Directed by: Joseph Zito
Written by: Barney Cohen
Starring: Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, Kimberly Beck, Lawrence Monoson & Ted White
Reviewed by: Brett H.
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By 1984, the Friday the 13th series had the slasher film down to an art form and after three entertaining films, changes were a brewing. Comedy had always been a large part of the appeal of the slasher craze and it certainly makes perfect sense considering the characters in the films generally reflected a mirror image of the ticket buyers. I have always believed that the series reached its pinnacle in the third and fourth instalments. Partially based on the thirdís strength as an amazing, action-laced slasher film that also featured the gripping climax from Part II and also because The Final Chapter really grabbed the eighties by the balls. The teen-sex comedy genre had come full circle by this point and in that sense, had mimicked the output of the slasher craze and had begun to phase out in terms of quality. Itís fitting that The Final Chapter combined outrageous (and some of the best) elements of the teen-sex comedy into a delicious medley of laughs and terror. The end result proved to be an exhilarating and subtly prophetic experience of what was to come in the series.
If there ever was a series that used flashbacks to the fullest potential, it was Friday the 13th. The film begins with a recap of the first three films in the series told over the glow of a burning fire and the legend of Jason Voorhees instantly swells onto the viewer. After that, we pick up right where Friday the 13th Part III left off; in a barn with Jason Voorhees lying dead after a rather painful experience. The medics load him into the ambulance and take him to the morgue where the guy performing the autopsy and the cute nurse heís always hitting on foreshadow the wacky antics of all that is to come later on in the film. After a hilarious expletive-laden faux scare where Jasonís ďdeadĒ hand falls off the gurney while the two are about to engage in some premarital sex, it turns out that, to no oneís surprise, Jason is still alive and well. And being in a hospital, he takes full advantage of a nice new bonesaw. Gotta love a creative killer that adapts well to his surroundings.
The film takes a turn into teen-sex comedy at this point where weíre introduced to the Jarvis Family and their new neighbors; a car full of teens. The most interesting of the group are Jimbo (Crispin Glover) and Teddy (Lawrence Monoson), who are the losers of the bunch who, like the losers in most movies, are infinitely more amusing than those who are higher on the pecking order than them. The fun really begins with some skinny-dipping, hot, beer-shotgunning twins and a special effects wiz-kid named Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) reaping full benefits of the nude chicks and promiscuity. Our masked maniac begins to pop up frequently, knocking teens off one by one before itís left to just he and Tommy and his sister, Trish (Kimberly Beck) in a thrilling, head hacking climax that fans of the series still rave about to this day.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is the best of all the Friday the 13th series. I used to bestow this crown with the more horror oriented Part III, but the passing of time has really brightened me up to The Final Chapter. At the core, the film works because of the boisterous characters that make up some of the funniest and relatable group of individuals ever assembled in a slasher film. The best scenes from the film involve the expertly callow intermingling of two very different, very alike chums. The epilepsy-inspired dancer named Jimbo is a genuinely nice guy who exists awkwardly, yet has that certain pizzazz about him that makes it so that even though heís different, it has people laughing with him rather than laughing at him. Teddy is the kind of guy that is a supreme Tom Atkins-style womanizer in the confines of his mind and his matter of fact, yet off balance views on women make him susceptible to consistently being shut down. Heís not misogynistic, just misguided; or at least hasnít learned the questionable art of fibbing for the ladies' affection.
The cast is rounded out by stereotypical, but surprisingly realistic and good-hearted people like the virgin and her nice boyfriend, the hot guy and the hot woman who are into games and then the Jarvis family, where child Tommy is the man of the house. If the weed puffing, Coors sippiní partiers arenít identifiable to you, the wholesome and loving Jarvisí will be. Tommy is the link to the audience due to his love for horror movie special effects (and astonishing ability to create them). The character is more than just a gimmick, especially since the horror fan always asks how effects are done so realistic in film, Tommy even shows a couple tricks of the trade in his bedroom of horrors. Itís like the filmmakers decided to give the audiences a hint of just how Tom Savini created the memorable and gushy effects that prove to be some of the best in the series. The kills are cringe inducing and creative and the film consists of a few stellar examples of how to use slow motion effectively. A favorite kill of mine involves Jason stabbing through a projector screen (where the character is watching old time stag nudies!), which must have been something truly special in theatres.
Itís tough to see these characters die, and thatís the beauty of The Final Chapter; it would succeed as a film even if Jason never picked up a weapon. But, a slasher movie it is as the film picks up the pace towards the end with bloody corkscrew and machete deaths that has Jason Voorhees and Tommy Jarvis battling a fight of epic series proportions. A lot of people say Jason wouldnít kill kids, but I donít know about that. I donít think Jason was going to play a two-player round of Zaxxon with the poor kid. For the last true time in the seriesí until Freddy Vs. Jason, Jasonís past and emotional tragedies are used against him and Feldman puts on a great performance. Situations like this really made Jason into a character early on in the series, which was lost in the latter entries. Ted White plays a good Jason, but the man behind the mask is a friend of mine in any of his many incantations. To be fair, once you bring a character back from the dead in a series that was soon to jump the shark and proved to be larger than life (or death?), is there really a point? The over-the-top comedy of this film was something I always picked up on as being a prelude into what the series would soon become. It wasnít as easy to spot and I sure as hell wouldnít want it any other way, but the series took a dramatic turn that was only to be taken further after it. If the series would have stuck to the tone and entertainment-value that made Jason Lives and The New Blood so valuable, I donít think many would have any reason to complain. Harry Manfredini is back with the score, and itís pretty much like every other score he did in the eighties. Iím not knocking the guy, but we all know heís not one to branch out too far from home.
With ĎDead Fucksí, nude twins, partying and an exceptionally deep (for the series, anyways) climax that rivals the best in slasher history, itís not hard to see why The Final Chapter is so highly regarded by slasher fanatics. Itís the one that kept things legit in the horror department while still branching out to comedy, and thatís a fine line that is often too far crossed, leaving everything disjointed. Here, the comedy accentuates the characters and impersonates its audience to the fullest, and what better way to bring viewers into a film than to have them caricatured (and subtly stabbed through the screen)? Paramount released The Final Chapter on DVD way back in 2000 and the disc features merely a trailer, but the Dolby mono track is free of hiss and the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is great, with the exception of some really potent grain during some scenes. It was also released in the From Crystal Lake to Manhattan box set with an almost identical transfer. So, it wasnít really the last one, thankfully, but The Final Chapter proves to be the greatest of the nudity glutted teen-sex horrors and a quotable, ironic and sometimes tragic experience where the reactions of characters towards the kills are as important as the murders themselves. Buy it!
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