You've got to laugh at the title. No one believed it even in 1984, but the funniest part is that it isn't even the only so-called final chapter in the series. As for the film, though, it's good. The damn thing's good. I liked it. Admittedly we're still talking about a slasher flick in which lots of teenagers get murdered, but for the first time in this series it feels as if professional filmmakers might have been involved in the making of this movie. There are some vaguely familiar actors, the cast have been given characterisation and the script isn't just cut-and-pasted from earlier films. That might not sound like much, but this is Friday the 13th. I was impressed.
The best thing, I think, is the cast. Several of them have personalities and even goals, which helps a pretty threadbare storyline feel like a narrative. I don't mean all of them, needless to say. Halfway through I realised that I didn't know who half of these people were, since they'd apparently been introduced by stealth and were only in the film in the first place in order to bump up the body count. Who's that? Do those two know each other? Ah, who cares. Nevertheless the film manages to have enough actual characters that we're not simply waiting for everyone to die.
The two lead boys are idiots. The first of them (Lawrence Monoson) looks as if he'd be good with the ladies and the other (Crispin Glover, who played McFly in Back to the Future) is the kind of uptight klutz you'd expect to die a virgin. Admittedly the odds of that are higher in a Friday the 13th film, but you know what I mean. Monoson keeps calling Glover "dead fuck", which eventually gets Glover twitchy and a little bit scary on the subject. Glover later puts some heavy metal on the stereo when everyone else is getting romantic, then asks a girl to dance and himself starts thrashing like an epileptic. Apparently this was based on the way that the actor would really dance in nightclubs. It's amazing. Nevertheless it's Glover who manages to have sex while Monoson's watching silent black-and-white porn films, which is doubly impressive since I think it's also the first time anyone in this series has managed to reach the end of a sex act without getting killed by Jason.
The girls are mostly characterised by their purity and/or sluttiness, but you'd be surprised by how much range the film gets out of that.
Hold on to your hats, though, because not everyone's a horny teenager! There are two houses near Crystal Lake and in one of them lives a family! They're comprised of pretty Kimberley Beck, her twelve-year-old brother Corey Feldman and their mother Joan Freeman. This is, like, aliens from Mars or something. What are they doing here? How come they're still alive after the fifteen-minute mark? Still more amazingly, two-thirds of them can act! Joan Freeman doesn't get a huge amount to do but is excellent with what she has, while Corey Feldman of all people manages to outdo almost every actor in the franchise up to that point. Admittedly he struggles with some of his characterisation, since they've lumbered him with being a bit of a perv who can fix broken-down cars and make monster masks better than most Hollywood professionals. At twelve? That's a lot to ask of a child actor. However he's still showing a lot of range, managing some genuinely subtle work in the quiet everyday scenes, while also successfully pulling off a huge role in the psycho terror finale. He's the same Corey Feldman you remember from The Goonies, Gremlins and The Lost Boys, although his career as an adult has been a lot less impressive.
I haven't even mentioned the hitch-hiker yet. The character's name is Rob Dier and he's here because Jason killed his sister, Sandra, who was indeed one of Jason's victims in Part 2
. That's quite cool, although I'm impressed by how fast he managed to hear the news and travel over here. There's a five-year gap after Part 1
, but after that the next three films are back-to-back. Each begins with the aftermath of its predecessor. If Part 2
takes place on a Friday the 13th, then by the time of this film it must be at least Tuesday.
Even Jason gets a bit of characterisation. Admittedly he still doesn't say or do anything except (a) kill, or (b) not kill. However he's considerably more direct than Freddy or Michael Myers in how he goes about it, going for the nearest warm body with a machete and not worrying excessively about any doors, wardrobes or other such inconveniences that might happen to be in his way. It takes him a while to get into the action, but you won't miss him once he's there. His finest moment is when he takes out a window half the size of a wall by throwing one of his kills through it. Furthermore there's still a slight presence for his mother, who's in the opening clips montage and later gets a gravestone marked "1930-1979 Pamela Vorhees at rest".
