MARCH 14, 2008
For some reason I started with part 4 for my two favorite horror franchises. Halloween 4 and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter were my introductions to Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, respectively, and both remain my 2nd favorite entries in the series (with Jason Lives being my favorite Friday). I saw it when I was like 6 or 7, and over the next couple weeks my mom rented V (New Beginning) and VI (Jason Lives), before announcing that she was sick of them. It would be a couple years before I saw the others (I think 3 was the last I got around to seeing, when I was like 14), thanks to friends and cable TV.
Final Chapter was also the first (and 2nd last) horror movie that ever scared me to the point where I had to turn it off. I was like 10 or so, up in Maine, where we “camp” in the summer (by “camp” I mean we have a fully functioning RV in a well lit and highly populated summer campground), and my parents had gone out to dinner or something, leaving me alone in the RV (NO they weren’t being negligent, our honorary relatives “camped” right next door and were home, plus I think my older sister was around), which had a TV/VCR. I put on the film, and by the time poor Teddy got stabbed through the projector screen, I was too freaked and had to shut the movie off until they got back (the fact that I slept outside of the RV, in a tent very much like the one the ill-fated Rob has in the film, didn’t help much).
(For the record, the other one was Halloween 5 – which I tried to watch when I was home alone at the age of 12, ON HALLOWEEN. I got up to the barn scene.)
Part of why 4 has endeared is that it was the last of the series to have any real ties to the others (other than the Tommy Jarvis character, introduced here via Corey Feldman). Parts 1-4 tell a sort of complete story of Jason’s origin, and the endings to all 3 sequels have thematic ties to the original. Also, 2-4 take place over the course of a few days; after this film, the timeline is pretty much the most convoluted in any franchise, including James Bond (if you go by this film’s claim that the first movie took place in 1979, and factor in the “it’s been 5 (or 10, or whatever) years” statements that occur in many of the sequels (which were all filmed no more than a year after the previous one), then part VIII would take place in the early 2000s). There is a minor plot hole with this set up (Rob has all of these clippings and research about Jason, due to the fact he killed his sister – but she would have only died about 2 days ago. Can’t he wait until she’s buried before hitting up the library and going on a revenge mission?), but otherwise it works OK enough. It’s nice to know that at one point they were at least trying (anyone who can figure out how Jason went from a tiny boy in New York to Hell, then to Space, and finally back to Springwood is certainly welcome to explain here).
This is also one of the few films in the series to feature actors you may have actually seen in something else. Other than Feldman, the big name here is Crispin Glover, who stars in the series’ most famous non-kill scene (his ridiculous dance). But Bruce Mahler from the Police Academy movies also shows up as Axl, the horny morgue attendant, and Lawrence Monoson appeared in the “not as bad as it could have been” Starship Troopers sequel (and according to the commentary, his casting was actually a demand from the studio). And the guy who plays Rob showed up in an episode of House. Plus, the no-names are better actors than average.
In addition to the casting, the film even has some actual production value. The morgue scenes are a nice change of pace from the “how many goddamn cabins ARE there on Crystal Lake” feeling you get from the other movies, and the opening scene has helicopters, ambulances, police cars... it’s great.
Like all movies I re-watch at the New Beverly, there’s a lot of stuff I never realized how silly it was. Like the newspaper claiming “MASS MURDERER’S BODY MISSING” as a headline (and ignored by the reader), or the idea of a young kid taking a very odd stranger up to his room with little suspicion from his mother. I also lost count of how many times the one girl says “Paul?” as she goes for a skinny dip (and how does her inflatable raft remain inflated when Jason spears the goddamn thing?), because the entire theater began laughing every time she asked again. Look, if it’s him, he’ll answer! Also, possibly the dumbest “chase” moment in the entire series occurs here – Trish goes to one door, but there’s a body on the ground. Then she goes to another door, and again, a body. So what does she do? Smashes a window and climbs out. Is there some religion that prevents followers from stepping over or around a corpse?
This movie also began implementing Jason’s teleportation abilities. Most obvious is when he kills Jimmy, the twin, and then Teddy in rapid succession. Jimmy is killed in the kitchen, some 10 feet away from Teddy. Teddy doesn’t hear his screams or anything, but that’s sort of par for these movies. But then it gets weird. The twin is then killed by Jason on the 2nd floor (from outside no less), and then Jason somehow gets back downstairs and behind Teddy to turn off the projector, then behind him AGAIN (Teddy spins around) to stab him through the throat. What?
Still, it’s one of the best sequels, easily. Savini’s gore effects are amazing, the kills come along at a nice clip without becoming a parody (like in part 5), and you’ll even like a few of the characters. Also, the fact that it started to “open up” the series (with an adult for once, plus a kid) was a good thing, because it made the movie feel “bigger”. And damned if that one dude getting stabbed through the groin (after sort of cheating on his girlfriend) doesn’t make me wince. Well played, Joe Zito!
What say you?