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The Test of Time: Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)

We all have certain movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? Do they remain must see? So…the point of this column is to determine how a film holds up for a modern horror audience, to see if it stands the Test of Time.

DIRECTED BY JOSEPH ZITO

STARRING COREY FELDMAN, CRISPIN GLOVER, JUDIE ARONSON, KIMBERLY BECK, TED WHITE

For the second year in a row, Halloween comes in April. Okay so not quite, but if ever there was an unofficial horror holiday that isn’t All Hallows Eve, come on now, it’s most definitely Friday the 13th. I’ve made no bones over the years about the fact I geekily, unabashedly rock out to as much of the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise as I can when this date of ominous superstition arrives on the calendar. And this year, no damn different! The only thing that changes is that, in addition to waxing nostalgic and reuniting with my teenage slasher fanboy self, I’m picking a favorite in the franchise to view through as fresh a pair of eyes as possible.

That’s right y’all, since FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER also dropped on Friday, April 13th back in 1984, it only seems apt we reassess how, by all accounts the best sequel in the entire franchise, plays today. Now, full disclosure, I just clocked this sucker again this past October (as one does), so I don’t anticipate a ton of surprises. That said, with its most impressive ensemble to date, with perhaps its finest director at the helm (Joseph Zito), with its production timing exacted at the height of halcyon day graphic slasher carnage, we know the title FINAL CHAPTER turned out to be a canard. Question is, when facing The Test of Time, is calling Part IV THE FINEST CHAPTER one as well?! Let’s find the f*ck out underneath!

THE STORY: Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it’s worth noting that Paramount wisely took an extra year between F13 parts III and IV. That is, instead of rushing into production as they did with part II (1981), and then again with Part III (1982), Paramount prudently took a step back, took the time to get the right writer and director, thereby waiting until 1984 to release the movie. So, from jump street, there was greater time, care and consideration for what was to be the conclusive entry in a massive moneymaking franchise. The result? THE PROWLER director Joseph Zito was hired to both write and direct THE FINAL CHAPTER, the former responsibility he balked at, claiming he was no writer. When he saw the amount of the check Paramount cut him for dual duties, he gladly said “yeah, I’m totally a writer”, took the money and ran. He then contracted the script out to Barney Cohen (KILLER PARTY, NICK KNIGHT), unbeknownst to Paramount, and the rest is hall of fame horror history!

As for the actual plotting, you already know what’s up. Picking up precisely where the previous picture left off (the last time the franchise would do this), good old Jason Voorhees – hockey-masked-slasher-maestro – is thought dead and whisked off to a local hospital. He revives, as always, gorily vitiates a horny doctor with a limb-saw across the throat, and heads back to the place he’s most comfortable: Camp Crystal Lake. There he targets a fresh crop of assorted teenagers, including a who’s-who of 80s stars like Crispin Glover, Judie Aaronson (WEIRD SCIENCE), Lawrence Monoson (LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN) and a inextinguishably hot pair of nubile twins, Carey and Camilla More. But what distinguishes this story from the lot is how our protagonists aren’t camp counselors, or even all that associated with the aforementioned teenagers. Remember, it’s all about Trish (Kimberly Beck), her little brother Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) and their mother (Joan Freeman) staying in a nearby cabin, that we’ll come to identify with most and ultimately root for to survive. Shading the particulars is the suspicious arrival of Rob (Erich Anderson), a hunter who’s made his way to Crystal Lake with his own agenda!

WHAT HOLDS-UP: All but unanimously lauded as the finest franchise entry to date, it comes as little surprise that most to all of THE FINAL CHAPTER retains its potency in 2018. Many things account for such a durable display of abject slasher mastery, but as always, we’ll try to distill the reasons down to a few. In that regard, I’d personally say the three biggest contributors to F13 PART IV are as follows: the stellar cast, the brutally graphic violence (and concomitant kill-count), and the ambiguously heart-pounding ending. F*ck it, let’s dig a little deeper…

Tell me a better cast in a F13 movie than that of THE FINAL CHAPTER? Waiting. Nope, THE FINAL CHAPTER boasts, by leaps and bounds, the best and most accomplished ensemble of actors across the board. Funnily enough though, the stuntman who played Jason in the film, Ted White, was actually 58 years old when playing the part…by far the oldest to ever play the character. Moreover, apparently White hated Corey Feldman, calling him the meanest little kid he ever met. Feldman in turn reportedly blamed his behavior on the fact he loathed director Joseph Zito. Feldman even publicly stated in the film finale, when maniacally snapping and chopping Jason to grisly smithereens, it was Zito’s face he was imagining atop those sandbags he was slashing in to. All this disdain right? And yet, no one can tell when watching the film. This is a testament to the performances. Throw in the scene-stealer extraordinaire, Crispin Glover, who’s classic spastic dance moves are not only genuinely his own, but still hold as one of the funniest parts of the film. And here’s some trivia for ya…Glover filmed the scene to AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, which was replaced in post-production in favor of Lion’s “Love is a Lie.” And my man Crisp doesn’t miss a goddamn beat!

