Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Directed by: Adam Marcus
Starring: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Kane Hodder, Steven Williams, Steven Culp, Erin Gray, Rusty Schwimmer, Richard Gant, Leslie Jordan, Billy Green Bush, Kipp Marcus, Andrew Bloch, Adam Cranner, Allison Smith, Julie Michaels, James Gleason, Dean Lorey
Theatrical Cut: (out of 4)
Unrated Cut: 1/2 (out of 4)
Hey wait a minute! You’re not Gil Gerard!
Warning: Some Spoilers Ahead
I just know I’m going to get my ass kicked for this, but I somewhat enjoyed Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, a.k.a. Friday the 13th Part 9, a.k.a. another entry in a movie franchise that, like its monster/zombie/serial-killer Jason Voorhees, refuses to die (ok, it seems dead now, but you have to admit that a horror series lasting almost 30 years is very impressive). First, some history: after the lukewarm performance of Jason Takes Manhattan (I think it still made money but it was the least successful entry financially), Paramount had enough of the franchise and sold it to New Line Cinema (home of Freddy Krueger). New Line (with Sean Cunningham’s assistance) then placed Jason into the hands of a young first-time director named Adam Marcus (friend of Cunningham’s son, who before this was only a production assistant), along with writers Jay Huguely (he wrote the original script that New Line didn’t like), Dean Lorey (friend of Marcus, called in to rewrite some of the script) and Les Bohem (uncredited, he cleans up the script for its final draft). The result of this cash-grabbing, keep-it-in-the-family, panicky rewriting is… well, it’s something. Something dumb, but strangely fascinating.
The opening of Jason Goes to Hell is pretty good. Hot girl (Julie Michaels) shows up at Crystal Lake, hot girl undresses, Jason attacks out of nowhere, and suddenly intense bright lights appear as an FBI swat team fills Jason full of lead before blowing him limb from limb. Jason’s severed head plops to the ground next to his heart, which beats a few times before stopping. Thus ends the shortest Friday the 13th film in history. Well, not quite: in the post-credits autopsy scene, the coroner (Richard Gant) becomes mesmerized by Jason’s heart (which has started beating on the scale) and then… eats it. Then flashes of light emerge from Jason’s body parts and enter the coroner’s body – the man is now possessed by Jason! He escapes and returns to Crystal Lake, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
Mine! Get your own dinner!
OK, OK, I know. WTF, right? Well, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. It turns out that Jason can now hop bodies, using the same method that you saw in The Hidden (another New Line movie). For the rest of the film, Voorhees is basically a slug-like creature that enters the mouth, and his host bodies can take a lot of punishment before forcing him to leave (by the way, I remember reading something where the creators insist that they never saw The Hidden – yeah, right). But wait, there’s more: Jason is no longer an only child, as his mother claimed in the first film; it turns out he had a sister (played by Buck Rogers‘ Erin Gray) and she has a daughter Jessica (Kari Keegan), and by taking possession of either of them (or Jessica’s baby), Jason can be “reborn” into his original form (which conveniently includes his jumpsuit and hockey mask). But wait, there’s more: Jason can only be killed by one of his own, using a special dagger that is magically created from a regular knife once it lands in Jessica’s hand. Jason Goes to Hell is a trip to Retcon City. Marcus and the other writers have decided to truly go their own way with Jason’s backstory; this film shares hardly anything in common with the Friday films of Paramount except for the character of a killer in a hockey mask, and even then they only show you about 20 minutes of that! You know how people complained that The Dark Knight Rises kept Bruce out of the Batman suit too long and Iron Man 3 kept Tony out of the Iron Man suit too long? This movie keeps Jason out of the Jason suit too long.
The entire cast shows up for the 2-for-1 Jason burgers.
