There’s something about the FRIDAY THE 13TH film series that I just love. Sure, in my opinion HALLOWEEN is a better film than FRIDAY THE 13TH (in fact so is A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), but as a series, F13 just blows them out of the water. The HALLOWEEN franchise had only about four films that I liked then it became pretty forgetful (The Thorn angle, the CG mask shots, Busta Rhymes..). The A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series had gotten so bad that by FREDDY’S DEAD, I was over it as well (massive props to the original and the 2nd and 3rd one though). As a series, I’m on board with the first seven Fridays though. They established a formula, and didn’t deviate from that formula very often (in a good way) during those first few bouts with Jason and in the original, Pamela Voorhees. In that series, one film always stood out to me, so much in fact that it is one of my ten favorite films of all time. A FRIDAY THE 13TH movie that not only included the usual (Jason taking out folks left and right), but in my opinion elevated into something even more than just a typical slasher movie, and that movie is the fourth film, THE FINAL CHAPTER.
FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER is slasher greatness even from the first scene. We get the great opening montage of the events of the first three films told by Paul (in a scene from PART 2), keeping viewers up to date on the havoc that Mrs Voorhees and then Jason had wreaked prior to The Final Chapter, and after that montage, the greatness begins. It starts out with something not shown before in prior Fridays, the aftermath of the previous films. Sure, in Part 2 we saw Alice in her apartment a while after the first film and in Part 3 we got somewhat of a day later thing, but in The Final Chapter, it literally starts at the crime scene from the previous films. We get ambulances, police cars, a helicopter and even Jason’s body being carted away to the morgue. We also get something that is scarier than most of the previous entries: being left completely alone in the dark for an extended amount of time. When the ambulances and police cars drive away and the helicopter spotlight fades away, we just sit there, in darkness. That and another moment in the film (I’ll get to that soon) scare me more than the kills, which don’t me wrong, are awesome in this film.
We then follow Jason’s body being taken into the morgue where a bumbling doctor named Axel (Seinfeld fans: Rabbi Kirschbaum!) attempts to put the moves on a nurse who almost gives into the guy’s charm (he has none), when Jason’s arm falls, scaring the nurse off and giving us perhaps one of the weirdest lines of all time from Axel: “Jesus Christmas! Holy Jesus! Goddamn! Holy Jesus jumping Christmas shit!” which even as a kid made me laugh so hard I’d spit my drink out. Well obviously this isn’t a movie about Axel’s lack of game, so moments later Jason takes him out via a bone saw to the neck, then cuts the nurse stomach up with a scalpel, and gets on his way.
From here on, is where the movie REALLY has me. We’re then, like the previous films, introduced to a group of youngsters on their way to Crystal Lake for a weekend getaway. What sets these kids apart from the ones from the first three films and most of the Fridays following this one, is the fact that they’re written SO WELL by Barney Cohen. I’ve always said that if the slasher aspects of THE FINAL CHAPTER were taken out and it was renamed, it would’ve worked well as a coming of age movie based on how likable the characters are. There’s Ted and Jimmy (Lawrence Monoson, who was GREAT in THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN, and Crispin Glover..need I say more? George McFly himself!) who spend most of the movie going back and forth about Jimmy’s bad luck with the ladies; couple Paul and Sam, Doug and lastly Sara who pines away for Doug and does a great job as the wallflower type. They’re also joined eventually by two twins ready to have fun as well. These kids aren’t the typical wooden, boring teens that a lot slasher films serve up as victims, they’re fun to watch.
After introducing us to the potential victims and unfortunately a hitchhiker who gets stabbed in the throat by Jason while she eats a banana, we meet the heroes of the film: The Jarvis family. Mrs. Jarvis isn’t completely fleshed out in the film but it’s pretty obvious early on that it’s her daughter Trish and son Tommy (a character that would continue into the 5th and 6th films) Jarvis that we’re following. Tommy is obsessed with video games, monsters and making masks, so basically he’s pretty much all of us horror fans, which makes his character that much greater to follow. He’s also played by Corey Feldman, who for the 80’s and some of the 90’s was pure Hollywood gold (here’s hoping that the Jason Vs. Jarvis rumor ends up happening, it’d be rad to see him play the character again) and Corey kills it in this one too, he’s great. Not too long after, while having car problems, Trish and Tommy meet Rob, a hiker who we eventually find out is looking for Jason, who killed his sister Sandy in Part 2. So, with all of that, there’s plenty of well written characters to follow, and why that’s so awesome is that when the characters eventually run into Jason throughout the film and meet their demise, you actually feel bad for them. Plus, with Tom Savini returning to do the effects for The Final Chapter after being absent from Pt’s 2 and 3 means that the kills are pretty intense. We get everything and the kitchen sink as far as kills, such as Sam getting impaled from beneath the raft she’s on while skinny dipping, Paul getting stabbed in the crotch by a spear gun, all the way to Teddy getting stabbed in the head from behind a home movie screen and Jimmy getting it ALMOST worst (I did say almost) : while he looks for something to open a bottle of wine, Jason stabs Jimmy in the hand with a corkscrew, takes a meat cleaver to his face and then nails Jimmy’s body to the doorway…Jesus Christ, Jason, you’re a dick! The worst death for me, is also the scariest moment in the whole series in my opinion. While stuck in a basement with Jason, Rob sends Trish on her way and before he can make it out too, Jason takes a garden claw and continually hacks at Rob with it, and what makes it terrifying for me is that fact that unlike everyone who died prior and after this movie, Rob doesn’t just instantly die. He yells continually “He’s KILLING ME!!!”, it’s a scary ass moment folks. RIP Rob.
When everything seems pretty gloomy, Jason chases Trish into their house where they’re met by Tommy, who after seeing newspaper clippings of a young deformed Jason, shaved his head and left patches of hair to resemble Jason, confusing him long enough for Trish to put a machete to him. Obviously he isn’t dead, so Tommy decides to go apeshit and puts the machete further into his head, making it slide down it, and spends quite a while hacking Jason nonstop while Trish yells for him to stop. It’s a pretty intense scene, and definitely one of my favorite F13 moments. Supposedly, THE FINAL CHAPTER was set to be the last movie in the series and what a way to go out, Savini kicked ass on the finale’s fx, even if the head sliding down the machete looks a bit dated, it’s still visually effective.
Obviously after making Paramount tons of money, it wasn’t the last F13 movie and even this one somewhat set up a twist that made people think Tommy would be the next killer. When FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: THE NEW BEGINNING came out, people weren’t incredible stoked (though I am somewhat fond of that one as well) due to the film being a Jason wannabe the whole time (a pissed off ambulance driver dressing like Jason to get revenge for the death of his son..yeah) and how different Tommy was (played by John Sheppard this time). This film though, it’s a rare movie that rises above being just another sequel to a slasher franchise. It’s horror gold.