I clearly recall when Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter came out. I was, of course, way too young to see it being only 8 years old at the time but my buddy in the neighborhood had an older brother whose mother took him to see it and he gave the two of us the bloody blow by blow. I had heard of Friday by this point but I didn’t really know what it was about. Other kids in my class had absent parents who would let their kids watch whatever and they would tell me all about it. About how they watched the movie from under the bed, afraid that Jason would step out of the shadows and kill them. Thing is, they never went into detail. My friend Brian’s older brother Mike spared no detail. We heard all about it and while I was thrilled to the core, I’m pretty sure that Mike’s detailed descriptions of spear guns in the crotch and hacksaws to the neck made sure that his little brother didn’t sleep for a week.
I couldn’t believe it. I’d seen some horror movies at this point but it was all in the realm of child-friendly possibility. Think what you will of those mid-period Lee/Cushing Hammers, the worst thing about them were the Hammer standard heaving cleavage from any given female cast member and that was what I was used to but I was being told all about kids having their heads twisted around 180 degrees! Are you kidding me, man? A hitchhiker gets a knife through the throat and sustains a shot of long slow death while drooling bananas? Who comes up with this shit? My friend Jim would later ask me if I could come over to his place and watch Friday part 2 and a short discussion between his mother and my mother made sure that I didn’t. At the time, I was pretty sure that I would never see any Friday the 13th movie. Everything seems either permanent of so far away when you’re a little kid. I had no concept that only a few short years later I would not only have seen all of the available Friday the 13th movies, I’d be a walking almanac of all things Camp Crystal Lake. I would sort them by preference and always at the top of the list, number one with a bullet, was The Final Chapter.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter picks up immediately where part 3 leaves off. Chris has been taken away, presumably to the loony bin, and Jason is still being processed, having taken a traumatic axe wound to the head. Of course, Jason isn’t dead. He quickly rises from the morgue, dispatches the attendant and a horny nurse and makes his way back to Crystal Lake for a little mass murder. This time, he targets a mother and her two children, the brother of a Part 2 victim who is out for revenge, and the required group of party hardy teens renting a small house. If you’ve seen a Friday the 13th movie by this point, you know what to expect. In short order, everyone is isolated from the crowd and dispatched in unpleasant ways. It looks like a clean sweep for Jason until he faces down the final girl, as usual, and her monster movie obsessed little brother, who more or less make sure that Jason isn’t coming back for any more sequels. Of course, we all know how that turned out, don’t we?
Paramount could have stopped here and still owned a platinum selling horror franchise. By this point, Friday and Jason had attained an iconic status and much like the current production process for a movie like Saw, they were able to kick a new Friday out every year. It was practically the same movie each time, but the same kids kept coming back. You couldn’t really stop Friday the 13th but Paramount felt like it was time to move on and they rolled out a real high note to end the entire series on. I always felt like the series experienced a series of popularity peaks and valleys. The first movie is a genuine classic and the second one took the ball and ran with hit making a movie superior to the original but fell short with the third part, a movie that I feel would be a complete waste of time were it not for the mask. The Final Chapter, though, was meant to end the entire show with a bang and the creative team delivered a script that, by Friday the 13th and slasher standards, was absolutely fucking stunning. They round out the package with a cast that is, for the most part, extremely capable and memorable. Crispin Glover is, arguably, the star of the whole show, meeting his own death with the kind of enthusiasm that only Glover could summon. There’s also the matter of a certain hysterical dance scene where he spastically flails his arms while his partner casually shakes her ass, hardly seeming to notice. On the other hand, pre-righteous teen star burnout, Corey Feldman, turns in one of the strongest performances in the entire movie. He almost seems too good for the role and is among the most natural and relaxed of all the cast members.
In comparison to other Fridays in the canon, the kills in The Final Chapter are hit or miss. Many are run of the mill stabbings, but thanks to the reinvolvement of Tom Savini, he brought a few new tricks to the show and was able to pull off some outstanding in and out stab wounds that hadn’t really been seen in a horror movie up to this point. A few kills, such as the hacksaw head twist and the crotch spear are among the nastiest in the entire series, but it begs to question, where the fuck did Jason find a spear gun and who needs one on the edge of Crystal Lake?
Over all, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is a solid slasher movie. Though it is as formulaic as some of the second string flicks in the genre and the whole slasher thing had run out of gas by 1984, having been strip mined by every independent studio in North America, The Final Chapter manages to still feel vital. Though Gene Siskel was leading the charge in declaring Friday the 13th an infernal device of Satan and a icon of mysoginy, it features what is probably the toughest if most underdeveloped final girl in all of the flicks. Trish physically takes Jason on with her bare hands. The Final Chapter also features what has to be a running joke. Though they play it straight, I absolutely refuse to believe that this was meant to be some kind of legitimate action device. There are more slow motion flying out of windows stunts in The Final Chapter than in any movie anywhere. John Woo and Sam Peckinpah combined don’t use this much slow-mo. There’s even a scene where the family dog beats a hasty retreat out a window in slow motion. Up to this point, I’d never noticed.
Apporpriately, the new release from Paramount is an unbelievably complete record of the flick. You get the usual remastered picture and 5.1 audio mix that the others have received, which is nice, but the devil is in the details, as they say, and from a supplemental standpoint, the extras round out a great package with director commentary, a funny fan commentary from Hatchet director Adam Green and Joe Lynch. There is a series of kill scene outtakes in the form of dailies that are missing the audio materials. These are great because you can see what they go through to achieve certain kills and the effects gear is often in plain sight. You also get to see the original ending, which confirms the fate of Trish and Tommy’s mother and more of those awesome cast and crew retrospectives.
Seriously. I hope you’ve traded in your boxed set for these upgrades because these discs, The Final Chapter in particular, are everything the boxed set releases should have been.