Jason Goes to Hell is stupid. And funny. And preposterous. And stupid. Did I mention funny? It’s basically Marcus and friends with their own Jason fan-fic, given a freakin’ budget by the cats at New Line, and only because they know somebody who knows Cunningham, who probably didn’t give a shit about his creation at this point. I sorta like it for the fact that it doesn’t care about previous mythology. Tearing up the mythology means a good deal of risk taking, which I appreciate in a film. It also means we get exposition from a bounty hunter named Creighton Duke (Steven Williams from The X-Files) who explains the plot, but just where this Duke character comes from or why he knows so much about Jason’s true nature is never revealed. He’s also good at insulting people (“You see, Sheriff, she is only your girl because she hasn’t had a taste of the Duke yet!”); on an America’s Most Wanted-type show, he says he’ll kill Jason for half a million bucks: “For that you get the mask, the machete.. the whole damn thing.” So it’s obvious that Duke is a takeoff on the character of Quint from Jaws, but just more of a jerk. For example, when Duke breaks a character’s fingers as payment for information, you might ask why, since the character might need those fingers later to fight Jason. Just forget about it – the movie eventually does.
Quick! Call Kyle MacLachlan immediately!
Jason Goes to Hell is a bit too silly and derivative to be rated too highly, but I am throwing in an extra half-star for the unrated cut, which makes this film the goriest in the entire series. The kind of carnage you get is: a girl being sliced up the middle (while she’s in mid-orgasm), heart-eating, a girl getting her head squeezed until blood shoots out the top, multiple bullet wounds, broken bones, an icky Hidden-like creature that enters a dead woman’s body through her – well, you know, and even a body melting scene! (The K.N.B. Effects Group do a very good job here). Other funny stuff: the local diner has a 2-for-1 Jason burger sale (the burgers are hollowed out to look like hockey masks), there’s a scene where Jason (in a host) ties up another guy naked to a table and shaves his mustache off before transferring into him (Jason likes to be clean-shaven, I guess), the fact that when a possessed host looks in a mirror, they see Jason’s original body (mask and all), an appearance by the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis in the “Voorhees House” (Sam Raimi let them use it from the Army of Darkness set), and the final scene before the credits, where a certain gloved-one makes a quick appearance. Jason Goes to Hell is considered the worst in the series, because Jason as we know him is hardly in it, it doesn’t follow any continuity from the last movie, it changes Jason’s entire mythology, it’s derivative, the score sucks, etc. Well, I agree about the score (it’s amateur hour when you hit your casio keyboard to sync with stabbing motions) and yes, it’s derivative, but I honestly can’t bring myself to care about Friday continuity at this point, or what Jason would-or-wouldn’t do/say (“Freeze! Get the hell away from her Ed!”). I think it helps if you just see this as a takeoff/spoof using the character – a particularly gory takeoff/spoof that removes the final-girl completely and replaces her with a demon-fighting trio (John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams). I know Friday fans think it sucks, and in a way they are right, but for a good while there I was entertained.
– Bill Gordon
Buy Jason Goes to Hell on DVD
Buy Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection on Blu-ray
Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness!
The DVD of Jason Goes to Hell comes with a commentary track by director Adam Marcus and writer Dean Lorey. It’s an interesting track for a few reasons – the first is that it confirms that they were both wet behind the ears and probably in over their heads when they made it, and another reason is that they admit in a few scenes that nothing really makes a damn bit of sense. (For example, why does Jason tie a naked guy to a table and shave him? No reason – Marcus just thought it would be a cool thing to do). Marcus admits that he wanted to shake things up with this installment, because if you wanted to see the “old” Jason you have 8 movies to go through. He also talks about script changes and fighting the MPAA. Speaking of the MPAA, they note on a few occasions that they think the R-rated cut is scarier for what it doesn’t show. (In truth, both cuts are un-scary. The story is too absurd to be frightening, which is why the unrated cut is the only way to go).
Finally, I guess it goes without saying that this is hardly the “final” Friday, since Jason X would arrive in theaters 9 years later. In the realm of horror, you really shouldn’t use the word “final.” Oh, those of you who are fans of Freddy vs Jason, you might be interested to know that the ending scene in this film (of Freddy’s hand grabbing Jason’s mask) was only intended as a goof (kinda like how the Alien-head at the end of Predator 2 was also just an in-joke, which of course led to the Alien vs. Predator movies anyway).