December 9, 2013

Movie Review: Jason Goes to Hell - The Final Friday (1993)

1989 saw Jason leave Crystal Lake for the first time (well, second if you count the opening moments of Friday the 13th Part 2). The machete wielding killer got reanimated (again), hopped a boat and had a killer cruise to Manhattan, where he ultimately met an end at the hands of a daily flush of NYC toxic waste. The film did not do all that well at the box office and Paramount ultimately sold the rights to New Line Cinema. It sat there for a few years until the character was resurrected in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. It was not well received and its box office take backed that up, it started off a distant second to The Fugitive and fell from there. It ultimately took in a bit more than Jason Takes Manhattan, but that does not mean much.

It took four years to finally bring Jason back but it did happen. The 1993 movie was directed and co-written by Adam Marcus. He was a young director, barely out of film school and one of the youngest ever hired by New Line to helm a movie. This was Marcus's first credit and he has not had all that many since then, although he recently returned to the horror genre being involved with writing Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013). On the writing side Marcus worked with Jay Huguely, the bulk of whose career was spent on television projects (Magnum PI, Silk Stalkings). Huguely would then collaborate with Dean Lorey on the screenplay. Lorey was the man behind the screenplay for My Boyfriend's Back as well as multiple episodes of My Wife and Kids and Arrested Development.

Jason Goes to Hell is an odd film that stands out among the rest of the franchise. Firstly it ignores the events of Jason Takes Manhattan, for that matter, it seems to ignore the events of all the films except for maybe the first two or three (just long enough to get the hockey mask). However, it does recognize that Jason has been an active killer, creating all manner of chaos at Crystal Lake. Secondly, it is a very different take on the character, one that seems to take the little boy who saw his mother murdered tale away from him and saddle him with the concept of eternal, body jumping evil. It is a strange concept that is difficult to reconcile with the rest of the series. Now, you take it on its own, moderately interesting, take it as another in the Paramount series and it makes zero sense.

While this is far from my favorite of the series, but it is hard to ignore the ideas, which are not entirely bad. I learned while watching the Crystal Lake Memories documentary that there had been an idea of the series becoming more like an anthology of contagious evil. Not exactly like what is here, but an interesting connection could be made. You can also see an interesting parallel to Wes Craven's New Nightmare (which did not come out until a year after this), with the idea of an evil being freed to spread itself. Basically, they were looking for a new direction to go and this newly created mythology, while ultimately a failure, was a valiant attempt to shake up and reinvigorate the franchise. Kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. Try something new and get rejected, whereas of you do more of the same you can end up crucified as well.

The movie has a great opening sequence that takes us back to Crystal Lake. A lone woman drives out to a cabin and proceeds to strip for a shower. This mere act is like a siren's call for our killer and before long he shows up to do what she does best. The woman, wearing only a towel, flees the cabin and takes off into the woods with Jason in pursuit. It is your standard chase, girl stumbles, runs as fast as she can, while Jason walks with a purpose and manages to keep pretty close pace. Then things change, she falls, he raises his machete, she screams, lights pop on, and there is a swarm of special forces agents opening fire. The end result is Jason gets blown to bits, killed before the title card ever appears.

Following the destruction of Jason, the parts are taken to the morgue to be examined. Of particular interest is the heart, large and black. During the examination something happens and the coroner seems to be possessed, he picks up the heart and hungrily bites into it, releasing a lare amount of black goo. He tears into it like it is a steak. When discovered, he kills the guy and takes off. It seems as if he is being possessed by the killer drive of Jason. This leads to one of my favorite kills, fans will know the one I am talking about, the one in the tent with the spike.

A new character is introduced (well, a bunch of them) to help explain the newly created mythology. Creighton Duke (Steven Williams). We learn that Jason is/was merely a vessel for pure evil and with Jason blown up, the evil has been set loose and is jumping from body to body. We also learn about the legacy and responsibility of the Voorhees bloodline, how the evil can be reborn in a Voorhees woman and how the evil can be killed by a Voorhees woman (one of which is played by Erin Gray of Buck Rogers fame).

In between and around the exposition, we get a little bit of a whodunit. Well, sort of. We, the audience know whodunit, but there are question marks surrounding some of the cast members, especially a young fellow named Steven (John D. Lemay) and his unfortunate timing making him a suspect in some gruesome murders.

Everything builds to a supernatural conclusion featuring Jason, complete with hockey mask, a mystical dagger, some lights, and a bunch of big foam hands. Oh yeah, and a tease for a crossover with another horror icon under New Line's control.

The movie certainly has its moments, definitely has the gore (make sure to stick with the unrated version), and tries to make an interesting story. The problem is that I do like what has happened before and I do like my Friday movies to have Jason in them, not a body hopping evil entity. So, while I am entertained by it, I do not really care for it as a Friday movie. I know this entry has a lot of hate directed towards it, perhaps an unwarranted amount. Still, it kind of feels like a movie that was written not as a Friday movie, but as something else and had the Jason stuff forced into it afterwords, not unlike those direct to video Hellraiser sequels. I know that isn't the case, but it feels a bit like it.

To me, the series really stopped with Jason Takes Manhattan. The films, starting here, that came after never quite had the secure connection to the bulk of the series. These came in and ignored parts and made up new parts and just felt off. Watching it not as a Friday movie and I enjoy it more. There are good concepts here, but without the rest of the series to pull clues from or any further sequels dealing with it, this is a Friday movie without any real home. Easy to enjoy, just hard to accept.

Mildly Recommended.

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Cate said...

I enjoyed this. Although I have to admit to this being one of my favorites, I get about it being not quite Friday.

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