Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter (1984) aka Friday the 13th Part 4
Directed by: Joseph Zito
Starring: Kimberly Beck, Erich Anderson, Corey Feldman, Barbara Howard, Peter Barton, Lawrence Monoson, Joan Freeman, Crispin Glover, Clyde Hayes, Judie Aronson, Camilla More, Carey More, Ted White, Bruce Mahler, Lisa Freeman
1/2 (out of 4)
Warning: Some spoilers ahead.
Perhaps thinking (incorrectly, as it turns out) that people would soon tire of Jason Voorhees, Paramount released the fourth entry in the popular Friday the 13th series as “The Final Chapter.” A wonderful marketing gimmick (just like 3D was in the last picture), it works in the same way that late night TV infomercials do (“Call now! Supplies are running out! Last chance!”). What surprises nobody is that this is indeed not the final chapter; what surprises everybody is that Jason’s creators actually had the balls to pull the same crap twice with Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, which of course wasn’t the final Friday at all. It’s like when Lucy keeps telling Charlie Brown that she’s done pulling the football away and he keeps falling for it.
Not satisfied with using Steve Miner for a third time, they turned to Joesph Zito, who along with special effects maestro Tom Savini had created The Prowler back in 1981 (He also directed Missing in Action that same year and would direct Invasion U.S.A. a year later. That gives me an idea – Chuck Norris vs. Jason. What do you think, sirs?) Anyway, it isn’t hard to guess the plotting of The Final Chapter, since it is the same as Part 3 (without the 3D effects). Jason (this time played by Ted White), thought to be dead, escapes from the morgue and continues his deadly killing spree at Crystal Lake. Since an axe had been recently driven into his skull, he must have a hell of a headache.This time he sets his sights on two cabins – one featuring the usual horny teens, and the other a family, including Trish (Kimberly Beck) and her little brother Tommy Jarvis (a young Corey Feldman, at the beginning of his stellar career!). Once again, we see that Jason doesn’t seem to respect property lines, maps, titles, or deeds. Does he even remember where Crystal Lake is, anymore? No matter – what follows is a torrent of sex and death – rather nasty ones too, involving a throat slit by a hacksaw, knife through the throat, spear-gun to the groin (ouch), and a guy’s face being crushed by Jason’s bare hands. The movie scores more points this time around for two reasons: the deaths are more explicit (MPAA must have taken a vacation) and there’s more nudity (are they just figuring out that their audience likes that?) To help cater to our base instincts, we are given the twins Camilla and Carey More as “Tina and Teri”, because everybody likes twins, you know.
Casting is improved this time around as well. Kimberly Beck continues in the fine tradition of the spunky and resourceful heroine (you may have seen her in the infamous Roller Boogie), and we are also treated to the wonder that is Crispin Glover – he plays Jimmy, who is constantly teased by his friend Ted (Lawrence Monoson) for being a “dead fuck”. Ironic it is, that Jimmy will score with one of the twins and Ted will strike out with the other one. Naturally, Jimmy will meet an unfortunate end involving kitchen accessories but not before we see one of the funniest dance routines on film. Ted himself is killed as Jason drives a knife through a movie screen into his head, leaving a trail of blood on the screen as he falls to the floor. Blood trails on a movie screen – the iconic image for the slasher film, more so in my mind than Jason’s hockey mask.
This is a Friday the 13th film that delivers exactly what you expect and no more. It goes down the slasher checklist and signs off on each entry: idiots will skinny dip, idiots will have sex, idiots will separate and go off alone by themselves in the darkness, idiots will get killed in gory ways. The genre places constraints on this kind of thing, but I will admit that The Final Chapter is better than parts 2 and 3. It moves at a good pace, has amusing characters, and ends strongly. Don’t kid yourself, though – this edition is connected to the first film by only the barest of threads. Any traces of biblical metaphors or giallo influences are gone. Jason is iconic – an avatar used to carry out God’s punishment on the sinful. It’s all business – don’t expect to see anything like Jeannine Taylor channeling Katherine Hepburn in the mirror – but hey, at least it does its job confidently.
The imagery of Tommy trying to connect with Jason by shaving his head and telling him to “remember”, followed by going psycho on him with a machete is a sequence only matched by Jason jumping out of the lake in the first film. The decision to use Tommy Jarvis as some kind of conduit for the killer to continue on is equal parts silly and interesting. Silly because Corey Feldman never really gets across that Tommy might be capable of being anything other than a cute kid who likes video games and special effects. Interesting because there’s the suggestion that madness is just waiting to be triggered by a traumatic event. Part 5, aptly titled A New Beginning, would explore the psychology of Tommy (and the idea of Jason as a symbol, Keyser Soze-like). It’s an idea that I like, because the only way slasher films can transcend their limitations is by exploring psychological themes (madness, obsession) as well as legends and curses, symbols and metaphors. It’s too bad that nobody wanted a new beginning, only the same old shit, which is why Jason lives, on and on.
- Bill Gordon
Buy Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (Deluxe Edition DVD)
Buy Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection [Blu-ray]