More substantially, where THE FINAL CHAPTER really separates itself from the pack is in its voluminous kill-count, punctuated by its glorious, graphically explicit onscreen carnage. 14 dead bodies Voorhees stacks in THE FINAL CHAPTER, marking the highest total until JASON LIVES would be released two years later. Most impressive to me though is how, given all these deaths, Jason never once uses his trusty machete. Not once. Instead he runs the gamut of wicked weaponry…saws, knives, hatchets, cleavers, his bare f*cking hands…everything but a damn machete. I love that. I love how Zito bucks traditions, pushes the modes of violence beyond the pale, and most importantly, gives the audience what it wants to see. This is not the sort of penetrative cutaway copouts latter entries like PARTS VII & VIII would fearfully boast. No, Zito focuses on the blunt-force carnage, lingers on it, never lets us ignore it, and as a result, delivers the most unapologetically barbarous chapter of all. Of course, with the legendary Tom Savini on hand to craft such splendid practical SFX, the same duty he managed with THE PROWLER for Zito a few years earlier, the graphic violence gorily ameliorated all the more.

Examples here of course include the opener – in which Voorhees savagely twists the spinal column of a deserving doctor. Never mind the scene where poor Samantha (Aronson) swims out to the raft in the lake (incurring real life hypothermia, mind you) only to have her naked nubile body ripped and gashed like a fish from underneath. Shite’s gnarly! Of course, one can’t forget the harsh treatment Crispin receives, first a corkscrew pinning his hand to the chopping board (he was to originally die via corkscrew in the first draft), then a meat-cleaver viciously stuck plumb into his face. Poor bastard! Or how about that Jared Leto dead-ringer simply getting his face crushed into a cemented shower wall? Too damn good! As for Ted (Monoson), who actually got stoned on set one day to try to be as “method” as possible, only to fumble his lines and totally fail, who can forget his sad striptease death scene? Unlike Glover, this fool gets exactly what he deserves, ironically becoming what he insulted Jimmy as…a dead lay!

Frankly, all this escalated violence dovetails perfectly into the powerfully ambiguous ending. Harking back to FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 in a way, in which Ginny (Amy Steele) psychologically tricks Voorhees into thinking she’s his mom (by putting on the sweater), here we get into similar territory when Tommy Jarvis shaves his head and psychs Jason into thinking he’s looking at a younger version of himself. This is subtle psychological horror tenets were seeing here, in conjunction with graphically violent slasher tropes, and it’s the sum of both that catapult THE FINAL CHAPTER into a new realm of mashed-up horror subgenres. I always loved this about both PART II and PART IV, and it’s something that’s never much talked about. To wit, the ambiguity of the final freeze frame, implicating young Tommy as perhaps the next of kin in Jason’s long lineage of serial slasher killing, is an added spice that makes the finale so damn delicious. Never mind the sheer ferocity of Tommy pounding away at Voorhees’ body with his own machete, this before Jason’s face savagely slides down the blade, but the disturbed glint in his eye while doing it cannot be overstated. Shite’s alarming in a way we do not typically see in a F13 finale. At least, not from the protagonist’s point of view.

WHAT BLOWS NOW: As per usual for an 80s movie, THE FINAL CHAPTER may shows its age in spots, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it blows. Sure some of the music, fashion styles and 80s colloquialisms come off a bit dated at times, but, in retrospect, it’s also part of the fun. No, to me what blows now isn’t what is on the screen, but the stories of unrest and unease behind the scenes. I never knew how much Ted White, who played Jason, detested the film. I never knew how disliked Zito was onset, mainly due to his tyrannical behavior, dispassionately forcing actors into uncomfortable scenarios. You can never tell when watching the film, but as these details have seeped out in the decades since, it most certainly blows to hear these things now. I guess that’s why Zito never returned to the franchise, despite making the most critically beloved darling of the franchise, one that went on to gross over $32 million against a scant $1.8 million budget.

THE VERDICT: Next Friday marks the 34th birthday of FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER. And I have to say, whether judging it as a standalone entry or comparing to the entire lot of Voorhees flicks, PART IV is still the cream of the mother*cking crop! It has the best cast of any F13 flick, it has the highest kill count of the first four films, the gnarliest and nastiest stints of graphic onscreen violence, it has the most intense, chest-thudding finale of the entire franchise, and if that wasn’t enough, the year in which it was released – 1984 – was a time perfectly tailored to suit the kind of hardcore slasher movie violence we’d all come to know and adore over the years. In other words, the cultural climate allowed for its greatness. Remember, the Reagan-era MPAA neuter jobs would make later entries like THE NEW BLOOD and JASON TAKES MANHATTAN suffer gravely. THE FINAL CHAPTER sits right in the sweet spot of golden age slasher fare. And will forever!

STREAM THE FINAL CHAPTER HERE

GET THE FINAL CHAPTER ON DVD HERE

GET THE FINAL CHAPTER ON BLU-RAY HERE

Extra Tidbit: The first day of filming on THE FINAL CHAPTER took place on Halloween, 1983.
Source: AITH

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