12 Days of Friday, Day 4: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter

Editor Alex Vo watches a Friday the 13th movie daily until the reboot.

by | February 5, 2009 | Comments


Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is set the day following parts 2 and 3. Jason revives in the morgue, revealing his real nature as an unstoppable super-zombie, and returns to Crystal Lake, where a group of teenagers have rented a cabin across the house from a family (a mom, a hot teenage daughter, and Corey Feldman). This entry is most remembered for being special effects master Tom Savini’s return to the series, and its original intention as the series’ finale.

In my previous entires, I called Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter my favorite and now I remember why: here is a brilliant reversal of all the bad habits and creaky slasher mechanics that the series had picked up across three movies. The Final Chapter is fast, relentless. It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s sexy, it’s smart in its execution, and, especially important, it’s sad. As people are chopped, maimed, and drowned one by one, the movie is draped with with eerie, unstoppable fatalism.

That’s because director Joseph Zito shoots Jason as though he’s a specter, a mysterious force barely ever there. Until the final act, we only catch flashes of the man in the hockey mask. Zito is a master of audience manipulation: he barely relies on POV shot or the ki-ki-ki theme music, and forgoes the cheap tension of having characters stupidly wander around; for the most part, everybody stays indoors and Jason’s invasion of the home space hit me hard. Zito trusts the audience to simply feel Jason presence’s with minimal external cues, to get us questioning whether he’s actual there or if it’s just our imagination. And then when Jason does strike, it is always sudden, brutal, and shocking. This is the only Friday that I’d call unpredictable.

The cabin teenagers engage in soapy drama, talk about social anxieties, and endure post-party ennui, all of which feels genuine enough to call character development.  For once, the teen life is capable of maintaining its own tension. Crispin Glover’s performance is appropriately famous: he’s awkward without being pathetic, shy and endearing. It’s rather upsetting when he gets the cleaver to the fate.

Across from the cabin is the family house, where we find unlikely hero Tommy Jarvis, who lives with his single mother and older sister. During the climax, Jarvis cuts his hair to look like a young Jason Voorhees, distracting him just enough to chop him down with a machete while screaming “Die!” over and over.

It’s a fitting, exhaustive ending.

Zito came to fame with the 1981’s The Prowler, and from that production he brought over Savini, cinematographer Joao Fernandes (who shoots the wilderness in muted, gloomy colors), and editor Joel Goodman. This was a tight-knit production, unified in its vision to bring terror back to the series. It’s paced like a frantic B-movie, and delivers the goods without resorting on Jason’s image to drum up scares. A lot of the readers here have done similar Friday marathons, and if The Final Chapter isn’t among your favorites of the series, I implore you to go back and give it another look.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter Vital Stats:

  • Body Count: 14. Including Gordon, the dog.
  • Survivors: 2.
  • Number of stalled cars: 1
  • Skinny dipper survival rate: 0%
  • Famous 80s actor survival rate: 50%
  • Amount of time you have to live after losing your virginity: 4 minutes
  • Approximate number of times the term “dead f-ck” is mentioned:
  • Number of Jason-approved weapons: 8. Surgical hacksaw, scalpel, knife, spear, wine corkscrew, cleaver, axe, garden harrow.

Memories of Crystal Lake:

  • Todd Gilchrist of SCI FI Wire: “The fact that Crispin Glover dances in this film makes it worth seeing even without Jason Voorhees, but in comparison to the previous films (especially Part III), it’s technically proficient with characters who are at least vaguely interesting. Additionally, it introduces Tommy Jarvis, whom Corey Feldman does a great job making seem like a real kid thrown into the movie’s messed-up circumstances. But most of all, it’s really the last film that has the same, scruffy, unpolished charm as the original; starting with A New Beginning, the Friday the 13th films adopted more polish, seeming more like the knockoff franchises that the series inspired than the franchise that actually inspired them. The film grain, the naturalistic but definitely period-specific 1980s context, and the gritty, brutal violence all seemed somehow more sincere, which is why its scares continue to work today.”
  • Steve Barton of Dread Central: “Final chapter, my ass! This was the one fans were clamoring for. I remember standing in line for hours at the local theatre to see it go down. We couldn’t wait to see how Jason was finally going to get put down for good. And when he did? Holy sh-t! Still, though — getting taken out by Corey Feldman? Our dude just couldn’t go out like that.”

Tomorrow: No Jason? No problem! It’s A New Beginning!

Schedule of Fridays:

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