“This is the guy that’s been leavin’ the wet stuff?”
By 1984, when Paramount decided that the fourth FRIDAY THE 13TH would be called “THE FINAL CHAPTER,” Jason and his mom had had a good run terrorizing the Crystal Lake region and the world’s movie screens, for which the studio and filmmakers had received some scolding from critics. But according to Crystal Lake Memories, Paramount was not ashamed. It was part 2 and 3 producer Frank Mancuso Jr. who was beginning to resent the series, because it was all people seemed to associate him with. “I really wanted it to be done and walk away,” he told author Peter M. Bracke. “In some ways, I felt I had grown beyond it, but it was really more me coming to terms with the fact that these movies should be made by people who are pushing themselves and learning and growing. The fact of the matter was that I wasn’t in a place where I could get excited about doing one of these things again. It became a chore.” So, contrary to our assumptions, he was completely serious about killing off Jason in a “final chapter.”
Part II and III director Steve Miner had grown bored of the series too, not interested in “remaking the same film, over and over again,” and he was off trying to make that 3D GODZILLA movie I mentioned at the end of the last review. So they hired a new director with relevant experience. Joseph Zito had directed ABDUCTION and BLOOD RAGE in the ‘70s, but more notably THE PROWLER (1981) is one of the more respectable slashers to come on the heels of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH, with pretty similar content (a masked killer stalks college students at a graduation party on the anniversary of a past tragedy). FRIDAY producer Phil Scuderi had seen an unfinished version of THE PROWLER and declined to invest in it, but told Zito he would call him when there was another FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel. And that wasn’t just bullshit – he really did!
Paramount had hired future legend Greg Cannom to do the makeup, but Zito wanted him to base Jason’s face on the child version that Tom Savini had done for the first film, while Cannom wanted to make it his own. So Zito replaced Cannom with the actual Savini, who had done the great gore FX for THE PROWLER. Reminder: Savini thought the idea of part 2 being about an adult Jason was so stupid that he turned it down and did THE BURNING instead. (His other movies in the interim included NIGHTMARE and MIDNIGHT.)
THE FINAL CHAPTER has a great cold open intro, using PART II’s campfire giving-it-to-us-straight-about-Jason legend, cut together with clips of Jason’s activities in each of the films. But the way it’s edited either rewrites history or gives us some shocking new information: after Paul says that “some folks claim they’ve even seen” Jason “right in this area” it cuts to Bill saying “Oh hi, what are you doing out in this mess?” and then getting stabbed. This is from part 1, where Pamela Voorhees was the killer, so either they’re being misleading by including it in a discussion of Jason, or they’re revealing that Jason was sneaking around there doing some of those murders in part 1 and we just never knew it.
Then we have another title sequence that does the series proud. A white screen fades to black. A small hockey mask fades in in the middle of the black. It gets larger, as if floating toward us. When it fills most of the screen it stops, and FRIDAY THE 13TH in red paintbrush lettering fades in over it, filling it almost perfectly, not bleeding into the black.
Then a tiny white
drops in at the top, as if in the distance, but hurtling toward us. Making a whoosh sound. It comes up behind the mask – we can glimpse it through the ax-damage and the eye holes. And it just crashes right through the mask, which fucking explodes into a ball of fire on contact.
Absolutely beautiful. All movies – and especially all sequels – should aspire to a title like this. Almost none do. I’m not saying everything was better back then, but it reflects poorly on our society how rarely film titles explode these days. We have failed.
Let’s look at the PART IV agenda: Okay, we’ve had the greatest hits prologue and the titles, but we still need to wrap up part III. (I sincerely love this stuff in sequels.) It’s after dark, and police are all over the Higgins Haven barn investigating what the local news says “will always be known as The Crystal Lake Massacres.” Jason’s body is still laying there. They say he killed “seven kids and three bikers,” which I think is an unnecessary and discriminatory way of categorizing the victims. Fuckin cops. They take Jason to the morgue, and it goes without saying that the coroner (Bruce Mahler, POLICE ACADEMY 1,2,3 and 6, DICK TRACY, HOOK) is casually eating. Also he’s a sexually harassing asshole who tries to coerce a nurse (Lisa Freeman, BREAKIN’, BACK TO THE FUTURE) into sex and, since she won’t, watches aerobics videos instead. I don’t know if his boner is what revives Jason, but something does, and the ol’ mama’s boy saws and scalpels these two medical professionals. And then I guess Jason must begin the long walk back home.
