It was my choice at horror club this week and whilst I had a variety of options the continuing saga of Jason Voorhees was back up, after part 3 had piqued my interest last week.
Friday the 13th : The Final Chapter (even though it is only the 4th film of 8 in the box set) sees more of the same, yet is more enjoyable than what we have seen previously. Pulling off the rare trick of a sequel being as good as, or better than, the original is not an easy task. Yet rising to the challenge, Joseph Zito achieves the impossible, with the 3rd sequel surpassing what has come beforehand. He joins the ranks of such luminaries as James Cameron and Francis Ford Coppola.
The Final Chapter is also notable for early appearances of some future film stars (and I use the word stars in the loosest possible term). Firstly we have Axel played by Bruce Mahler who is best known as Sergeant Fackler from the Police Academy films. You know the guy who is incredibly specky and accident prone. The laughing stock of the series (again I use the word “laughing” in the loosest possible term when referring to Police Academy). Well in The Final Chapter he plays a mortician named Axel who is one of the great sex pests, yet is somehow a hit with a nurse named Lainie (the first of many 80s lovelies in the film).
There are so many things wrong with this I don’t even know where to start. Axel. Really. Maybe I’m being harsh. In hindsight, given how much of a sexual predator he is, maybe he used to be in the gang with Loco, Ali and Fox (from part 3) and left them to reach his dream of looking after dead bodies.
Secondly, the guy from Police Academy is a winner with the ladies?
Thirdly - the guy from Police Academy is a winner with the ladies, who shows them a good time in a morgue. The mind boggles.
The next future “star” is Crispin Glover. Who, you’re asking? George McFly, Marty’s dad from the back to the future films. And if you thought George was bad with the ladies, you’ve not seen anything yet. Incredible given his dance moves......
George goes out on a high after finally scoring with a girl (hard to believe those moves worked) whilst his friend goes out high – literally. The obligatory stoner, Jason makes short work of him (as he does with most of his victims in this film. It's relentless. You barely go 5 minutes without a death.)
Finally, the real star in the making. Little Tommy Jarvis, played with aplomb by Corey Feldman. Easily the best actor in the film (not hard, granted) but the scene where he goes buck wild at the chance of seeing a set of wappers again is so true to form it is stunning. (While part 3 had a severe lack of breasticles, The Final Chapter corrects this wrong, and some!).
Now to the actual review of the film! This is a film that follows the age old horror rule that sequels have to be bigger to be better. There are more “dead f*cks” (each death more inventive than the last), more 80s lovelies (and wappers as noted before), more lovely knitwear, some stunning 80s hair jabs and more comedy (however unintentional). There are also some genuinely stunning shots here – the hint of Jason's breath in the morgue when he gets placed in storage, and the lightning strike backlighting Jason as he prepares to attack one of his victims. As discussed previously, these films are a “guilty pleasure” and you often lose out on some of the tension due to the fact that you are enjoying the sheer 80s-ness of it all. But when there are genuine jumps (of which there are a couple), these are bigger than they would be otherwise as they are so unexpected. Added to this the opening monologue / catch up for those uninitiated with the series from a group of kids you never see again, and you know that you are onto a winner.
Jason meanwhile is on sterling form. Given that this film follows on directly from 3*, which in turn followed on from 2, he has undergone one of the most incredible transformations over the few days. His hands are now black and his fingernails grow at an extraordinary rate, whilst his face has become more and more deformed. I like to think that this is a social and moral commentary from Zito reflecting the fact that with each killing Jason becomes more unattractive, only in his case it is physical. Not really, I love the fact they just wanted to make Jason more balls out and totally mangled his puss until it looked like a melted welly.
The real strengths of the film however are Trish (who has legs to high heaven and is constantly just wearing a shirt as if it constitutes a whole outfit) and Tommy Jarvis. Taking the fight to Jason, they last longer than all of his other victims (pathetic attempts at fending him off) added together. Tommy, who is more of a man than I’ll ever be – who the hell knows how to fix a car engine, he can barely even reach under the hood!) – is quick on his feet and presents one of the most balls out / freaky deaky endings you will see for a while. There is plenty to postulate on as to what happens in future instalments, and I for one can’t wait to find out.
*this film carries on from part 3 with the ambulance and police coming to pick up Jasons, and all his victims, bodies. However, this means that Chris from part 3 is left out on the lake / pond until the morning. Poor girl.