When the cast and crew went about their work on Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter it appears that it really was intended as a sendoff for the popular franchise. There had been a turnover at Paramount, and the powers that be thought the slasher cycle was pretty much over. Now whether any of that is true is anyone’s guess. Everyone associated with the project claims that that was their firm understanding from the beginning. Writer Barney Cohen insists that the Paramount brass made it very clear that he was supposed to kill off Jason with such Hollywood “grammar” that there was little doubt he was dead and gone forever. We, of course, know that Jason might very well be dead, but he’s far from gone.
It’s minutes from the events of the previous film. Police and paramedics are on hand to clean up the mess left by Jason in full 3D glory. Jason’s body is taken to the hospital morgue. Fortunately for Jason, the place is has a couple of teen attendants with those raging hormones that bring out the best in our hockey-masked avenger. After a little play time with the attendant and nurse, Jason is once again on the loose. Meanwhile a group of teens are moving into a remote house out in he woods. The only neighbors are the Jarvis family. There’s single mom (Freeman), daughter Trish (Beck) and young Tommy (Feldman). Tommy is a monster fan who has a Tom Savini-like ability to create killer monster masks and prosethics. He’s a bit introverted and nerdy. Little do they know that Jason is going to crash the new neighbors’ party. It’s left to Tommy and sister to take Jason out, supposedly for good.
It’s the typical Friday formula. A group of teens acts as fodder for Jason’s unstoppable rage. The difference is the introduction of a pretty young boy who ends up standing up to the monster. Corey Feldman would go on to be both famous and infamous over the next few years. Here he’s barely 9 years old and actually does a pretty good job. Let’s face it, these films aren’t known for their collection of A-list actors, and Feldman was certainly a step above the norm. Not that some rather famous talent hasn’t emerged from these kinds of films. Johnny Depp and the original Freddy nightmare come to mind. The other future name here is Crispin Glover, who like Feldman would go on to have a mixed reputation on and off the set. Glover can be an amazing actor at times, but he also has this rather incredibly creepy persona that doesn’t appear to be totally all character. Both Glover and Feldman have been known to be real pains to directors throughout their careers. Oddly, it’s Feldman at only 9 years old that we’re told was the real monster on the set.
The real story here is the return of Tom Savini to the makeup f/x department. That automatically means a step up in the effects and the realistic killings that had become the crucial missing element in the first two sequels. With Savini at the helm the audience is invited to linger on the effects, almost daring them to spot the flaws or the mechanics behind the magic. There are no quick cuts here. Jason is allowed to linger on his job. It’s certain that a good makeup f/x man is the best friend an actor playing Jason can have. The only real disappointment here is the look on Feldman in the climax when he attempts to make himself up as Jason. It’s not Savini’s best work. I’ve met him a few times over the years. I can tell you he LOVES cake. Every time I’ve brought up that particular makeup, his usual eagerness for talking about his work shuts down and he changes the subject. I get the impression he was not satisfied with it at all. The closest I ever got to a reply was a shake of the head and a “Gino, Gino, Gino”.
The collection of characters is pretty good. You get some dress-alike twin babes, a pudgy hitchhiker, the usual horny drug addicts, and a few nerds tossed in for good measure.
Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This is very much an average presentation. It’s nice to have the extras, but I think 2 discs and a higher bit rate was needed here. I suspect they will soon be out on Blu-ray in high definition. Then I can do a better job of evaluating the actual black levels and color. Here it’s all terribly average and colors are somewhat washed out. One of the kills happens entirely in shadow, but artifact issues tend to dampen the nice effect. There are some bad print scuffs and marks. There is a moment of fine detail. At 47:37 you can clearly see the wires suspending the character, while Jason lifts him in the air. Also you can tell that Corey Feldman has on way too much lipstick.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn’t at all expansive. No complaint at all. The original was mono, and I’m against overly changing the mix on these earlier films. The score was about the only place that the field expands any. Dialog is clear, and it all happens pretty much front and center.
There is an Audio Commentary with Director Joseph Zito, Writer Barney Cohen, and Editor Joel Goodman. They have a lot of fun, and it’s one of the better commentaries I’ve heard. They explain that none of them wanted that montage from the earlier films that opens the movie. We also get the sense that a ton was cut from the film.
A second Commentary is called a “fan track” and features young genre directors Joe Lynch and Adam Green. They are certainly passionate about the film and the series of films. You hear mostly how Jason influenced their entries into the world of the horror film.
The cardboard slip case has a cool 3D image.
Lost Tales From Camp Blood Part 4: (6:21) This is a continuation of the odd vignettes that started with the first film’s DVD release. It’s fan made stuff, and I haven’t liked any of it yet.
Slashed Scenes: (15:19) There is no audio to these recently discovered outtakes. Director Joseph Zito narrates the footage. It’s mostly the kills and how they were set up. It makes for good behind the scenes footage, but a major bummer: it’s silent.
The Lost Ending: (3:21) Again it’s silent, so Zito and Trish actress Kimberley Beck provide narration to the alternative ending. What’s in the film is far better.
The Crystal Lake Massacre Revisited Part I: (18:07) This is a mocumentary that acts like a Geraldo styled expose of the events of the first 4 films. It’s funny for a while, but it goes on too long.
No matter what Zito and the others say, this film never has that look of finality they all claim was demanded. Even if you take away the creepy Feldman glance at the end, which was added later to remove that “grammar” of finality, the film never appears any more settled than any film of this ilk. You pretty much have to take all of that with a grain of salt. Where there’s money to be made…. “Let’s just put that into the computer and see what it comes up with”.