Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter

Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter

by Joseph Zito

You know you're getting old when a film you remember was released 40 years ago. The film in question is part of a franchise and not even the original one, that film Friday the 13th is actually celebrating it's 44th year of existence. But we are jumping head first into the fourth instalment, 40 years old this year. The movie broke the summer trend of releases for the franchise and came out on April 13, 1984, yes of course that fell on a Friday. Friday the 13th movies had up until now come out in consecutive years but between Part III and The Final Chapter there was a gap year in 1983 and so Friday fans were aching for some more Jason action. However Paramount who distributed the movies back then were adamant that this fourth instalment would be the final one.

For Paramount the Jason movies were an embarrassment, the black sheep of their family to have in their catalogue. Granted the movies made money but the studio wanted to be one step ahead of the game and they understood that the sharp fall after so many sequels was going to come suddenly and hard, so this fourth movie would be the last. It's interesting to note that Part III made $36 million at the box office a jump of over $15 million more for the sequel but Paramount decided that it had noting to do with the qualities of the film but the fact that the movie had jumped on the 3-D revival bandwagon, and that had got bums on seats. They didn't feel that even a Friday movie marketed as the very last one would make the same sort of money, then it did and the rest is history.

Dyed in the wool fans loved the fact this would be the last one, it was fine to end the series like this and many of them but more importantly mainstream movie fans flocked to see how Jason would go out. In a marketing ploy which would be used in the future Paramount dropped the number from the title so the movie simply read Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. It's rival the Nightmare on Elm Street movies would do their best in some marketing countries to try and hide sequel numbers like Parts 4 and 5 and then that franchise did away with them for the sixth instalment and even changed the entire name to Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. Halloween dropped out after part 5 with the sixth instalment being known only as Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Even the seventh movie had a hint of the scientific symbol for water after being called H20 – which of course stood for Halloween 20, not part 20 but the fact upon its release in 1998 that the franchise was 20 years old although would a passing fan have really known that, perhaps they really did think Michael had got to 20 movies. Even Friday the 13th itself dropped the title on two occasions for 1993's Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday and a decade later for Jason X, although the X of course was a nod to it being the 10th movie.

And so The Final Chapter which of course would end up being only the fourth movie of an on going franchise that is now up to number 12 if you count the 2009 remake/reboot would be directed by Joseph Zito. Zito had experience in the slasher genre already having directed Bloodrage (1980) and the very popular The Prowler a year later. Bloodrage isn't to be confused with the same title and more well known movie that came out in 1987 but Zito's effort is worth checking out, a cross between Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and William Lustig's Maniac the main character visits sleazy New York targeting prostitutes. Every horror/slasher fan will be aware of The Prowler and so Zito seemed like the perfect fit to direct a Friday movie. Up until this point The Final Chapter would be graced with the largest budget for a Friday movie with a $2.6 million spend, 100k more than its predecessor which wouldn't be broken until the sixth movie.

The plot of The Final Chapter follows mostly the same one as the others, doped up kids going away to Crystal Lake for the weekend for fun times and sex times. Except we are introduced to the Jarvis family and this would end up being a significant moment in the history of the Friday the 13th movies perhaps on par with Jason finding his hockey mask in Part III as this film would begin the 3 movie battle between Jason and Tommy Jarvis – albeit by three different actors portraying Tommy and Jason. The very first was played by child actor Corey Feldman who would go on to star in some of the biggest movies of the 1980s including Gremlins, The Goonies and The Lost Boys. Feldman who was 12 at the time struck any viewer not just for his level of acting but the fact that he surely wasn't going to be killed by Jason as a kid, so it did add a different dimension to the film – still his mother and sister had to be game for a butchering. Another side to Tommy's character was his plethora of horror masks and this was obviously inspired by the returning of the God of horror effects at the time Mr. Tom Savini who had worked on the very first Friday movie. His touch is felt all over this one.

As for the teenage kids one of the stand outs will always be Jimbo played by Crispin Glover who would dwarf any star of the movies a year later when he appeared as Marty McFly's dad in Back to the Future – to note Crispin is 3 years older than Michael J. Fox, what the hell, they went with it – what a speech impediment and gelled back hair can do for you! Not to digress, Jimbo alongside his pal in crime Ted have some of the most memorable moments in the film as a comedy pair. This includes Ted having a pretend computer that tries to rate their chances of having sex on the trip, which Ted declares to Jimbo in no uncertain terms that the result of the computer finds that Jimbo is a 'dead fuck'. There is also the infamous Jimbo dance scene which feels like a lightning bolt has been put up his ass. A little bit of trivia for you – even though in the movie we hear Lion's 'Love Is A Lie' track Crispin Glover was actually dancing to AC/DC's classic 'Back in Black' so next time you give this movie a spin put 'Back in Black' on during this scene – trust me I have and it makes it even more hilarious.

So what made The Final Chapter not only an enjoyable and successful film but one which is still loved by fans and slasher fans 40 years on? Well every horror fan will tell you that they love continuation and while Friday the 13th would go on to struggle with this in the early stages of the franchise it didn't forget this importance back then. Even though the gap between Part III and The Final Chapter had been two years the opening scenes open as the third movie had finished, that is a huge giant machete tick right there. This is a slasher and we want to see lots of kill and blood and even though the MPAA did its hardest to censor the films The Final Chapter has some great kills which includes a head crush against a shower wall, the hacksaw to neck kill plus a neck brake, the knife through the back of a hitchers neck which comes out the front (what a waste of a banana) and lovable dancing Jimbo receiving a meat cleaver to the face. Jason Voorhees is this time played by Ted White and he went down with fans as portraying one of the best if not the very best Jason. There is a menace to his portrayal, and an anger. The way he nonchalantly throws one victim out of a window to their death is a highlight, in a slasher highlight kind of way.

Ultimately The Final Chapter delivered on Jason, it delivered on kills and gore it delivered on a good free flowing story which is re watchable, it delivered in a fantastic brutal finale and it delivered at the box office raking in $35 million in North America alone, that is equivalent to $100 million in today's money. With the hype and box office Paramount relented and green lit a Part V, calling it A New Beginning which was released less than a year after The Final Chapter. While die hard fans may have lapped it up there was a feeling of being ripped off and lied too that the end for Jason had come in this movie. In a sense Paramount just wanted another Jason movie out and of course Part V would focus on a copycat killer but with a hint that Jason was lurking in the shadows. Perhaps then it was no surprise that the box office returns started to dwindle from Part V onward and by the turn of the 1990s Paramount gave up the ghost and New Line took over.

Nothing though will ever take away from the fact that the early Friday the 13th movies caught in a cycle of slasher greatness which began with John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978 and lasted throughout the six golden years that followed it. There was an innocence of tension in these Friday movies, a build up almost akin to an Hitchcockian suspense, just done on a cheaper budget and with mostly unknown actors. Many critics have watched only clips and come away with an unproven theory that Friday the 13th movies are misogynistic, and yet we the fans know that the hero of the movies and the last person standing is female, heck the first movie put out an all female finale. When it was good the films were gold, they were lightning in a bottle. As the years roll on maybe newer students to the genre of horror movies and slashers will be able to discover that too.

David Bronstein, HMS

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About the reviewer:

David Bronstein is a photographer and music journalist that has written several reviews for HMS over the years.