In this one Jason is played by Ted White, a veteran stuntman who had doubled John Wayne. He told Bracke in Crystal Lake Memories that one of the producers had spotted him as the silhouetted hero in the opening of ROMANCING THE STONE and thought he was perfect to play Jason. So in a way this Jason is the embodiment of the hunky guys painted on the covers of romance novels.
As usual we have a group of teens driving to the Crystal Lake area. As in part III it has nothing to do with the camp, they’re just staying in a cabin. We have Paul (Alan Hayes, NEON MANIACS, screenwriter of Robert Altman’s THE GINGERBREAD MAN!?), his girlfriend Sam (Judy Aronson, WEIRD SCIENCE, AMERICAN NINJA, KISS KISS BANG BANG), Sara (Barbara Howard, Falcon Crest, SLAPPY AND THE STINKERS) and her crush Doug (Peter Barton, HELL NIGHT, The Powers of Matthew Star), plus awkward weirdo Jimmy (Crispin Glover in his third movie) and his friend Teddy (Lawrence Monoson, THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN, STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION). On the way there they stop at a spot where there are a few tombstones right next to the road, including one for Pamela Voorhees. This must finally be “the old cemetery” mentioned in Part II. (I wonder how weirded out they were burying her body with no head?)
Their cabin is right next door to the home of the Jarvis family, whose oldest, Trish (Kimberly Beck, ROLLER BOOGIE, “Woman Customer,” KILLING ZOE), they invite to their party. She lives with her mom (Joan Freeman, THE THREE STOOGES GO AROUND THE WORLD IN A DAZE) and her little brother Tommy (Corey Feldman, already a voice in THE FOX AND THE HOUND, soon to be in GREMLINS). Although not old enough to see a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie without his mom, Tommy is explicitly representative of horror fandom – he makes and customizes very professional latex monster masks, reads Fangoria, probly idolizes Tom Savini, unless Savini never became as popular in the world of FRIDAY THE 13TH since he never made FRIDAY THE 13TH.
There’s a little of that ironic dialogue where they talk light-heartedly about whether or not to lock the doors since they’re “in the country” and not some place perceived as dangerous. Mom jokes, “What happens if a psycho walks in?,” as if she’s talking about a far-fetched thing that only happens in the movies and not a thing that everybody else in the neighborhood is very, very aware happened nearby multiple times, including last night. Apparently she hasn’t heard of what will always be known as The Crystal Lake Massacres. (In another scene she’s reading the newspaper, but may have skipped the front page story “Mass Murderer’s Body Missing.”)
Later, Trish and Tommy are driving somewhere when their car breaks down, and this is when we learn that this twelve year old knows how to look under the hood, figure out what the problem is and fix it. Or at least they act like he usually can, but in this case he can only deduce it’s a solenoid problem before a backpacker named Rob Dier (E. Erich Anderson from a TV show called Felicity, not really sure but I believe he may have played the main character’s father Dr. Edward Porter who pressures her to quit being an artist and go to medical school) walks up and helps. Trish hits it off with Rob and offers him a ride. He’s kind of cagey and later when she finds him camping he admits that his sister was a Jason victim (part II’s Sandra, who was double-impaled with her boyfriend Jeff during sex) and he believes Jason is out here and he wants revenge. (This predates THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, in which Dennis Hopper plays the uncle of part 1’s Franklin, tracking down the family for revenge.)
I know many people who consider FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER to be the best of the series, and I get it. I’ve always been more partial to 2 and 3, but this is a strong installment that at times has hovered close to my favorite.
