FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER
**** Out of 5
Tagline- Friday April 13th is Jason’s Unlucky Day
Release Date- April 13th, 1984
Running Time- 90-Minutes
Screenplay- Barney Cohen
Director- Joseph Zito
Starring- Kimberly Beck, Erich Anderson, Corey Feldman, Joan Freeman, Crispin Glover
Released in 1984 Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is considered by many fans of the series as the best in the franchise or the very least the best of the sequels. I personally favor the original and as for the sequels it’s between this 2-4 and Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives and truthfully it all depends on my mood as I often change my mind. However with that said its quite easy to see why so many favor this over the others and even if I disagree I also couldn’t argue against it. The Final Chapter was billed as the last, but Paramount would make another 4 films including one the very next year with a film they tried to take in a slightly different direction since Jason wasn’t the killer, but it failed and Jason was brought back, but that’s getting off subject. In many ways this was sort of the last since after this the Jason character would be quite different and he almost feels like a different character. The Final Chapter was the last of the more human like Jason, but there was always something supernatural about him, but in later sequels he was this indestructible force. The Final Chapter also in someways was one of the past of the golden era of the slasher film. I suppose 80-81 was the height of the popularity, but there was still more than enough life, but after this while there were still plenty of solid slashers, but I think even the most hardcore fans could admit it was a bit hit or miss.
The Friday the 13th films have a reputation of being body count films, which is true to some degree and people mention the sex and nudity, but in general these films under Paramount at least really didn’t have that much graphic nudity and there weren’t many sex scenes either. I actually think the first 4 at least are a little underrated as they were legit attempts at creating suspense and scaring the audience, the original film in particular and while I suppose without the sequels the original film odds are wouldn’t be as popular, but more cult, but I also think as time went on it would be a little more respected and I also think had the series indeed ended here I do think again they would garner a little more respect and while none of these films are as good as say Halloween nor would they be ranked as highly, but I really think they would get a little more respect as again they were legit attempts at being suspenseful and weren’t just about a high body count.
I really don’t think I need to explain the plot as there really isn’t much and what there is of a plot is more or less the same as the others. Jason (White) is taken to local hospital morgue where he again returns to life and makes his way back to the Crystal Lake region to continue his reign of terror. The screenplay was written by Barney Cohen and the the script is basically the same thing, but with new characters for Jason to dispatch. The characters feature little depth and are quite obnoxious at times, but they are however a fun bunch. The Jarvis family however are probably the most likable of the characters featured in these movies and have a little more depth than most. There’s also a nice subplot of Rob Dyer (Anderson) out for revenge for the murder of his sister Sandra (Marta Kober in Friday the 13th Part 2). Cohen’s script is pretty much the classic slasher setup and while by this time in the slasher film things were starting to get a little stale, but Cohen works the formula well and again even if the good portion of the characters lack any depth they are entertaining and are some of the more interesting characters in the series.
The film was directed by Joseph Zito who first made a name for himself in 1981 with the slasher film the Prowler, which is the movie that led to this. With the Prowler, Zito was first teamed with Tom Savini and a case could be made for the Prowler being Savini’s best work. Despite the cult status of the film it’s most noted for the gore F/X, which is quite understandable, but I also felt the Prowler had some legit suspense and tension. Also in 1984, Zito directed Missing in Action, which starred Chuck Norris and was for the Cannon Group. The following year, Zito would again work with Norris and Cannon on Invasion U.S.A., which the F/X were by Savini and in 1988 Zito would again work with Savini for the final time with the Dolph Lundgren action film Red Scorpion. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is probably the most popular of the Zito/Savini films. While not a great director in the traditional sense I’ve enjoyed the good portion of films I’ve seen by Joseph Zito as he knows what his audience wants and generally delivers on that. The pace for the Final Chapter is generally strong and it has a nice feel of eerie atmosphere. However the middle scenes can lag in spots, but Zito keeps the film fairly strong due to the eerie feel and while the final act is terrific it can however in someways repeat itself, but made up for in actually being quite tense. The tone of the film in someways feels a bit darker than the previous 3 or what followed despite the also fun tone Zito establishes if that makes any sense. For the most part Jason is sort of kept hidden until the final act, which was an interesting approach since by this time the mystery of the character is pretty much gone, but to Zito’s credit he works it. The death scenes are well staged as Zito has an eye for carnage, which was shown in the Prowler and Savini delivers some excellent gore scenes even if they are edited for the R-rating. Joseph Zito’s run was a bit brief, but he did make some enjoyable films and with the Final Chapter he delivers one of his best films as he establishes an eerie tone right from the start and maintains it throughout. While most people seem to favor this over the Prowler, which is easily understandable, but I’m a little partial to the Prowler, but you really can’t go wrong with either.
The one thing I love about watching horror films of the 70s and 80s is to see how many actors that went onto gain popularity or became character actors started in these films. Of course of all the Friday the 13th films the most notable would be Kevin Bacon and others would become soap stars such as Lauren Marie Taylor (Loving) and Renee Jones (Days of Our Lives and she also had guest spots on L.A. Law starting in season 3 up until season 5). The Final Chapter has probably the most impressive cast with a lot of the actors having at the very least a decent career. The biggest one here would be Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman. The following year, Glover would appear in Back to the Future and would have a nice career as a character actor with a large cult following. Feldman later the same year as The Final Chapter would appear in Gremlins, than would make a string of films with Corey Haim with I guess the most popular being the 1987 cult classic the Lost Boys. A good portion of the cast would appear in several films or even guest spots on TV shows as Erich Anderson appeared several times on NYPD Blue. Kimberly Beck in 1978 appeared in the cult favorite, but seldom seen Massacre At Central High and she would also appear on an episode of L.A. Law during the first season. In my opinion Kimberly Beck was the best final girl of the Friday the 13th films. As Trish, Beck delivers one of the better performances and puts up a tough fight throughout. Ted White plays Jason and along with Richard Brooker were my two favorite Jason’s. Both were quite imposing and intimidating and for the people who say Jason doesn’t run well you haven’t seen this part.
Overall the Final Chapter or better put the not so Final Chapter was an excellent entry into the series and the slasher film and as I mentioned in someways this was the last. I guess best way to describe it is this was sort of the last Friday the 13th and the rest would be Jason films (well except the 5th part). Joseph Zito would only make a few more films after this and after Red Scorpion in 1988 he wouldn’t make another film until 2000 and would make one more film in 2003 titled Power Play and than would retire from filmmaking.