Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter Movie Review

I knew that Corey Feldman was in this one, but as I watched it for this October series I discovered I had never seen it. I was dumbfounded because I honestly believed I'd seen them all.

Click here for a list of all other films reviewed and considered for this October 2012 series of horror reviews.

You might think that by the time a horror series gets to its third sequel it could have little to no redeeming value. The thing is, after Friday the 13th Part III, the series had almost nowhere to go but up. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is by far the best in the series up to that point. That’s merely a comment on the film’s technical merits and story, but not the horror elements which remain feeble and not frightening.

It is certainly helped along by the presence of Crispin Glover in one of his first screen roles and a boy Corey Feldman as Tommy Jarvis, the only character besides Jason to make it through three movies. Glover does his soft-spoken Glover thing as Jimmy, one of the doomed youths who’ve decided to spend a weekend at a vacation home in the woods not far from Crystal Lake.

This is now a day after the events of Part III which means all three sequels take place in the same week. Although Jason took an axe to the head to close the last movie, he wakes up in the morgue to kill a doctor and a nurse so he can make his way home. Along the way a female hitchhiker is done in, her presence in the movie explained only by the need to increase the body count I guess.

Whereas it was possible to maintain the fantasy that Jason was a person through the previous films, now he is undoubtedly a monster risen from the dead. This changes the dynamic and the audience’s approach. It’s no longer a demented psychotic horror show but a monster movie. The terror aspect is not quite the same under these circumstances. And because director Joseph Zito knew that audiences were already familiar with Jason’s modus operandi, he could avoid all the silly point of view camera work and just start showing Jason fully.

The addition of a child to the cast adds an element of suspense heretofore unfelt, although does anyone think that writers Barney Cohen and Bruce Hidemi Sakow are crass enough to kill a child? Then again, Part III featured a character who says she’s pregnant – a completely superfluous detail to include for a victim in a slasher film. Feldman’s Tommy is a makeup and scary masks aficionado, probably somewhat modeled on Tom Savini, who returns as the makeup effects artist after a two film absence. Some of the creature masks on display in his bedroom are actually pretty damn cool and are really the best thing about the film.

Tommy lives in a secluded house in the woods with his mother, sister, and Gordon, their lovable retriever. The other potential victims are staying in the lake house next door. The final character in the mix is Rob (Erich Anderson), the big strong alpha male who will be there to help protect the helpless female lead at the end. He claims he’s come to the woods to hunt bear, but seems awfully interested in the fact that a group of young people is staying nearby.

Overall the writing is not terrible (a ringing endorsement, no?), but the entire purpose seems to be to set up a turn in the series establishing Tommy as a kid so traumatized by what he’ witnessed that he becomes the series’ antagonist after donning the boy Jason’s deformed look in order to trick him at the end. After Jason already survived a hanging and an axe to the head I’m not sure why we’re expected to believe a knife to the head spells his end. But Joseph Zito's direction keeps the gore nearly to a minimum, an odd stylistic choice given the presence of Savini on the crew.

The final chapter this certainly was not. I believe it was meant to be the end of Jason but he was brought back in Part VI by popular demand.

Deaths (with my rating out of 10)

Total deaths: 14 (13 on screen)
Average rating: 4.29/10
Highest rating: 8

Ratings are based on my personal reaction to the killing taking into account factors such as shock, surprise, and fear, as well as the creativity involved and how graphic it is.

1.       Axel has his throat cut with a hack saw and then his head is twisted off (7).
2.       Nurse Morgan takes a scalpel to the stomach and has her innards ripped (5).
3.       The hitchhiker takes a knife through the back of her neck and we see it come through her throat (3).
4.       Samantha, while floating on a rubber raft on the lake, is stabbed from the bottom with a machete (4).
5.       Paul is harpooned in the dick and then hoisted in the air (8).
6.       Terri is harpooned in the back (seen in shadow) and then thrown against the house (4).
7.       Mrs. Jarvis is killed off screen. Her body is never seen (1).
8.       Jimmy’s hand is pinned to the kitchen counter with a corkscrew, then he is knifed in the head (6).
9.       Tina is thrown out a second floor window and lands on a car (2).
10.   Ted takes a knife to the back of the head through a movie screen (3).
11.   Doug has his head crushed slowly against the shower wall (6).
12.   Sara takes an axe to the chest after it is thrown through a door (4).
13.   Rob is hacked at several times with a gardening claw (2).
14.   Jason gets a computer smashed on his head, takes a hammer claw to the back, and his head is hacked many times with a machete (5).

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