I was in the second grade when this movie came out back in 1984. It was also one of the few movies in this endless series to actually open on Friday the 13th. Looking back, it was interesting to see 8 and 9 year old kids get super excited about a movie they had no business watching at that age. Whether adults liked it or not, these movies played a big part in our young lives. They were to my generation what the “Saw” and “Paranormal Activity” movies are to today’s generation of kids. The sight of bloody violence on the big screen, as opposed to real life, is still exciting to watch, and that has been the case for longer than any of us can remember.
“Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter” was the first film in what became known as the Tommy Jarvis trilogy. The other films in this trilogy were “Part V: A New Beginning” and “Part VI: Jason Lives.” Tommy is played in “The Final Chapter” by Corey Feldman, and he plays Tommy with a lot of glee as he delights in making all sorts of scary masks he can hide behind, but that glee soon becomes undone by Jason’s bloody rampage, and this film marked the character’s descent into madness which was eventually cut short by a much needed franchise retcon.
To see Feldman before he developed a nasty drug habit (which he has since overcome) and before he starred in “The Goonies” and “The Lost Boys” does feel strange as we have gotten so used to him as an older guy. Watching him jumping up and down in his bed when he sees one of the women next door undress brings back a lot of memories. I also admired how fast he was in shaving off his hair so he could look like Jason as a boy, and he managed to do that in record time while Jason was waving that rusty machete at his big sister.
It’s important to note that when Jason got an ax to the head in “Part 3-D,” that was the first time in the series where he actually got killed off. Jason didn’t appear in “Friday the 13th” until the very end when he gave us one of the biggest jumps out of your seat moments in movie history. He wasn’t even killed off in “Part II.” Sure he got his ass kicked, but it was not a fatal blow for he was slowly grabbing his machete while our virginal heroes walked away. When Part III came along, it was assumed that Jason finally met his maker. That is, until Paramount Pictures realized they made $36 million off a movie with a budget of $2.5 million.
When “The Final Chapter” starts, the police have arrived at Crystal Lake and Jason (wearing the hockey mask that was first introduced in “Part III”) is being shipped off to the morgue for an autopsy. When he arrives at the hospital, Jason is dropped off in the care of the biggest slob of a doctor/coroner any medical facility has ever seen, Axel (Bruce Mahler). Seeing him slobber all over his burrito like a dog, watching women in skin tight spandex clothing doing aerobics (with the volume on mute no less) makes one wonder how he can keep a job let alone get hired. Axel ends up making out with Nurse Morgan (Lisa Freeman) even though she is utterly repulsed by him. Of course, if common sense was used by any characters in this movie, it would be no longer than 30 minutes. Who wants to see a slasher film that short? These two get murdered (big surprise), and Jason somehow makes it pass security with his hockey mask on and heads back to Crystal Lake.
Well actually, he ends up going next door to Crystal Lake and drops in on a mother and her two kids who have rented the adjacent house next to another where a bunch of teens are looking to have a good time which means drinking lots of beer, smoking lots of pot, watching vintage porno movies, having as much premarital sex as humanly possible and indulging in some mandatory skinny dipping. You know, the normal weekend in Las Vegas. You know what happens next; Jason proceeds to do his Benihana act on everybody like a drunk with power landlord who never hesitates to evict tenants who haven’t paid their rent in months.
The “Friday the 13th” movies have usually featured actors who you never really hear from again, but aside from Feldman there is another actor who we still see in movies today: Crispin Glover. He plays Jimmy, a man who has had no real luck with women. Throughout the movie, he keeps getting woman advice from Ted (Lawrence Monoson) who seems to know everything about them. Guess who gets laid first. No, it’s not who you think…or maybe it is.
Glover is also a big kick to watch in this movie, and I’m not sure he’s changed all that much since. We get to see him here before he hit it big as George McFly in “Back to the Future,” and before he got all those bizarre panic attacks about doing the sequels which he ended up dropping out of. You also gotta dig his great spastic dance moves which more or less predated the break dancing era. No one dances like he does, and no one else dies like he does in this movie. Could he be as strange as the characters he plays? Maybe so, but these days he seems to be using it to good effect.
Of course, the one thing we do look forward to in these movies is the kills. Jason definitely gets some nasty cuts in they were most likely even more nasty until the MPAA came in and said no I don’t think so.
One classic moment features a guy getting it right in the groin. Oh to be in a theater when this scene was displayed on the silver screen. It’s one of the few times where you can see a whole audience of men grab their crotches, thankful that it was not them who suddenly got turned into falsetto singers. There is a nice shower scene as well which ends with Jason doing a Norman Bates routine. It’s not as suspenseful as “Psycho,” but it sure is a lot bloodier!
Much has been said over the years of how sexist towards women these movies are. Granted, there are some women (with very toned bodies no less) who are treated like sex objects with magnificent bodies to display, and who are out to seduce whatever men who end up locked in their sights. But at the same time, most of these movies feature women as being the bravest and most heroic of the bunch. They’re the ones who find the courage (even after they compete with Jaime Lee Curtis for the “Scream Queen” title) to defeat Jason after all others have failed (because they were busy making out or doing drugs). Why do critics keep forgetting that it’s usually a lone woman who is left alive after all this bloody carnage has reached its inevitable end?
This “Friday the 13th” sequel is also notable as being the last one Tom Savini did the makeup effects for. Having worked on many different horror films like “Dawn of the Dead” (the original) and “Maniac” among others, his work has a realism to it that is as uncomfortable as it is brutally effective. This is even more so when you look at the rest of the sequels where the kills began to look fake and were played for laughs more than anything else. Apparently, Savini based a lot of makeup work on what he saw as a combat photographer and soldier in Vietnam, so there is a real authenticity to his work we cannot ignore.
The director for “The Final Chapter” was Joseph Zito, and his credits include B-movie classics like “Missing in Action,” “Invasion U.S.A.” and “Red Scorpion.” Zito is one of those workmen-like directors who gets the job done and simply gives the audience what they want. Other than that, his style of directing doesn’t really have any distinguishing characteristics to it. It takes a lot of movies produced by Cannon Pictures to keep a director like this working because he sure hasn’t done anything else outside of that. But if Zito really enjoys what he does, then it shouldn’t matter to him what others think.
Playing the immortal Jason Voorhees in “The Final Chapter” is Ted White, but you wouldn’t know it since he had his name taken off the credits. White was selected for the role because he is a big guy (6′ 4″ tall), and he said he only did it because he needed the money. But White, for what it’s worth, gave this film a brutal and seriously terrifying Jason that ranks among the series’ best. He may not have been happy while working on this one, but White has no business thinking that “The Final Chapter” was a waste of his time. After all, he could have been in “Jason X.”
While this sequel is certainly dated stylistically, it holds up better than many of the others. It was also the last “Friday the 13th” movie that set out to be truly scary, and the series more or less went downhill from there. Even if it got a lot of the predictable hatred from film critics, it is nowhere as bad as some of the later entries, let alone the even cheaper knock offs it inadvertently inspired.
“Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter” is a movie most people like more than they would ever admit. Call it a guilty pleasure if you will, but it is an entertaining one even if it rots your brain like others accuse it of doing. Any guy who tells you they hate these movies has got to be lying to a certain extent, especially when they are just going out the door to see the latest horror movie sequel. They’ll say it’s different, but c’mon! Who are you trying to fool?