I quite like the story. Of course these things are relative and we're still talking about a great ugly chunk of the film being devoted to a house full of partying teenagers who never realise that they're being whittled down one by one. Even when only two or three are of them left, they don't twig. Gyaaaah! Add in the fact that we don't know who half of them are and you'd seem to be looking at a story so loose that it's disintegrating, but the film has a secret weapon: geography. In the first three films, it didn't really matter where anyone was. Jason could be anywhere. Here on the other hand we've usually got a very clear sense of where we expect him to be, giving the film a "base under seige" feel. At the beginning, he's being loaded into an ambulance and taken to a hospital. Scratch two annoying hospital workers. It takes him quite a while to get back to Crystal Lake, but when he arrives we soon realise that he's outside and waiting to pounce on any fool who leaves their house. This is nasty.
After he gets inside though, things turn even nastier. On top of that we've got two houses full of potential victims, so the script can happily turn one into a charnel house before getting started on the other. Stephen King talks about the Bad Place in horror and that's what we've got here, although entering the second house towards the end should have been a bigger deal. There's some tension once we're inside, though. Yes, tension! In a Friday the 13th film!
Then you've got the traditional Last Survivor vs. Jason face-off, except that for the first time in this series the results are rather effective. In the first two films in particular the Last Survivor's battle was virtually slapstick. Here however it feels as if we've got a proper fight on our hands. They really make it difficult for Jason, which of course makes him seem all the more unstoppable when he's smashing through walls, doors and goodness knows what to get at them. What makes it work is that they honestly meant this to be the final chapter. The fight's for real. These slasher films' third acts tend to be predictably one-sided, but here for once the finale's building up to a genuine crescendo as both sides go at each other like maniacs before Corey Feldman nails Jason with some more wacky Vorhees psychology. Of course no kid would ever really have done that, but in the context of the franchise's mythology it sort of works. Anyway, the result is one of the juiciest deaths in the series so far. Awesome. Now that's how you kill a villain. Even Jason won't be getting up from that in a hurry. Nevertheless somehow he's still moving, so Feldman goes machete-happy. I practically gave a standing ovation. After all these 1980s slasher films in which the heroine just pokes the killer with a coat hanger or something, it's great to see someone doing the sensible thing and mailing the limbs to separate continents.
For me, this is the film that would have turned Jason into an icon. It's a series that had always put bums on seats, but until now its star had always struck me as a bit silly. Here he's suddenly a genuinely memorable monster on the rampage, unlike the other slasher icons and at last deserving his place in pop culture.
I haven't even mentioned the important stuff yet! It's time to enjoy the lower the things in life... SEX AND VIOLENCE.
GORE. Harpoon in the groin! Yow ow ow. The important thing is that Tom Savini's back on make-up duties, so you know we're in good hands. Admittedly I don't know exactly what I saw in that shower death, but I'm pretty sure the guy wasn't enjoying it.
TITS. Three words: masterpiece of cinema. The imdb claims that this film has the most nudity of any in the series, although I don't know if that's including all those silent-era girlie films we saw during the party. Whether or not we are though, we're still talking about an encouraging level of boobage. Remember how everyone went skinny-dipping offscreen in Part 3
? All is now forgiven. The film isn't content with just whipping 'em out either, but also gives us eye-catching underwear shots and some distracting off-the-shoulder sweaters on those cycling twins. The girls even have breasts! They're merely a respectable size rather than King Kong, but that's still an improvement on Part 1
, to pick the most obvious example.
I've been enthusiastic about this film, but let's try to keep things in perspective. It's a Friday the 13th film. They're driven by tits and gore, with a lead character who doesn't speak and a story that's basically treading water until the kills. However for the first time in the series I felt engaged. The film feels confident, with entertaining little touches like the fat hitch-hiker. She made me laugh. Just as importantly, the film's avoiding many of the cliches of its predecessors and indeed the slasher genre in general. Jason doesn't walk slowly towards his victims. There's no dream sequence at the end in which a killer jumps out of the water. Finally and most importantly the cast aren't all teenagers, but instead include (a) some demographic variety and (b) actors who can act.
This film isn't complicated, but it fixes all the big complaints I'd had with this series. There's nothing mannered or silly about the finale, which cuts loose with Jason and his victims in a way I'd like to see more of. Besides, it's just so refreshing to have the likes of Joan Freeman and Corey Feldman in major roles. I'm looking forward to Part 5
now, even if people seem to think it's dire.