourth film, more rumored), the list goes on. Popular franchises never die, or they do and are resurrected, but more on that in our next review.

Today’s “Final Chapter” is the fourth installment of the Friday the 13th series and from what I have read, Paramount REALLY wanted the series to die with this film. It’s rumored that despite the success of the franchise, Paramount was embarrassed having their prestigious name attached to a franchise known for senseless violence and partial nudity.

Can you imagine a studio today, giving a shit about the integrity of their hit films? Do you think the studio that makes Transformers is losing sleep over their piles of money because Sam Shitwicky doesn’t have a compelling arc? Hell no. “Wait, who makes Transformers? Oh yeah, Paramount.”

Frightened at the prospect of Jason Voorhees being Paramount’s poster boy, Paramount decided it was time to kill off Jason once and for all. To make the hit, they hired writer/director Joseph Zito (The Prowler), though Zito was more a director than a writer. In fact, Zito used part of his writer’s salary to hire Barney Cohen to write the script uncredited. “Seriously, Joe? Like, how hard is it to write a Friday the 13th movie?” The two got into trouble with the Writer’s Guild of America and the writing credit wound up going to Cohen.

Zito brought along his go-to cinematographer, Joao Fernandes, known for his work on a handful of 1970s porno films (I’m sure Paramount LOVED that), a cast of sexy teens, and filming began in the fall of 1983 in the Topanga Canyon region of California. Another addition worth noting is the return of special effects whiz Tom Savini, excited at the prospect of killing off the same monster he created. “This must be the best movie ever, right?”

The film begins with the campfire scene from Friday the 13th Part 2, wherein Paul Holt (John Furey) tells the legend of Jason. Except for this time, the story is accompanied by various clips (mostly people being killed) from previous movies. Think of it like “Jason’s Greatest Hits” and you better believe half of those clips are in slow motion. We are then treated to Jason’s mask over black flying at the screen and exploding into the title card. It’s not my favorite credit sequence but it’s good for a laugh.

Picking up where we left off in Part III, medical examiners find Jason’s body by Crystal Lake and transport him to a local hospital. There, a horny doctor named Axel (Bruce Mahler aka Rabbi Glickman from Seinfeld) tries his luck with Nurse Robbie (Lisa Freeman–future young adult novelist). Where do they attempt their oral examination? Yep, in front of cadavers. You better believe they get killed. Particularly, Jason decapitates Axel with a hacksaw.

Next, we meet a family of three living near Crystal Lake including a mother, Mrs. Jarvis (Joan Freeman), Trish (Kimberly Beck) and a monster obsessed 13-year-old, Tommy (Corey Feldman). “A child? In a Friday the 13th movie?” I wouldn’t have thought this was a good idea but it is. Tommy is the most interesting character in the movie. He loves to make monster masks (like really high quality. Too good for a kid) and is captivated by the legend of Jason. What a nice spin to put on the formula. Too bad he’s cast to the side to make more room for his sister, another boring teenager with no unique characteristics.

Of course, the movie has to tack on an extra five or six teens visiting Crystal Lake to up that kill count. The only one of which is remotely interesting is Jimmy because he’s played by Crispin Glover (a year before his breakout performance in Back to the Future). Say what you will about the guy, but he’s fun to watch. Look at him dance!

And because the movie doesn’t already have enough characters they toss in an outdoorsy stud-muffin named Rob (E. Erich Anderson). As far as I can tell there are only two reasons to justify the character’s inclusion: 1. So Trish can have a love interest and 2. So you can do fake out scares where you see a hand walking with an ax but then it’s Rob. It’s not that any of these characters are bad, just unnecessary. I would have loved to see a movie about a family of three defending themselves from a machete-wielding maniac in their secluded house in the woods. It could have been like Straw Dogs but with Corey Feldman.

As for Jason, he doesn’t show up much until the end. Most of the deaths are your typical character-turns-around/open-door/steps out of the shower to get hit in the face by a sharp object. I was disappointed, Part III had creative deaths (to take advantage of the 3D) but most of these deaths feel by the numbers.

What’s weird about these movies is how they always follow the same structure. There’s a recap with flashbacks, then a death, exploding title card, we meet a group of teenagers, the teenagers hang out exchanging shitty dialogue and or have sex, Jason kills almost everybody, Jason fights the survivor, Jason dies, Jason is still alive and his mask comes off, and then either Jason dies again or it was a dream. My problem with this structure is the “teenagers hang out” portion. It’s boring! Though I did find one of the “hang out” sections in this film amusing. One guy finds an old film reel and watches like, turn of the century pornography? Original, I suppose. Entertaining? No.

“Why can’t these movies use their downtime to build up the legend of Jason?” There has to be a more creative way to keep the movie afloat. What if the dickhead who found the film reel had found a Voorhees home movie instead? That would have been creepy. It’s as if all they put their focus on are the death scenes and those are so far apart I lose interest halfway through.

Before I reach my final evaluation, let me touch on the film’s climax. After the visiting teens are dead and all that’s left are Trish and Tommy, the film shows a spark. The Jason battle is actually kind of scary. Watching a child run away from a maniac is perhaps the scariest thing I’ve seen yet in this series. I mean, you never expect Jason to kill a kid. Then the movie takes a bizarre but effective turn when Tommy dresses up as a prepubescent Jason (with sweet makeup skills) in an attempt to reason with Jason. I like it, but I’m going to say the same thing I said in my Part 2 review, “How can someone so good at killing be so stupid?” This leaves Trish a solid opening to hit Jason with a machete, but somehow only knocks off his mask. We see Jason’s gross face, he falls on the machete and then Tommy finishes him off, hacking away like a madman,

The film ends with Tommy (still wearing his creepy bald cap and makeup) hugging Trish only to have the camera freeze frame on him with a traumatized look. Cue sinister music from Henry Manfredini and the film is over. Jason is gone. “What the hell was that freeze frame? Is Tommy going to be a killer?” I can understand if the event traumatized him, but I don’t like the idea of a hero becoming a killer because he had to kill a killer. Seems a little much, right?

Many fans claim The Final Chapter is the best in the series for being more serious. That’s bullshit. I like Tommy and Jason has one or two moments near the end, but there’s not much separating this from the other films. If I had to rank the first four I would go 1, 3, 4, 2. The first film is a solid slasher film, the third is dumb fun, the second is uninspired *cough, cough bag on head and the fourth is bland with fleeting moments of quality. Where do we go from here? Why back to the beginning. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning.

“I Spy with my little eye… OH GOD NO!!!”