Monday, 6 December 2010

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

1984
Dir. Joseph Zito

Jason revives at the morgue and sets off to Crystal Lake on another killing spree. He doesn’t count on the resourcefulness of twelve year old Tommy Jarvis though.

By this stage the formula for a Friday the 13th movie had become very recognisable. Heck, one could argue the formula was recognisable since Part II! Each consecutive offering has essentially been a reworking of the one that came before it. Because of the popularity of the series thus far, producers didn’t want to deviate away from what had gone before. Therefore, The Final Chapter follows the same structure as its predecessors: Jason revives, stalks randy teens who are staying at Crystal Lake – completely unaware of the danger they’re in - violently kills them one by one, until only one is left. The final survivor, usually a girl, goes head to head with Jason until he is seemingly murderlised. Lather, rinse, repeat. The Final Chapter is slightly different in that it pits a family against Jason, as well as a house full of sexed-up teens. This film also introduces us to the character of Tommy Jarvis – who would go on to be a series regular for the next couple of instalments. A neat twist to the usual ‘Final Girl.’


Picking up straight after events in Part III – we even see Jason’s body in the barn – continuity feels a little more considered in this film (though that’s still not saying much!). There are police helicopters everywhere in the opening scene and the film just feels ‘bigger’ than the previous ones. There does seem to be an attempt to tie everything together and bring it to a head. There’s even a glimpse of Mrs Voorhees’ grave early on, talk of ‘the old legend of Jason’ and newspaper headlines about the previous killings. It would seem that since events in Part II, only a few days have passed until events in Part IV kick off. When his body is brought to the morgue, there is a feeling that this might become a hospital-set slasher in the same vein as Halloween II, Phobia or Visiting Hours. Alas, this is not to be the case – after he slaughters a randy morgue attendant and a nurse, Jason heads straight back to his old familiar stomping ground of Crystal Lake. Just how big is this fucking lake?


With the introduction of the Jarvis family – mother Mrs Jarvis, daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck), young son Tommy (Corey Feldman) and family dog Gordon – this film features a loving, albeit ‘broken’ family at its heart; a nice break from the usual randy teens. But wait! Before you can think to yourself ‘what kind of body count is this?!’ the house next to the Jarvis’ lakeside abode is rented by a car load of teens – including Peter Barton (Hell Night) and Crispin Glover - ready to party! As the teens hang out, skinny dip, befriend a couple of sexy twins and debate whether or not Jimmy (Crispin Glover) is a ‘dead fuck’, Jason stalks their every move, waiting until nightfall before offing them one by one. As before, a number of moments from previous films are reproduced – more bodies chucked through windows, creepy business involving bodies on boats and cod-psychology used to stop Jason in his tracks – Tommy Jarvis, like Ginny Fields (Part II) before him, makes Jason think of his childhood and mother, by shaving his head and replicating his appearance as the boy thought drowned all those years ago. Surprisingly enough, it works. For a while.



The characters in this are a little more fleshed out than previous ones - some of them are actually likable - and the humour is as intentional, though much less overt than Part III. Crispin Glover’s impromptu dance is a particular highlight. Because it’s a family in jeopardy, the stakes are raised higher and director Zito (who had previously directed another slasher The Prowler) manages to ensure the chase scenes at the end maintain a high level of suspense. A few expectations are subverted along the way – for example the death of Rob. It’s revealed that he has hiked into the area to seek vengeance for the murder of his sister Sandra (who was impaled in Part II while making love to her boyfriend). One would assume that he’ll come to the rescue of the fatherless family. He doesn’t. Another sly variation on of the usual slasher convention is that it is a young man who gets hacked up while taking a shower, not a girl.


The Final Chapter was intended to be, well, funnily enough, the last instalment of the series. Slasher movies were on the way out by 1984, and Paramount wanted to give Jason a bravura send-off. As such, original special effects guru Tom Savini – whose work helped make the original Friday the 13th so memorable and gory – was enticed back with the allure of killing off Jason one last time. Of course, the kills and the splashy effects of the series have pretty much been its calling card, but there was just something about the ones featured in the first film that made them stand out. Savini’s work has stood the test of time and several of those kills still remain brutally effective. Part IV features more impalements, machetes to the face, heads crushed against walls, axes to chests, corkscrews stuck into hands and even boasts the gruesome sight of Jason’s head sliding down a machete when Tommy impales him with it. And while this was supposed to be the final film (who’s kidding who, here?), the denouement is still fairly downbeat, with the implication that Tommy has been traumatised enough so as to have sinister implications on his mental state. The look he flashes the camera - which also becomes the film’s closing shot - suggests he could take on Jason’s persona and continue the Crystal Lake killing spree.



One of the better sequels, and had the series ended here, it would have provided a fairly decent send off.

6 comments:

Wings said...

Agreed. Had it ended here, it would have been a high point of an end. And somewhere down the road, a Tommy Jarvis as killer spin-off film could have worked. But, Jason was just too popular to die!

Good movie, I like it! The scene with Jason killing the dude in the basement is chilling.

James said...

It sure is, Wings. And one I didn't really expect! I know, how naive am I? This is one of my fave titles in the series. Crispin Glover's presence (and dancing) is a big draw! "Ted, where's that damn corkscrew??!"

Aaron said...

I love this one. This and Part 2 are my favorites but I can never pick one over the other because I love them for different reasons. It's like picking your favorite child or something! Well, not really, but you know. One thing that I do feel comfortable with saying, though, is that this one has the best Jason in the entire series, IMO. Ted White is fucking awesome in this.

Morgan said...

I have to say that the Final Chapter is my favorite of the series and for two reasons only...Corey Feldman and the Dead F**k dance!

Carl Manes said...

I love it for Ted White, I think he is one of the most intimidating men to play the character. Easily one of my personal favs!

James said...

Huzzah for Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover!