RavensFilm Productions presents the Forever Cinematic Friday The 13th movie retrospective covering all twelve films in the slasher franchise. Reviews by Nick Michalak.
Friday The 13th (1980)
Friday The 13th, Part 2 (1981)
Friday The 13th, Part 3 (1982)
Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning (1985)
Friday The 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Friday The 13th, Part VII: The New Blood (1988)
Friday The 13th, Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
My childhood fandom of the Ninja Turtles has not stayed with me into adulthood, except for this excellent live action film. When people talk about comic book adaptations I don’t think many trigger this film in their heads due to the property’s larger visibility as a cartoon. The cartoon was very goofy fun while the comic was very violent and dark. This movie met them somewhere in the middle giving us something that was gritty and violent with strong substance, but also maintaining a great sense of fun. Even more impressive is how these filmmakers brought the Turtles into live action in convincing fashion.
A mysterious, severe crime wave is gripping New York as thieves slip in and out even in broad daylight sight unseen. Television journalistic April O’Neil (Judith Hoag) believes it to be the work of a Japanese outfit called the Foot Clan, and she is soon targeted by them in order to silence her. However, from the sewers of the city come four mutated crime-fighting and fun-loving turtles – Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael – and their rat sensei Splinter who fight at her side. Joining them in their battle is Casey Jones (Elias Koteas), a vigilante that utilizes sports gear as weapons. At the head of the Foot Clan is the merciless Shredder who has revealing links to the origins of the Turtles and Splinter.
Now, I don’t care how evolved CGI will become, I cannot imagine anything outdoing the brilliant craftsmanship of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop team here. Henson, for those that don’t know, was the premiere innovator of puppetry and animatronics in the 1970s and 1980s. This film was indeed a pinnacle achievement for him and his company. Nothing at all is sacrificed with the use of these elaborate suits of foam rubber and animatronic mechanisms. They have a full, wide range of abilities in expression and movement creating Turtles that can perform all of the dynamic, agile action, and convey deep emotion and character. Even adjusted for inflation, no film today could achieve with CGI what this film did on $13.5 million. Each Turtle is given a distinct look, design, and feel with extraordinary detail. They have a very realistic texture that feels natural to the environment around them and of the film as a whole. Splinter is undoubtedly the most impressive accomplishment in all his articulation as there was no one in a suit portraying him. He’s purely from the result of expert animatronics operators, and he still has the value of humanity to him.
Leonardo is the strong leader of the group trusting and enveloping himself in Splinter’s spiritual teachings. He forges the soul of the team. Donatello is more laid back, less like his scientist cartoon counterpart, but still works very enjoyably in this dynamic. His voice is even provided by Corey Feldman. Michelangelo is the fun loving party dude, and a bit of the mischievous one of them all. However, my favorite is definitely Raphael with his more tough guy attitude. He’s the most strong willed, but also stubborn one of them all. He shows the most passion and frustration of the Turtles, and I really like his first encounter with Casey Jones. It’s very funny to both of their credits. It would be easy to drive this premise into silly territory, but this film takes these characters seriously. The filmmakers do make them fun, but they are dimensional characters with interesting family dynamics and deep, real emotions that are beautifully conveyed. It’s a masterful mixture of the live action performances, and incredible dubbing work by highly talented voice actors. It all feels totally seamless and cohesive for an ultimate Turtle Power experience!
Judith Hoag does a stellar job as April O’Neil. She’s a spirited, serious journalistic that is determined to crack open this crime spree, and even suspects the police of not doing their all to combat it. Hoag injects a lot of spunky personality into the character, and as the film progresses, we see her heart and humor in touching fashion. Hoag makes April a very energetic and fun character. It’s a terrible shame that she declined to reprise her role in the sequels due to substantial cuts to some of her scenes here. She does a wonderful job in this role through and through. I also believe Hoag has some endearing natural beauty that entirely fits the tone of the film, and more important than looks is that she’s a pitch perfect casting choice. She has wonderful chemistry with everyone she shares the screen with, and carries her own in every single scene.
