Friday, May 6, 2011

Franchises: Friday the 13th. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

Here's a rule when it comes to horror movie franchises: whenever a movie is proclaiming itself to be the final chapter, it won't be. That certainly applies to this movie, which claimed to be the final chapter and yet, it's the fourth film in a franchise that, so far, encompasses eleven movies (twelve if you count Freddy vs. Jason) and counting. At the time, though, it was sincerely meant to be the last one. By this point, the slasher genre was beginning to peter out and as a result, as well as due to flack they were continuing to get from critics and many other groups who hated it, Paramount decided it was time to end the series. Of course, this movie ended up being a big hit (due no doubt to the proclamation that it was the last one) and they immediately decided to power on and make more. But, even though it doesn't live up to its title, this is still a great entry in the series. Believing it was the last one, they decided to pull out all the stops: you've got lots of brutal violence and gore, more nudity than had been in any of the films up to that point, some memorable characters, a very threatening Jason, and the ultimate death for him at the end.

It begins with a recap of the events of the first three films, centering around the campfire scene in Part 2 (the DVD scene selection cheekily calls this first scene, "Let's Review"). It's a great way to open the film and get you ready for what's coming. Then, we see Jason's hockey mask against a black background and Friday the 13th appears in blood-red letters in front of it when suddenly, The Final Chapter comes whooshing in from behind, exploding through the mask, and displaying itself front and center, as Harry Manfredini's main title theme goes crazy while the opening credits begin playing. It's the best title screen yet, perfectly setting the mood for an explosive final film. It really impressed my cousin and I when we came across the tape at my grandmother's house when we were about thirteen or so and put it in. As a result, this ended up being the first Friday the 13th I ever actually caught a glimpse of. We didn't get to watch it long, for reasons I'll describe later, but it was a great way to introduce someone to the series and get them excited and interested in it.

After the recap, the film really begins with the police and the paramedics removing all the bodies from the cabin and barn where Jason went on his bloody rampage in Part 3. Jason's body is taken to the nearby morgue, with everyone believing the psychopath to finally be dead. Of course, Jason immediately revives, kills an attendant and a nurse, and heads back to Crystal Lake. His targets this time are the Jarvis family, who live in a house in the woods near the lake, and a group of rowdy, sex-crazed teenagers who've rented the house next door.

The Final Chapter is an interesting film in the series because it introduces one of the few recurring characters other than Jason himself: Tommy Jarvis, who ultimately kills Jason at the end and would be the main character in the next two films. Here, he's a twelve or thirteen year-old horror film nerd played by Corey Feldman in one of his first lead film roles and, I must say, I really liked Feldman as Tommy. I didn't find him annoying at all, he was a bit nerdy but not too much, and during the climax where he and his sister Trish are running for their lives from Jason, he looks believably scared. Plus, I like that in order to subdue Jason, he does something similar to what Ginny did back in Part 2. He shaves his head and pretends to be Jason as a young boy, distracting him enough so that Trish can whack him. Even though at the end they believe that he's potentially lost his mind with how he violently attacked Jason even after he was clearly dead, we know that Tommy saw Jason's hand move and, in order to protect his sister, stabs him again and again with the machete. That movement was probably just a reflex action but I like that Tommy loves his sister enough to make mincemeat out of Jason to make sure that he is dead. And, of course, the final look that Tommy gives at the end, which follows the infamous, "ki, ki," playing, suggests that maybe he isn't quite right after all (and as we'll see in later films, he wasn't).

Trish, Tommy's sister, played by Kimberly Beck, seems like your typical nice girl next door and while she doesn't have much to do, you really get the feeling that she loves her family with how puts herself in extreme danger by letting Jason chase her in order to save Tommy. She's also tough enough to take a fall out a window, get back, and fight off Jason with a machete, which is just awesome. Mrs. Jarvis, played by Joan Freeman, is a real mystery in that she disappears about halfway through the film. We never see Jason kill her; all we see is her wander outside, see something off-camera (Jason, no doubt), and gasp in terror. From what I hear, there is a deleted scene on one of the newer DVD's that does show them finding her body. Other than that, there's not much to say about her other than she does a fair job as a loving mother. The most wasted character to me is Rob Dyer, played by E. Erich Anderson. He appears out of nowhere, claims to be hunting bear, and inquires about whether there are any people at the lake, making it obvious from the get-go that he's actually after Jason. We later learn that his reason is that he's the brother of Sandra, one of Jason's victims in Part 2, and has a score score to settle with our hockey-masked antihero. And what happens when he finally encounters him in the basement of the teens' rented cottage? He just stands there, screams, and lets Jason stab him to death with some gardening tool. I know Jason came out of the darkness and caught him by surprise but you'd think he'd at least fight back, instead of just screaming, "Oh, God, he's killing me! He's killing me!", going out like such a bitch after all that buildup. Some people have compared that to a real crime that happened around that time but I don't care; he should have at least put up a fight. This is the guy that killed your sister, man! If you're going to go down, at least go down swinging!

