Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Directed by: Joseph Zito
Written by: Barney Cohen
Starring: Ted White, Kimberly Beck, Corey Feldman, Erich Anderson, Joan Freeman, Barbara Howard, Peter Barton, Lawrence Monoson & Crispin Glover
The fourth FRIDAY THE 13TH, blatantly billed as THE FINAL CHAPTER, was originally set up to be the last installment in the super successful slasher franchise. Seeing that this series ran for eight more films (with one more currently in development), the subtitle is laughably misleading. Still, that didn’t stop director Joseph Zito, screenwriter Barney Cohen, and the rest of the cast/crew from putting honest effort into this dead teenager flick. The end result is the epitome of the 80’s slasher (complete with silly clichés and enjoyable cheesy qualities). Packed with plenty of victims, creative kills, and a level of fun that just doesn’t quit, THE FINAL CHAPTER is one of the better FRIDAYs and would have been a suitable conclusion to a mixed bag slasher series.
Picking up one night after Part 3, Jason’s body has been sent to a morgue. This masked killer survived a machete to the chest, so why wouldn’t he survive an axe to the head? Of course, Jason Voorhees rises from the dead and returns to Crystal Lake…just as new teenage victims have arrived for a weekend of fun. While these horny young drunkards are certainly on the Jason’s bloody slate, a family living in a nearby lake house also find themselves caught in Jason’s deadly sights as potential victims. Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger shows up with a backpack full of weapons and a plan to take down the seemingly unkillable Voorhees once and for all.
The first thing that really sticks out about the fourth FRIDAY THE 13TH is that the victims are given far more personality this time around. Though most of this might be attributed to smarter writing and dialogue, there’s a solid portion that directly results from better performers as well. Familiar faces pop up with Corey Feldman (STAND BY ME, THE GOONIES) playing Tommy, a lovable rascal with a penchant for horror make-up, and Crispin Glover (BACK TO THE FUTURE) as a nerdy victim with legendary dance moves. Even the lesser known actors seem to be giving an honest effort as the typical teenage victims, while Kimberly Beck is solid as final girl Trish and Erich Anderson is enjoyable (but somewhat wasted) as grizzled Jason-hunter Rob.
Along with the victims being elevated above the bland idiots that populated the first three FRIDAYs, the kills are also off the charts creative this time around too. Director Joseph Zito apparently went out of his way to subvert expectations on where Jason would be coming from and how he would dispatch his teenage prey. Nearly all of the death scenes in this slasher are well executed (pardon the pun) and a few contain legitimate suspense. A gruesome shower scene stands as one of my favorite demises in the series, while a bloody surprise on a raft is another highlight. All of these gory kills are brought to the screen by horror make-up maestro Tom Savini, who also created the bloody effects in the first FRIDAY THE 13TH.
Speaking of which, this was supposed to be the final FRIDAY, which meant that Jason needed to bite the big one in a particularly gruesome, show-stopping manner. Tom Savini had originally constructed a gorier death to befall Jason: decapitation, which directly recalled his murderous mother’s fate in the first movie. Supposedly, the studio didn’t want that…just in case they wanted to bring Jason back for future films (something that was pretty much guaranteed to happen, even as FINAL CHAPTER’s production was wrapping up). This fourth FRIDAY’s finale still manages to go out in grand gory style. Jason’s unmasked appearance is far less cheesy than his Part 3 look, but still can’t quite match the deformed face from Part 2. The final seconds of FINAL CHAPTER also left enough wiggle room for the FRIDAY series to move in a different direction…something that Parts 5 and 6 utilized in a half-assed way.
THE FINAL CHAPTER is the best movie in the first four FRIDAY THE 13THs. It’s far from perfect, due to a couple of dull patches in-between deaths and stupid character decisions that made me roll my eyes. Regardless of those expected flaws, the fun factor, kills, victims, and gore overshadow this film’s shortcomings. FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER may not be the last film in the series (far from it), but it would have easily served as a satisfying conclusion to this slasher saga. As it stands, FINAL CHAPTER is easily one of the best FRIDAY THE 13THs and an entertaining 80’s slasher on its own merits.