The one person that I’ve always dearly loved in this movie is Elias Koteas as the hockey mask wearing Casey Jones. For one, Koteas is one of the best, most consistently awesome actors I’ve seen. As Jones, he’s greatly entertaining with a real hard edged but not-too-bright attitude. Koteas is more of a street fighter, but shows off some good moves against the Foot Clan. Casey is charming in a dunderheaded kind of way. He’s surely street smart, but not all that smooth socially. He means real well with his heart in the right place, but often his mouth and machismo screws him over. Koteas and Hoag have this great endearing friction that Donatello perfectly relates to Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd on Moonlighting, which had that classic argumentative romantic tension. By the end, however, you see Koteas has great comedic charisma, and has Casey show his heart to really win everyone over.
And of course, the portrayal of the Shredder is chilling and perfect. The filmmakers set the right tone keeping him shrouded in shadows at first, and giving him grand reveals that elevate his mystique. The role was the work of two performers. James Saito was the on-screen performer giving the character all of his theatrical and frightening presence, and showcasing some stellar martial arts abilities. However, his low, ominous voice was provided by David McCharen, and that’s a major cog in the Shredder’s overall power. The theatrical trailer actually features a different dubbed voice which isn’t as effective, and so, all the right choices were clearly made with the execution and presentation of this arch-nemesis for our heroes in a half-shell. And surely, I have to mention the really tough right hand man in Tatsu that leads the Foot into battle, and is a very solid complement to Shredder’s presence and character.
The action sequences are done remarkably well. All of the martial arts action is superb with the Turtle suits impairing none of the stunt players’ ability with the fight choreography. The violence holds nothing back, short of bloodshed, as weapons are used regularly, and the fights show plenty of inventive ideas to keep it fun and original. The Turtles’ shells are often employed in quirky, smart ways. It’s a great showcase of fun, dynamic, but also, gritty martial arts action. When the Turtles finally square off against the Shredder, it’s a great sequence which intensifies the villain’s indomitable skill and cold blooded viciousness. Yet, the climax still has some surprises and humorous beats to make it both a dramatic, perilous sequence, and something to elicit some chuckles and laughs from the audience. It’s stellar and memorable all around. It’s greatly satisfying.
It is immensely admirable how genuine this film is. Director Steve Barron pays honest respect to this material, and never treats these six foot tall ninja fighting mutant turtles are jokes. Of course it’s an absurd concept, but it’s only as convincing as how you present it. If you can make the audience connect with the characters on a genuine, emotional level, a serious tone with the film will work, and it does so amazingly here. Leo, Don, Mikey, Raph, and Splinter are given as much weight and poignancy as any other character you might find. It is their film and they carry it. And they carry it with tremendous success. These are the characters you absolutely must fall in love with, and all of the work that went into them from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop to the performers to the voice talents and beyond made that possible.
And this is one seriously catchy score by John Du Prez. These themes have been engrained my mind for over twenty years. He uses a strong urban flavor with electric guitars for most things, but there’s plenty of variation. For instance, the main theme is light-hearted and melodically catchy. Du Prez also gives us beautiful compositions in the more spiritual scenes with Splinter, and the tender moments out at the farmhouse where the Turtles, Casey, and April recover from their defeats. And even more so, his score accentuates moments of tension and danger for our heroes. It’s an awesome score that is filled with so much life and depth, but as with the rest of the movie, it never forgets the fun factor.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has excellent energy with spot-on rhythm and pacing. While it has lower key moments with lulls in the action to further develop the characters, it never drags. These filmmakers fill that 90 minute runtime tightly creating a film that is all kinds of fun while not skimping on the substance. This is due to the great action and charismatic humor that populates it. Every character is realized vibrantly and portrayed superbly. The balancing of tone between the serious drama and fun levity is greatly handled by director Steve Barron backed by a really solid screenplay It’s a shame this was at the end of the careers of both screenwriters. They seemed to have a real great knack for entertaining diversity, well developed characters, and cohesive storytelling.
Altogether, this is seriously one great movie! I really love it, and I think it holds up beautifully over the last twenty-three years. The gritty look of it really grabs me, and sets the Turtles in a unique world where it feels very real but their mere existence opens up the doors to far more fantastical possibilities. I think the spiritual qualities offered up are powerful as they add a further depth to these characters and concepts. I find it a real disservice that the sequels took a much more family friendly and lighter direction due to objections from parents about this film’s violent content. Neither sequel was received as well as this one resulting in declining box office returns for New Line Cinema. This first film was produced independently, and at that time, it became the highest grossing independent film of all time bringing in $200 million. That comes are no surprise to me because this is an excellent made film in every aspect striving to be more than just a fun flick. It gives you a weight of substance that is essential, in my view, to any successful comic book adaptation. Heroes will always battle villains, but it’s what you put into those heroes and villains that make it special. And to me, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a very special film to me. I give it a HUGE recommendation!
The Lost Boys is an excellent vampire film that perfectly reflects the time it was made in. The witty humor, the fearsome horror, and the amazing pop soundtrack create a purely 1980s vampire film with a lot of style. Director Joel Schumacher and executive producer Richard Donner hit it big with this film. It had everything going for it including a solid cast of amazing young talent, and has been a classic of the genre for a quarter of a century. Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It’s fun to be a vampire.
After a divorce, Lucy Emerson (Dianne Wiest) moves her two sons, Michael (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim), from Arizona to Santa Carla, California. They move into Grandpa’s place (Barnard Hughes), which is somewhat removed from the lively beachside town. The small family is trying to fit in with their new surroundings, but they’re a little put off considering that Santa Carla is dubbed “the murder capital of the world”. Lucy gets a job at the boardwalk video rental store owned by the kindly Max (Edward Herrmann), Sam meets Edgar (Corey Feldman) & Allen (Jamison Newlander), the Frog Brothers, at the comic book store, and Michael runs into a dangerous pack while chasing after the beautiful Star (Jami Gertz). The pack is led by David (Kiefer Sutherland) who takes Michael on a wild ride into a weird world. What both brothers will gradually come to realized that this boardwalk town is, to quote the Frog Brothers, “a haven for the undead.” Fangs, blood, and creatures of the night come out of the woodwork, and Michael and Sam are directly caught up in it.
This could’ve easily become a cheesy 80s vampire film, but with the brightly shining talent involved, it became a fantastic, fun vampire-filled thrill ride. Kiefer Sutherland’s name speaks for itself. He makes for a charismatic, dangerous, and enthralling villain that easily lures Michael deeper into the darkness. Jason Patric also demonstrates a great, gradual evolution for his character, and shows a very brotherly relationship with Corey Haim. You can definitely see the potential Patric had for later in his career for more dramatically challenging roles with a wide depth of emotion. He plays well off of everyone especially Kiefer and Jami Gertz. She demonstrates a wonderful vulnerability as Star trapped between the vampire world and her love for Michael. Gertz sells the threat of David very well through Star’s own fear, and has seductive chemistry with Jason Patric that is strong and passionate.
Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and Jamison Newlander bring a sense of fun to the film that gives an extra dynamic to the film. Without them, it’s more a straight vampire horror-love story film, but with them, you get a younger adventurous Goonies type dynamic that brings in a wider audience. Each young actor puts a lot of heart and enthusiasm into their roles. Haim is very light-hearted and easily likable. Feldman and Newlander intentionally play up a gritty Clint Eastwood style archetype which, when put into a pair of young teens who run a comic book store and hunt vampires, it becomes delightfully humorous. The Frog Brothers are a smart highlight in the film which only complement and never dominate this fine ensemble cast.
Dianne Wiest plays a perfect mother to two teenage boys, and an endearing daughter to old Grandpa – which Barnard Hughes plays with a lot of comedic enthusiasm. Edward Herrmann also plays his part very well in an assuming fashion, and is very convincing at the film’s conclusion. As far as the other vamps – they add a lot of life to Kiefer’s gang. They all have the 1980s hair metal look going on which couldn’t be more dead-on perfect for 1987. It’s also cool to see Alex Winter here prior to his Bill & Ted films.
Cinematographer Michael Chapman crafted some awesome imagery throughout the film, but my favorite sequence is definitely the motorcycle chase scene. Beyond just the energizing action aspects of the sequence, it has amazing atmosphere through shadowy lighting and dynamic angles. This makes me wish the sequence lasted longer as well as allowing Lou Gramm’s awesome “Lost in the Shadows” to play longer. Chapman has shot many great films from Taxi Driver to Raging Bull to The Fugitive. He’s proven his talent for powerful imagery time and time again, and there’s no shortage of visual artistry in The Lost Boys.
The soundtrack is flat out amazing. You have excellent tracks from INXS, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Who’s Roger Daltrey, Foreigner’s Lou Gramm, Tina Turner’s saxophonist Tim Cappello, and the haunting theme of “Cry Little Sister” from Gerard McMann. While they are not all original tracks, they do all come together as a cohesive sound that reflects the best qualities of 1987’s popular music. These songs nicely highlight and punctuate numerous scenes in the film greatly, and create a dense, awesome atmosphere for this film. There are so many pop songs in the film that, frankly, they overshadow what fine and ominous work composer Thomas Newman did for The Lost Boys. While there are sequences with full, gorgeous score, his music mainly fills in the blanks as more transitional music or an accompaniment to the lyrical tracks. I definitely do not view that as a negative mark. Mainly utilizing these songs over a score resulted in a great filmmaking style that only makes the film far more entertaining and colorful.
Joel Schumacher shows he has a great depth of talent here despite some of his later critical failures. He balances out the characters and their stories very well as no single story dominates over another. This also results in a very well balance tone between the lighter fare with Sam and the Frog Brothers, and the heavier toned horror and love aspects of Michael’s side of the film. Schumacher really brought out some wonderful performances from a lot of young, eager talent, same he did in the brilliant St. Elmo’s Fire. This is definitely a film one could grow up with from childhood into teenage years to adulthood, and constantly find something that appealed to them. In my late teens, I probably loved the lighter toned material and the straight horror stuff best, but now, many years later, I definitely have a deep appreciation for the sexy and seductive aspects of the film. They are beautifully executed from the acting to the cinematography and editing to the perfect choice of music. It has such a wealth of depth and sensuality that I don’t get enough of in cinema.
Schumacher never allows the horror or dramatic aspects to fall behind the humorous adventure. When all storylines converge, this becomes a very strong horror film with plenty of frights, action, and intense special effects. The showdown between Michael and David is powerfully done in every aspect. The ferocity of their clash is perfect, and is given a very dark and ominous lighting scheme. While the visual effects were quite limited in allowing vampire flight, Schumacher wisely limits the screentime of those effects. They are there only to service their moments in the film, and instead, the scene focuses in on Sutherland and Patric closely. However, the special make-up effects are flat out amazing. The striking and rather iconic vampire designs are realized with great detail and skill. When David reveals that vampiric visage, it is frightening. They look like fierce, vicious creatures that will feast with a smile on their fanged faces. One could definitely see an inspiration here for the vampires of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel with the pronounced, thick foreheads, yellow eyes, and long fangs. It truly is a masterful job that I think is one of the best, most fearsome vampire designs ever put to film.
The only aspect of the movie that maybe a little ill-taken is the very end. The ultimate master vampire is dispatched with in a way that works for the quirky, humorous tone of the film, but many are likely to desire a more dramatic conclusion especially after the Michael and David throwdown being so climactic. It’s a hair splitter. Repeat viewings allow for a fan to enjoy it more, but a first time viewer might be left somewhat unsatisfied. This ending does pay-off something established earlier in the film, but it’s a very subtle setup that one would likely not take lasting notice of if not for this ending. Obviously, I have no desire to spoil anything for those who have not seen the film, and I don’t think this aspect of the film should at all deter you from experiencing an excellent, vibrant, and entertaining vampire flick!