It’s also important to the series, not just because it’s the historic first last installment, but because it’s really where the series becomes what people always think of it as. If you watch them in close succession, as I’m doing here, you can really see a difference between the earlier characters and this new batch of alcohol and sex-enjoyers. They’re in the same broad category of horror character, but the ones in parts 1-3 mostly seem like nice people who like each other and are just trying to have fun, as young people ought to do. And the actors usually had a naturalness to them that made them feel fairly real, if generic.
In part IV they graduate to the type more common to the slasher era: cartoonishly obnoxious guys who insult each other and giggle about it, and women who who keep taking their clothes off in front of windows. Skinny-dipping was a common Crystal Lake activity in the earlier films, but now it’s a big group affair, and they’re even joined by random hot twins they met on the walk there! The coroner and his nurse in the morgue scenes are HALLOWEEN II-esque in that we get this character who’s considerably grosser and hornier than any of the campers even though he’s in a professional (and funereal) setting. Right at the beginning you’re in Scumbagville, and that’s gonna be the flavor of FRIDAY THE 13TH movies for now on.
I also think they sort of broke the series by figuring out that they could introduce a character just to do one small thing and then immediately be killed (the unnamed banana-eating hitchhiker [Bonnie Hellman, Jimmy Kimmel Live]). On paper it sounds like a good idea to have bigger body counts, but the less time you spend on each character or on dread and anticipation the less effective it is to see them impaled or whatever. (That will affect future installments more than this one.)
The thing about THE FINAL CHAPTER is that it’s basically two separate FRIDAY THE 13TH movies happening next to each other. The one I’m thinking of when I think of this as one of the best FRIDAYs is the one about the Jarvis family and Rob Dier taking on Jason. But I think more of the running time is given over to the other movie about the teen sex cabin next door.
Zito, screenwriter Barney Cohen (THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES TO WASHINGTON, KILLER PARTY, creator of Forever Knight) and story provider Bruce Hidemi Sakow (THE SECRET WAR) at least included a few meta elements to acknowledge that they’re making a “let’s look at the boobies” movie. When we peep on one of the characters taking her top off in front of a window we do it from the perspective of little Tommy’s bedroom, as he hops around on his bed yelping with delight. And since Teddy is left out of all the sex he sets up a projector he finds and watches an old silent nudie movie. He laughs at the out-of-fashion female body types sort of like some people probly do now with this movie. And then Jason stabs him through the screen. Beware, pervs at home.
An obvious highlight of this cabin is Glover as Jimmy, who keeps whining about a girlfriend (possibly imaginary) who recently (allegedly) dumped him, causing his supposed friend Teddy to repeatedly accuse him of being “a dead fuck.” Glover gets in some of his trademark strangeness, including some funny line deliveries, a crazy dance and a part where he’s making sort of an atomic model out of cheese puffs and toothpicks. And it’s nice (in that “a little sweeter than I expected” way of ‘80s sex comedies) that after he improbably has sex with local bicyclist/skinny-dipper/twin Tina (Camilla More, THE TWIN) and nervously asks if he was a dead fuck, she lovingly tells him he was “incredible.” (Then he goes downstairs and laughs “I WAS GREAT!”)
Of course, this is the series most famous for killing people after sex, so both of them immediately die. I will note this, though: SCREAM has that joke about never saying “I’ll be right back,” but in this case Tina says she’ll be right back and Jimmy gets it first (with the “fancy corkscrew” he’s searching for in the kitchen), and she does come right back. (Then is killed in what I think might be the most spectacular death, but there are plenty of good ones so there’s room for a robust debate on this topic.)
Another kinda nice sex thing that happens before the horrible murders is the arc of Sara and dreamy bangs-having Doug. Talking with her friends, Sara is clearly very nervous about sex, and also is the only one who turns down skinny-dipping. But she gets to where she’s comfortable enough to hit on Doug with a pretty good line, and they proceed to have what seems like very loving and appreciated shower sex. I think this is a portrayal of healthy sexuality. Until Jason gets involved and messes it all up, of course. But I felt happy for her for a minute there.
