Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter

As you may have noticed, I'm sort of doing a Friday the 13TH retrospective without actually committing myself to doing so.  I told myself that I would not do one again because it just takes too much time and I think it may be too much to read at once, especially if it involves a multi-sequel monster like this franchise.  To go through the 10+ movies in this collection would drive me nuts, so I'm just taking one film at a time and not obligating myself to doing all of them.  So, let's roll up our sleeves and talk about 1984's Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter.

Up until this film, the movies were being released each year-part one in 1980, part two in 1981 and part three in 1982.  I believe it was the filmmakers' intention to make the movies an annual event, but with Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter and all the effort put into production, it needed to wait another year for release.  You can tell, too, when you see the opening shot of the crime scene left from part three, with the amount of police vehicles and ambulances...even a helicopter hovering overhead with a spotlight shining...some time, effort, and money went into this film.  Even the cast, still relatively unknown at the time, had actors you may have recognized in other movies.  Peter Barton was recognizable for a television show called "The Powers of Matthew Star" and a couple of episodes of "The Love Boat;" Lawrence Monoson was known for his role in The Last American Virgin a couple of years prior; Joan Freeman was a well-known actress for many years; Crispin Glover was recognizable in a few films and television shows; and probably the most recognizable actor-at the time-in this film was little Corey Feldman as Tommy Jarvis.  However, the popularity the actors and actresses had wasn't a detriment to the film because they weren't that recognizable to most of the horror movie goers.

As I'd mentioned before, I had this tied for the very best film of the series, with part two being just a hair's breadth better.  But don't let it deter you from seeing this, because many people in my circle of Friday the 13Th fans love this film and rate it as the best of the franchise.

As the film begins, we get the best recap of all the films, going through some of the best scenes from the previous films in quick cuts, all with the inter-narration of Paul's campfire story from part two.  After the opening credits, the film opens with the scene of the crime from part three.  Jason's still where we left him, in the barn, apparently dead with an axe to his head.  He's taken away and brought over to the local hospital's morgue.  But they didn't bother to check his pulse, because he leaves the hospital after killing the morgue attendant and nurse to go back to Crystal Lake.  We're introduced to the Jarvis family-Mrs. Jarvis (Joan Freeman), Trish (Kimberly Beck) and Tommy (Corey Feldman)-as they reside near the lake.  Soon, a group of teens arrive, looking to have a fun weekend near the lake, and rent out the cabin next door.  Will they all fall prey to Jason?  Or will the stranger, Rob (E. Erich Anderson), who shows up (to hunt...bears?), kill him?

Yes, Jason comes right out of the gate in such a vicious way, violently killing the two people in the hospital, so, right away, you know you're in for a treat.  The actor who plays him in this chapter, Ted White, probably gives us the best incarnation of Jason up until this point, looking very intimidating.  Though it's probably the last time we see Jason with human traits and personalities, including hearing him grunt when he's injured.  From part six and on, he's sort of a zombie-esque killing machine or a supernatural force as he never makes a peep, just going and going.  I'll give the best movie in this series to part two; but for the best Jason in the first four films, it goes to this one.

We've got some great special effects in this one and guess who's back with them in this film?  The one and only, Tom Savini!  It's been said that he was there for the "birth" of Jason and that he wanted to be there for the "death" of him.  Whatever the case may be, it was damned good to see his practical effects in this outing.  After seeing what was given to us in that department within part three, his magic was a welcomed presence in Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter.  He definitely gave us some terrific stuff in this one: the smashed head of Paul (Peter Barton) in the shower, the machete impalement of Samantha (Judie Aronson) on the raft, the cork screw on the hand and cleaver to the face of Jimmy (Crispin Glover), and, of course, the pièce de résistance we see during the finale (you'll know when you see it)!

Finally, out of all the films in this series and all the memorable scenes and quotes, the most hilarious and memorable scene out of all the films is Crispin Glover's dance scene.  I've read that the song that he was actually dancing to was "Back in Black" by AC/DC.  But due to the rights the filmmakers would have to pay, they dubbed in a lesser known song, "Love is a Lie," by an even lesser known band, Lion.  The spasmodic way he jerks and convulses had everybody in stitches when I first saw this in a theater.  This was unquestionably the birth of Crispin Glover's peculiar ways.

Although I thought Steve Miner did a tremendous job directing parts two and three, Joseph Zito takes over as director in this one, really improving upon the formula and focusing more on the performances, it seems.
Sadly, I see this one as the true final chapter of the whole franchise because the other films never come close to the feel of the first four.  What we get in the subsequent films are more silliness, bad acting, and a lot of actors and actresses who don't mesh well or weren't right for the part in the first place.  Because that's one thing about the first four movies...the friends in the movie really feel like friends in real life, with chemistry and things in common.  In the following sequels after part four, we see a lot of unlikeable characters, making us disbelieve that some of them would actually like each other, let alone want to be around them.  Some of the lines are even unlikely, like the "Does he think I'm a fart-head?" line or, my favorite, the "wherever the red dot goes, you bang" that's actually spoken twice in one of the sequels.

The films really go downhill after Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter, I'm sure mainly because of the atrocity that part five had been.  Even though part six kind of saves the franchise a little, it wasn't until Kane Hodder took the role of Jason that the franchise gained some steam as he put more life into the role.  Hodder took the role in part seven and continued on for three more films, until he was excluded from 2003's Freddy vs. Jason.  But even Hodder's presence wasn't enough to get the series back on track.  Poor casting and dialogue definitely contributed to it, as well as putting characters in dumb situations (female guitarist constantly filming a music video on a cruise ship?).  Although Jason was never made into a joke, like Freddy became in the A Nightmare on Elm Street films, his character kind of became a little tiring and predictable to take on screen.

Of course, like all franchises that run their course, movie studios decide to give up and just start all over, like they had in 2009 with the remake.  But they weren't ballsy enough to remake the first one by itself and introduce Jason's character in a second movie...oh, no.  They decided to cram parts one through three-with a little bit of four-in one movie.   As you can guess, I'm not going to follow this up with parts five and on.  I'll just say they've had some great ideas for films, but just couldn't translate them onto film correctly.  Don't get me wrong, they're all pretty much enjoyable, I just wanted to give attention to the best of the lot, ending with this one.

So, what's my final "bit" on Friday the 13TH: The Final Chapter?

The film screams 80s cinema all the way through-giving us a lot of night shots, grainy in some scenes, clearer in others.  It's one of the best in performances out of all the films in the series, absolutely earning a top spot in my view of all-time horror movies.  It's a great culmination to a renowned slasher series and you're going to hope the series doesn't end while you watch the climatic finish, but will have wished it did if you continue on to parts five and beyond.  All kidding aside, grab a few tubs of popcorn, park yourself on the couch and after watching parts one through three, one right after the other, continue on to part four.  It's a fun series. and certainly not a "dead fuck."

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

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