While Joel Schumacher has made some severely maligned films in his career, he has also had a number of incredible films to his credit, and The Lost Boys is absolutely ranked among them. For most anyone, if you say “1980s vampire film,” The Lost Boys is what jumps into their minds, and for exceptionally good reasons. It’s perfectly stylish in all the right ways with excellent performances, a killer soundtrack, and a solid script that balances all its varies tones just right. This film is designed to please on multiple levels, and does so immensely well. This is definitely a classic of the vampire genre that will frighten and amuse you in a very satisfying film experience.
So, Jason Voorhees has been hacked to pieces, and Paramount decided to launch a new direction for the franchise. Fortunately, it was short lived with this lower grade, poorly conceived sequel trying to position Tommy Jarvis as the new killer of the Friday The 13th films. Quite frankly, this has a lot wrong with it right from the start, and it’s easy to see why Paramount quickly rebounded with the far superior Jason Lives. I’ve just never really liked this entry much because of it’s very direct-to-video production quality, bland execution, and lack of decently written characters. The director and screenwriters simply did not have the talent to make this a good movie, regardless of the MPAA cuts.
A few years have past for Tommy Jarvis (John Shepard) since he saw Jason Voorhees killed, and after some time in a mental institution trying to recover from those horrific events, he’s been transferred to a halfway house far from Crystal Lake. Unfortunately, soon after his arrival, a volatile young patient named Vic Faden suddenly murders the young, obnoxious, and obese Joey with an axe. Shortly thereafter, it seems as though Jason has been resurrected from the grave to murder more people. Meanwhile, Tommy suffers from hallucinations of Jason repeatedly, and they are slowly driving him mad. As the bodies stack up, and Tommy seems to have disappeared, suspicions intentionally fall upon him. However, it eventually becomes clear to the audience that this is not the work of Jason, but of a mysterious imposter using the Jason lore as a façade for his murder spree. The aftermath of this violent experience hints at a new direction for the franchise that would quickly be discarded after backlash from the fans.
Firstly, John Shepard does a partially good job as the new Tommy Jarvis. I think a lot of the hallucination scenes are excellently handled giving Tommy an obvious mental imbalance. However, a lot of Shepard’s screentime is him standing or sitting around silent and introverted. Shepard doesn’t put any effort into making Tommy seem like a troubled young man outside of those hallucinatory freak out scenes. The screenplay doesn’t give him anything to do to showcase such behavior. He also has almost no character interactions in this movie, and thus, it doesn’t give Shepard much to work with. So, it’s a fine line to divide this issue which can also cut towards director Danny Steinmann’s way since he also co-wrote the script. Instead of directing Shepard to demonstrate that internal turmoil, he just has him be a blank slate that shows nothing of what Tommy is going through. Still, in the vast majority of his screentime, John Shepard just fills up the frame, and even in the big climax of the film, he still comes off as a waste of space. Corey Feldman, who does cameo as Tommy in the opening dream sequence, did a stunningly impressive job with the diverse range the character of Tommy Jarvis offered in the previous film. He hit everything dead-on-the-mark, and made a powerful impression throughout the movie. There is nothing within John Shepard’s performance to remotely equal that exceptionally well-rounded and captivating performance from Feldman. In the following film, Thom Mathews would serve as an excellent hero for this franchise, and do so much more than Shepard even tried to do in this sequel.
The mood and scares are decent enough. I especially feel Violet’s stalk and slash death scene is exceptionally effective with the soundtrack of “His Eyes” by Pseudo Echo behind it. Unfortunately, you definitely get very little gore due to the MPAA’s stringent standards of the time. Still, the big problem of this film is the lack of decent characters to give a damn about. There are a lot of random people added to the body count who only show up for one scene to get killed. That’s one sense of why I feel it comes off like a bland and cheesy direct-to-video movie. You can contrast the characters in this film to those in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. The main characters in both are all in a mental health facility with their own quirks and personal issues. In Dream Warriors, the roles are smartly written and greatly cast to create a very strong ensemble of young characters that add vibrancy and emotional relatability to the film. In A New Beginning, the characters all seem very under-developed as if they are just there to just fill up the screenplay. They are not given any depth or background, let alone particularly likable aspects They either come off as too weird, too irritating, or just uninteresting. They bring no life to the film for an audience to really get scared for them, and the casting is not all that memorable. There are some decently entertaining bits here and there with one or two characters, but other characters are just blandly written or underwhelmingly acted. Nobody stands out. They all blend into the background creating a film with no real tension, energy, or charisma. Considering The Final Chapter and Jason Lives have two of the best young casts of the series with nicely fleshed out characters that are memorable and enjoyable, this makes A New Beginning even more of a sore thumb in the franchise. Horror and suspense work best when an audience cares about the characters in the story, and I really could not care less about these.
