For the next seven days until Friday, April 13th, I’ll be watching and reviewing the movies in the Friday the 13th franchise from the very first through Jason X (I’m up in the air about including Freddy vs Jason).
I’ll be counting kills, observing the bad behavior that gets teenagers
killed at Camp Crystal Lake, chronicling the ways Jason and the other
killers in the series bite it at the end, and awarding my favorite kill
of the movie. Needless to say this is going to be heavy on the
spoilers, so if you’re some kind of movie virgin who hasn’t yet bathed
in the spring of Jason Voorhees et al, be wary.
Special thanks to Litmus Configuration for the amazing image above!
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Kills: 13 (One saw to the throat as a prelude to a neck twisting, one disembowelment by scalpel, three knifings – one throat, one chest, one head, one spear gun to the cock, one spear in the back, one offscreen and uncertain, one corkscrew hand nailing followed by a cleaver to the face, one defenestration, one one-handed head smooshing, one axe in chest through a fucking door, one destruction by gardening implement)
Best Kill: A night swimming lothario gets a spear gun in the crotch. Jason lifts the kid up in the air by his impaled balls and then fires the gun.
Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll: Making out next to Jason’s corpse in the morgue turns out to be a bad idea. Apparently hitchhiking while fat is against Crystal Lake rules. Mass skinny dipping occurs but does not lead to immediate doom. Solo skinny dipping does. Shotgunning beers happens, as does the smoking of dope, followed by the watching of vintage stag films. Sex with George McFly occurrs. There is also shower sex, but the real crime there is the singing that goes on.
The Comeuppance: Once again the victim of a psych out, Jason accepts Tommy Jarvis’ machete deep into the side of his skull and then slowly and awesomely slides down it.
The Movie: Friday the 13th Part IV: I Believe The Children Are Our Future, is widely considered the best of the series. I’m not here to challenge that assertion. Right from the first kill, this Friday entry oozes production value: they have a helicopter! When the authorities showed up to clean up after Jason in the last two films there was just a couple of guys in cheap sheriff outfits, but in Part IV it looks like there’s an actual, reasonable response to the massacre. You start to think that maybe you’re watching a real movie this time.
Don’t worry, you’re not. While there’s more money on display in Friday the 13th Part IV: A Boy’s Life, almost none of it went into the script. Sure, this is the best film in the series, but let’s not forget what series we’re watching here – everyone’s main function in this film is to maneuver themselves into a position where they can be gruesomely murdered by Jason Voorhees. Director Joe Zito and his screenwriters get this, and they put the focus right where it should be: on killings and on sex.
Friday the 13th Part IV: About A Boy has four major things going for it: director Zito, who had actually made a pretty good, grungy slasher film called The Prowler (and who would go on to direct Carl Cunningham in Invasion USA); Crispin Glover as the dweeby guy every one of these films needs; Corey Feldman in the performance of his career as Tommy Jarvis, aka the identification figure for every single nerdy male in the audience; and Tom Savini’s return with an extra helping of red food coloring and Karo syrup. It’s unusual for a Friday the 13th film to not only be well directed but also have not one but two good performances and strong and bloody kills, but that’s what makes this one special.
What I like best about Part IV is how the film opens with a hearty fuck you to logic (and I’m not talking about the fact that the early morning crime scene from Part 3 is suddenly drenched in darkness) – Jason was quite obviously killed at the end of the last one, and this movie accepts it, brings him to the morgue, puts him in the cooler… and then has him just get back up and kill a horny nurse and orderly. There’s not even a slight attempt at an explanation, and that’s appreciated. Zito and friends are saying, ‘Look, we know you’re not that stupid, and you really just want to get this movie going, so instead of wasting time on a resurrection here’s Jason back from the dead. Oh, and all those wounds he has accumulated would just slow him down and that’s no fun, so he’s healed too.’ Perfect!
One of the missed opportunities with this film was that Jason begins the movie removed from his comfort zone. Sure, Halloween 2 did the slasher in the hospital thing, but the Friday films never went for originality anyway. Having Jason stick around the hospital snuffing cancer patients (Friday the 13th Part IV: Youth In Asia) before heading out into a more urban – or at least residential – setting could have been a blast. Instead he lumbers out and begins walking back to Crystal Lake. I’m not entirely sure what his thought process is – he makes his first post-hospital kill on the road near his mother’s grave (she seems to have her own cemetery) right after a carload of teens passes by. Does he see the teens and decide to follow them? Motivation has never been Jason’s strength, but by Part IV it seems like he’s out to kill everyone who just happens to live in his zip code.
