Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

... aka: Friday the 13th, Part 4

Directed by:
Joseph Zito

Part 3 was a huge financial success for Paramount (making even more than the first two films thanks in part to the added attraction of 3-D), but the studio still tried to pull the plug on this franchise well before its expiration date. Why? Your guess is as good as mine, though the documentary His Name Was Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th theorizes it was either out of sheer embarrassment that this critically-panned series was actually making money, or out of "moral responsibility," since critics and parent's groups both frowned upon violent slasher films during this time. Either way, this fourth film went on to make a boatload at the box-office, so the studio (regardless of embarrassment or moral issues - the bottom line is always money) decided to re-think their decision about burying Jason for good. The "Final" Chapter opens as Jason's "dead" body is taken to a morgue. He (surprise!) returns to life, decapitates the coroner with a hacksaw and guts the nurse with a scalpel. Then he stabs an androgynous hitchhiker through the neck while he / she eats a banana. A station wagon full of mostly obnoxious teenagers, and a pair of bicycling British twins, show up to Crystal Lake, where Mrs. Jarvis (Joan Freeman, from Corman's Tower of London) and her two kids; teen daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck) and make-up artist son Tommy (Corey Feldman) are already living. The mysterious Rob (E. Erich Anderson), brother of the Sandra character from Part 2, is also camping out in the woods wanting revenge on his sister's killer. The family gives each other a big group hug for cheap sympathy value before the shit hits the fan...

Unfortunately, the friendly and relatively nice characters from the first three films get replaced by a pack of obnoxious, hateful, unbearable "teens" who insult each other, crack stupid jokes and wander off into the woods by themselves one by one. Skinny-dipping, shower sex and stag film footage provide the necessary nudity and hammer, corkscrew, spear, butcher knife, axe and harpoon (to a guy's crotch) provide the necessary gore. The Tom Savini make-ups are typically excellent and this entry features one of Jason's most memorable demises, which helps make up for the characters. Ted White, who had his name removed from the credits, is Jason this time out, and the supporting cast includes Crispin Glover (showing off his impressive dance moves), Barbara Howard, Peter Barton, Lawrence Monoson, Judie Aronson, Bruce Mahler as a mortician, Wayne Grace as a cop and Camilla and Carey More as the twins. Kevin Yagher was on the make-up crew. The director had previously made the popular slasher flick THE PROWLER (1981), which featured more Savini gore.

So while "The Final Chapter" (followed up just one year later by "A New Beginning") is certainly nothing special, and pretty forgettable overall, it still does what is expected of it and, as a result, is a fan favorite.


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