In plenty of other movies maybe Sara could’ve been the final girl, not because she’s virginal up to a point, but because she’s nice and seems to have a good head on her shoulders. And if we consider the sex cabin to be its own separate movie, this is the unfair thing about that movie: there’s no final girl. There’s no survivor. They all die. And we’re talking about more characters and love lives than we had to keep track of in any of the previous episodes. Most of them don’t click much anyway, but it’s a bummer.
I don’t always feel like it’s necessary to discuss that popular horror topic of “best kill,” but this is Tom Savini at the height of trying to make the best kills, trying to make his definitive statement on the series that’s defined by best kills, so we better do it. He does various very realistic sawings and machete choppings and stabbings, all respectable work.
Doug’s is a good one. It’s the familiar post-PSYCHO scenario of a person in the shower thinking their partner is on the other side of the steamy door, trying to talk to them, then realizing it’s not them. But Jason doesn’t stab him – he busts a hand right through the glass and smooshes his head against the wall like it’s a ham or something. Just an incredible statement on the works of Jason Voorhees, to show how his technique differs from Norman Bates, the granddaddy of slashers.
Zito went on to direct MISSING IN ACTION (also 1984), INVASION U.S.A. (1985) and RED SCORPION (1988), and I think he was already showing some of that action movie energy in this one. In fact, one of my favorite kills is a stunt. Sara’s post-sex death happens when she looks out the window, and Jason bursts through the glass and grabs her. But he doesn’t come in – they’re on an upper level, and from the outside we see him standing on a ledge. He just yanks her from the window and hurls her outward and she plummets down to a parked station wagon, bounces off the roof, shatters the windows. A kill with four exclamation points.
I love that GLIMMER-MAN-esque zeal for glass breakage. Jason crashes through windows a couple times in beautiful shots worthy of painted posters, and there’s a classic moment where Trish is dutifully locking each of the windows and suddenly a body (Teddy I think) is thrown hard through a row of them, both scaring the shit out of her and creating an entryway for Jason (he loves that trick). Then, in sort of a one-upping of Sally’s famous escape from the house in THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, Trish leaps through an upper floor window, accidentally breaking through the porch railing and landing on the ground in a beautiful Christ pose (but with rain-soaked panties exposed. Sorry). Don’t worry, she’s okay.
All of those are enough to make this a worthy movie, but also there’s a part where their dog Gordon breaks through a window. I didn’t fully understand why, but it doesn’t matter. I respect it. Good dog.
But I didn’t really say what the best kill is and that’s because we all know it’s not one of Jason’s. It’s Tommy’s. After Jason murders all of the teens in the cabin, plus Rob, he goes after Trish and Tommy at the Jarvis cabin. Little Tommy earns his place in the Horror Hall of Fame with his homage to part II’s Ginny and her dressing-up-as-Jason’s-mom fake out. He cuts off a bunch of his own hair, maybe puts on a little makeup, and pulls his collar up (?) and then tries to convince Jason that he’s a young version of himself. As Jason is thinking, “Why would I think you were me as a kid, that doesn’t make any sense at all” he’s distracted enough that Trish machetes his mask off. And then while he’s thinking, “I’m glad you get to see my face, Tom Savini made it even more deformed” Tommy swings the machete and somehow achieves magic height powers to slice into the side of Jason’s head, I guess going far enough into his brain that it actually hurts him and he falls to his knees and falls forward and then (honestly this is the whole reason this scene is a classic) very slowly slides down the blade, his one animatronic eye turning up its brow in surprise.
That’s why you bring Tom Savini back.
Then little Tommy gives the camera a look to indicate that maybe now he’s evil or whatever (see also HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS). Almost as if this isn’t the final chapter and they are maybe leaving something open to return to if they decide to make another movie. Like say if they make one called FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING that will be released in less than a year. Who knows? Anything could happen. Sorry, Frank Mancuso, Jr.
CRYSTAL LAKE WORLD BUILDING DETAILS: Before Rob admits that he’s searching for Jason, he claims that he’s in the woods to hunt “bear.” I’m not clear why Tommy knows he’s lying, but I don’t think he denies that there are bears in this area, so I take this as confirmation of Part II’s claims and further reason to want to see Jason fight a bear.