If Jason is following these teens, Tommy Jarvis has them to thank for his mother’s murder, since they rented out the place right next to the Jarvis house. It’s a weird set-up – deep in the woods around Crystal Lake, with nothing else nearby, are these two houses directly next to each other. Hell, even Rob, the guy who has come to Crystal Lake to get revenge for his sister’s death in Part 2 (big boobed Sandra) mentions that the Jarvises live in the middle of fucking nowhere. Anyway, the Jarvis family is the victim of the scourge of the 80s, divorce, and to top it off they’re really, really boring – except, of course, for Tommy. We first see Tommy playing Zaxxon while wearing an alien mask that he modified (not certain what that means in this case). Tommy’s room is filled with masks and puppets that he made, all of which are not only beyond his skill level but beyond his facilities and budget. But who cares? This is all in service of one thing: making Tommy Jarvis cool. Inserting a kid into a horror movie sequel is usually the kiss of death, but by having Tommy, with his love of monsters and peeping at naked girls out window, be an audience-identification character, we’re a little bit more tolerant of him at the beginning. And of course at the end of the movie he totally earns his keep.
Friday the 13th Part IV: The Butcher Boy is, without a doubt, the horniest installment to date. There’s one scene where all of the teens – including saucy twins! – take it all off an go skinny-dipping. Sex is on everybody’s minds this go-round, even the kid, who spends time gawking through windows and at the lake. We even get what might be a de-virginization in a shower. In previous installments some of the characters seemed content to just sort of be hanging out in the woods; this time all the rental twins are looking for ass. Even Tommy’s bland sister, technically the Survivor Girl this time, gets her panties a little smelly for Revenge Rob, although nothing actually happens between them. Heck, Joseph Zito even throws in a couple of extra pairs of tits by showing old-timey stag films. That’s serving your audience.
The sex and nudity are, of course, prerequisites in these films, but the real reason we’re suffering through any of this dialogue is to get to the kills. With Savini back in the latex-application chair we get some grisly fates being met, although they aren’t quite as imaginative as in Part III. Savini seems more interested in doing standard kills – there’s a bunch of knife kills here – in new ways. And more than any of the previous three, Friday the 13th Part IV: Tommy Boy is vicious with the deaths. In past installments people would get the knife or hatchet or spear and gasp and stand there for a second so we could see what was happening and then fall over, dead. This time around nobody dies slowly – each victim goes out like a fish on a hook, thrashing and screaming. Well, I assume a fish on a hook is screaming in his own fishy way, but you get the image. Each kill is wet, as opposed to the almost bloodless kills in Part 2, and every one looks like it hurts. This has to be the Zito influence; while the director would go on to do some action pictures in the years to come, he had made the really unpleasant BloodRage and an exploitation take on the Patty Hearst case, Abduction. These were legitimate grindhouse films, and he brought a lot of that sensibility with him.
He also brought an irrational hatred of windows. By my count at least four windows get smashed through, mostly in slow motion. The best of all of these is when a dog jumps through a window and gets a heroic slo-mo shot – I actually cheered! As far as I could tell, the dog is the most sensible one in the whole film, as he fucks right off out of the movie.
What makes Friday the 13th Part IV: Mama’s Boy most famous is the Jason kill, though. Tommy, having read Revenge Rob’s files on the killer leaps to a strange, but ultimately correct conclusion – he shaves his head and basically confuses Jason. We saw the same thing in Part 2, where simply donning a sweater short-circuited whatever is inside that deformed noggin of his, and now we see that a couple of minutes spent with a Lady Bic will do the same thing. Unmasked at last (and looking completely different than he has in either of the last two movies, but at this point we really have to be beyond minor things like consistency), Jason takes a machete to the side of his face, just about up to his nose, which he then slowly slides down. What really sells this kill is that Savini has mocked up a robot Jason head that has all these expressions as he slides and you can almost believe you’ve actually watched a 12 year old boy kill a giant retarded man, which is essentially why Edison invented the motion picture.
While Part IV is advertised as the Final Chapter, we all know that the marketplace is what dictates the life and death of franchise characters. That said, the film does a nice job of setting up Tommy Jarvis as the next killer – he’s obviously very, very deranged by his experiences (this would really explain Feldman’s future friendship with Michael Jackson), and the final shot of him staring into the camera is actually legitimately chilling.
Part IV was the film I was most afraid of revisiting. For the last decade I’ve had an image of this movie in my head, but I didn’t know how much nostalgia (the real mind killer) was coloring my recollections. But the film rarely disappointed. When I was younger and had a subscription to Fangoria I believed the film was better than it really is, and not in the ‘This is a pretty great entry in a fairly cheesy franchise’ kind of way, but in a ‘This is a truly great horror film!’ kind of way. Which is obviously just not true. But it’s as entertaining as I remembered, with some very nice touches – like ‘You’re a dead fuck’ and Crispin Glover’s dance and Tommy Jarvis inviting a hitchhiker he just met into his bedroom and tits, tits, tits – that actually make the non-killing segments worth watching.
(Side note: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter has the distinction of being one of the few films in modern history whose home video box was much better, and more iconic, than the theatrical poster)
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter scores:
Three and a half Retard Jasons out of four.
Next: Final Chapter my ass. Part two of the Tommy Jarvis trilogy. And the introduction of Fake Jason.