The teenagers who rent the house are pretty run-of-the-mill for the most part. There's Doug, the handsomest guy in the group, played by Peter Barton. Nothing to say about him other than he's one of the few guys I've seen get killed in the shower in a horror film. There's not much to say about Paul, played by Alan Hayes, either besides the fact that he has a real bitch of a girlfriend. Said girlfriend is
Samantha, played by Judie Aronson, who apparently has a really bad reputation as a slut in her community and more or less henpecks Paul to death. When all Paul is doing is being nice to one of the twins they meet up with, she gets all jealous and stomps outside, deciding to go skinny-dipping in the lake (and get killed). She's a real bitch. Sara, played by Barbara Howard, on the other hand, seems to be the typical nice girl... and then she dooms herself in this movie by having sex with Doug in the shower. We can't have
that, now, can we? My two favorite characters by far are Jimmy (Jimbo) and Ted, played by a young Crispin Glover and Lawrence Monoson. These two guys kill me. I love how depressed Jimmy is after he broke up with his girlfriend and moans about how horny he is, as well as how Ted taunts him by calling him a, "dead fuck", and asks every girl if they want to give, "Teddy bear a kiss." It's
hilarious. Jimmy's stand out moment is this crazy dance that he does to this rock song during the party, which is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. He looks like he's having a seizure! (Apparently, Glover made that up on the spot and actually danced like that at clubs around the time.) As for
the two twins they inexplicably run into, Tina and Terri, played by real-life twins Camilla and Carey More, all I can say is they're two English sluts. I can't even remember which one is which. I know Tina's the one who ends up sleeping with Jimmy but is she the one who gives Ted a taunting look as she dances with Paul? I don't know and, honestly, who cares?

Joseph Zito is the director this time. He'd just done a slasher movie called The Prowler, or Rosemary's Killer in some territories, which featured some great work by Tom Savini (the only reason to watch that particular film, I might add) and was what led to Savini doing the effects for this film. In addition, the look that Zito brings to this movie is different from the past two films. It seems to be a bit grittier, not as polished as the previous two, and, along with the sheer brutality of the killings, makes this one feel much darker and more mean-spirited than the ones before it. Also, this movie could easily be mistaken for a porno by someone who's channel-surfing and stumbles across it at certain points because there is a lot of nudity. All of the teens who rent the cottage and the twins get naked, some even more than once, making this one of the "barest" of the series along with Part V: A New Beginning and the 2009 film. (Incidentally, the nudity was the reason why my cousin and I had to turn it off at our grandmother's house lol.) Feeling that this was the last one, I guess they wanted to get as much skin as they possibly could into the film.

I've always felt that this is the movie where Jason is genuinely intimidating and scary. From his threatening movements to the violent kills and whatnot, Jason seems to be absolutely pissed here. Ted White, a veteran stuntman and body-double, plays him here and it's no secret that he did not feel comfortable doing the role and also had many fights with Joseph Zito. He disliked the experience so much that he made them take his name off the ending credits. Looking at the movie, though, I think White's hatred of Zito and his not really wanting to be there actually helped his performance. Whenever he attacks someone, it's absolutely ferocious and violent, giving the sense that Jason is filled with rage (given the week he's had in the events from Part 2 to this movie, he should be angry!) It seems like he does a lot of damage whenever he attacks someone here and the final chase between him, Trish, and Tommy is quite scary. It really feels like he's going to kill Tommy when he crashes through the window behind him and grabs him (White has said that he hated Corey Feldman, so he probably did want to kill him) and when Trish puts a hammer in his back, Jason pulls it out, immediately smashes through the door and throws the hammer back at her, chases them up the stairs, and furiously chops down the door to Tommy's room. When he's about to get in, Trish smashes a television over his head but that, of course, still doesn't stop him. After he gets back up, he relentlessly chases Trish to the next house, now determined more than ever to kill her, and eventually forces her to jump out a window to escape. One of my favorite moments is after that when Jason follows Trish back to the house and she starts swinging Rob's machete at him. You can see him try to fake her out at one point as he tries to take it away from her and when he does it again, she puts the blade right between his fingers. I like the curious, bewildered look he gives to his bleeding hand before continuing his attack.

