Friday, October 23, 2020

What's All This Then? | Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

The series not only gets back on track with the misnamed fourth film; it ramps up in a big way with a pretty great story and a more expensive production that includes actual actors. I kept blinking during the opening credits as one recognizable name after another popped on the screen like Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, and Erich Anderson (whom I know as Felicity Porter's dad on the TV show Felicity).

All the actors - even the one's I didn't already know - are much better than the casts in the previous films. Glover is especially watchable as the spazzy Jimmy (his dancing scene alone is worth whatever you pay to watch the movie) and Gremlins-era Feldman is a charming, nerdy kid who also feels like a real person. 

It helps a lot that all of these characters are pretty well defined and don't just fall into archetype buckets the way the Part 3 cast especially did. The plot is mostly driven by the old trope of having a bunch of young people vacation in the forest, but this time it's got characters I actually like. For example, all the Friday the 13th movies have an obnoxious "wild and crazy" guy who's super overt about how horny he always is, but Final Chapter's Ted is also revealed to be extremely lonely, precisely because he turns people off. I feel sorry for him even though he brings his misery on himself.

The established couples in the group also have their own dramas instead of being cookie-cutter hook-ups. Samantha and Paul have been together long enough that they're possibly too comfortable with each other and Paul messes things up by becoming interested in one of a couple of twins the group meets up with. The other couple, Sara and Doug are at the beginning of their relationship and sweetly realizing how much they actually like each other. Seriously, I could watch a straight-up murderless drama about all of these characters working through a weekend together.

(Incidentally, I thought Doug looked familiar, but didn't recognize actor Peter Barton as the guy from The Powers of Matthew Star. It's been too long since I watched any Matthew Star and I'd also completely forgotten that it also starred Amy Steel, who was Ginny in Friday the 13th, Part 2. Funny world.)

Final Chapter also adds another layer by having the group's rental house be next door to a home owned by a single mom and her two kids, Trish and Tommy (Feldman). So there's all this going on even before Jason arrives. 

Not that the movie waits that long to show Jason. After all, he was supposedly dead at the end of Part 3, so Final Chapter picks up immediately after with all of the corpses from the previous movie being taken to the morgue. It turns out that Jason isn't quite dead yet though, so once he dispatches a couple of hospital workers, he's back into the forest in search of more victims. 

That axe in Jason's head looked pretty bad at the end of Part 3, but my suspension of disbelief is high enough to let me buy that he was only mostly dead. The dude doesn't have a lot of higher thinking anyway, he's pretty much just a murder machine at this point. So if you tell me that Chris' axe was able to put him into deep shock for a while without actually killing him, sure, I'll bite. I'm not a brain doctor.

Another cool element in Final Chapter is Erich Anderson as a mysterious woodsman named Rob. I feel like we're supposed to be worried that he might be another killer for a while, but that doesn't make any sense and I never believed it. And there's enough secrecy around him to make him a compelling character even if I'm not afraid he's going to use that machete on Trish and Tommy. As it turns out, Rob is the brother of a character who was murdered in Part 2, so he's actually out looking for Jason to take revenge. I love that addition of a monster-hunter character and that the movie's paying attention to continuity with the rest of the series.

Since Final Chapter isn't set at a camp, but just in the woods surrounding Crystal Lake, it makes me retroactively more comfortable with Part 3's also abandoning the camp setting. With these last two movies, the setting has opened up a bit and I'm okay with that. Part of what bothered me about Part 3 was that the water on the property looked more like a creek than a lake, but I guess it could have been a tributary of Crystal Lake or just a little arm of it or something. I don't know. I still don't like Part 3, but being able to move past it to Final Chapter makes me feel a little more generous towards it.

I learned that Part 3 was originally supposed to be the final film to create a trilogy ending in Jason's death, but I'm not shocked at all that Paramount decided to make another one. What's shocking is that they expected anyone to believe that the fourth one was actually the final chapter. I remember even in 1984 and as a total outsider to the series thinking, "Yeah, right." 

And boy do they ever want to suggest a sequel. Jason may be dead (or maybe not, I don't know how this goes), but it took Tommy's making himself look like Young Jason to confuse Adult Jason long enough for Tommy to get close and do some hacking. That physical transformation combined with the trauma of the evening apparently does a number on Tommy's psyche, so when he's hugging his sister at the end, he's got a super creepy expression. The question the movie is asking is clearly, "Is Tommy going to become a new Jason?"

I know just enough about the lore of the following films to suspect that that's not the case (I mean, it's Jason's name, not Tommy's, in the titles of future installments), but I've got no idea what really happens. I'm super into the series now and understand why it's so popular. Really enjoying this.


Caffeinated Joe said...

Definitely a great film in the series. Makes a difference when quality writing, acting, casting and care all come together. The scene with Rob being killed in the basement is derided by some for being so out there, with his screaming. I find it all too realistic. What could happen if some maniac over powered you and you knew you were doomed? Scary stuff. Tommy and Trish Jarvis are great characters, as are the next door partygoers. All feels real! Love this movie.

Michael May said...

I'm surprised that any fan of the series criticizes any part of it for being over the top. I feel like anyone who enjoys the series has to buy into outlandishness really early on. So Rob's death screams for sure didn't stand out as any less realistic than anything else, and as you say, it's probably more real than usual.


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