Jason also makes a lot of noise in this film. He gives some fierce grunts when he kills the hitchhiker and he also yells quite a bit when he attacks Trish at the end. The most interesting moment with him is when he sees Tommy pretending to be him at a young age. Tommy keeps telling him, "Remember, Jason. Remember,"  and Jason looks real perplexed upon seeing this. You can see him blink behind
the eye-holes in the mask if you look closely and he also does a curious, dog-like head-turn. I always wonder what's going through his head at this moment and what he makes of what he's seeing. He tries to touch Tommy, maybe to see if he's real, when Trish hits him with the machete, knocking off the mask. That leads me to the design of Jason's face this time around which, to me, out of all the different looks he takes on throughout the series, looks the most like an adult version of the young Jason at the end of the first movie. (Since Savini was involved, I'm sure that's no coincidence.) The only thing about his design that perplexes me is that he seems to be having some manicure problems here. His fingernails are long, black, and jagged on the tips, and I've always wondered what the purpose of making look that way was. It does make him more disgusting but why didn't he have that problem before? Why did he just develop it now?

As I've said, the kills in this movie are some of the most brutal in the series. Hearing that he could kill Jason off, Tom Savini decided to return for this one and he joined some up-and-coming makeup artists like Kevin Yagher and Alec Gillis in creating the deaths. The first one is the death of Axel, a pervy morgue attendant who likes to watch women exercise videos with the sound off. Jason slices his throat with a surgical saw and then twists his head all the way around. He then kills Axel's girlfriend, Morgan, by stabbing her in the stomach with a knife and then slicing downward. He kills this fat lady who's hitchhiking by putting a knife through the back of her neck and out the front. That one always makes me wince, especially she's still got some of the banana that she was eating in her mouth at the time. Samantha is killed when she swims out to a raft on the lake and Jason explodes out of the water right next to her, shoving a knife up through raft and out her back. Paul follows her out to the raft, panics when he sees her dead body, and right before he gets to shore, Jason stabs him in the crotch with a harpoon gun and then pulls the trigger! Ow! Teri's death is interesting because it's all in shadow: we see Jason stab her in the back with what looks like a harpoon before throwing her against the side of the house (how did nobody hear that?) Poor Jimmy gets a particularly nasty death and continues to get brutalized even after he's dead. First, Jason puts a corkscrew in his hand, follows it up with a meat cleaver to the face, later nails his body by the hands to the outside of the house, and finally rips them off when he's chasing Trish. Jason must hate
Crispin Glover! (He was probably mad that he didn't come back for Back to the Future Part II later on.) He smashes through a window, grabs Tina, and throws her onto the roof of a car. Ted gets a butcher knife to the back of the head. As I said, Doug gets killed in the shower when Jason smashes his hand through the glass and crushes
his face. He also gets nailed to a wall later. (Jason has a habit of hanging his victims' bodies up, doesn't he?) Finally, Sara gets an axe to the chest. I've already talked about Rob's pathetic death but shortly afterward, Jason throws his body through a window of the Jarvis house and you see a hammer sticking out of the back of his head.

The death of Jason himself is a high point in this film and, like that of Mrs. Voorhees in the original, it's the best comeuppance he could receive after everything that he's done. After he's unmasked, Tommy puts a machete right in the side of his face. That would be where most movies would end the death but here, they go even further. Jason falls to his knees and then face forward with the machete still sticking out of his head, causing it to go all the way through his skull and come out the other side! It's such a wonderful, gory death that you really couldn't ask for a better send off for Jason.

One thing that I'm sure anybody who sees this film wonders about is the fate of the Jarvis family's dog, Gordon. He disappears for a while and then suddenly shows back up when Trish and Rob go over to investigate the rental house. Gordon goes upstairs and then, we hear him whine and he suddenly smashes through a window. The question is: did he jump or did Jason throw him through it? To me, it looks like he jumped out but I'll let you decide for yourself. On another note, when the kids are lost and looking for the way to the cabin, they pass by some gravestones, one of which happens to be Mrs. Voorhees'. I thought it was cool that they came up with that connection to the original but here's the thing: it says she died in 1979 instead of 1980. I always assumed that the original film took place in 1980 when it was released but then again, it was filmed in 1979, so I guess the date makes sense in that regard.

Harry Manfredini's music for this one comes across as much darker and a bit more somber than the ones he composed before. I like the main title theme, the music that plays during the climactic chase and battle with Jason, the eerie music that plays when Tommy gives that strange look at the end (which you first hear during the opening when the police are investigating and taking evidence and bodies from the crime scene of the previous film), and the ending credits music. Of course, we have much of the classic cues from past films here as well and, until Part VII, this would be the last time we'd hear a majority of them.

While it may have eventually ended up not being the last one, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is definitely a fun, memorable film in the franchise and a great slasher movie in its own right, with some memorable characters, a darker tone and atmosphere than its predecessors, some truly grisly death scenes with some of the best makeup effects the series has ever seen, and a particularly ferocious Jason who goes out in a gloriously gory way. If this had actually been the last one, it would have made for a nice cap on the series. But, as we know, money talks and after the big success of this one, Paramount decided that there would be a lot more mayhem to come.

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