While, like I said, the mood is decent, I do feel this movie is lit a little too brightly. It feels a little too slick and polished taking away the dark and gritty feeling the series had up to this point. That takes away from the effective, harder edged horror atmosphere the previously films generally had. Plus, without having some abundant, high end gruesome gore effects to elevate the graphicness of the film, it all just feels cheap. The Final Chapter felt like a franchise high point as a standard bearer for what a slasher film should be. This film is just the opposite. It shows the bottom of the barrel quality of what the genre should avoid becoming.
The direction of Danny Steinmann is just not very good. I know there are far worse, more ineptly made movies out there, but for a mainstream horror franchise, this is as bad as you’d ever fear it would get. Again, everything is cheap – the characters, the gore, the cinematography, the story, and the screenplay itself. Steinmann co-wrote this with Martin Kitrosser, one of the writers of Friday The 13th, Part 3, a film that shares many of the same problems as this one, only not to this degree. The third writer, David Cohen, wrote two other films no one’s heard of and that was it. Steinmann never made another film after this one, and it is severely evident why. This is not a theatrical release quality film. It does reek of direct-to-video quality with its abundant cheesiness, poor script, and bland direction. The attempt to make Tommy seem like the killer in this is lazily handled. The film tries to throw a number of red herrings into the mix, but really, it plays up no mystery aspect whatsoever. It’s entire intent is to push Tommy to becoming the new killer of Friday The 13th, but puts nearly no effort at all into fooling you into believing he might be the killer at large. Anything that is dropped in to allude to that seems like a weak afterthought.
I’m not singling Steinmann out for any personal reason. His 1984 revenge exploitation film Savage Streets has a strong cult following, and while I have never seen it, I am generally intrigued to see it. With that cult following, it does seem to say that Steinmann was capable of making a satisfactory film filled with violence, sexuality, and grit. Maybe Friday The 13th, Part V: A New Beginning was just a wrong choice of film for him, or he worked with the wrong creative team. Anything is possible, but the fact remains that he did not handled this movie well in any creative aspect. Even if the gore was re-instated into the film, it would not make up for the poorly executed story, the flat characters, or the overall cheesiness of the film he made.
And it’s hard to even be fooled into thinking this is Jason Voorhees back from the dead. Frankly, he looks and moves more like a poor Michael Myers imitation than a decent Jason Voorhees ones. The blue coveralls, the slender build, the more mechanical movement, and the lackluster hockey mask just scream “bad imposter.” Even the old VHS box cover couldn’t get the hockey mask right. It looked like some cheap plastic mask you’d buy at the corner drug store. Everything about this film just drives home the fact that this isn’t Jason, and we’re not even trying to fool you. Conversely, the Jason seen in Tommy’s hallucinations looks very authentic in every detail. Now, that clearly shows that the filmmakers could have given the imposter a more faithful design to heighten the second guessing of whether this really was Jason or not, but chose to just cheap out on that aspect. They even still give this regular mortal man superhuman strength, just like Jason, but in every visual aspect, he clearly is not Jason Voorhees. It’s simply bad conceptualization and poor execution.
The climax is easily one of the weakest of the franchise. I really did not like having some wise-ass kid running around this film in Reggie, and him being part of the climactic action is just cringable for me. He’s treated like a big hero in the whole thing, and there’s even a big music cue to support that intention. I simply couldn’t get invested in these weak characters to really care who survived or if there was a true protagonist here. Tommy is such an inactive part of the story that the film, in order to build suspicion that he’s the killer, is able to have him disappear for a good long while, and it doesn’t make a single bit of difference at all. It’s very hard to sell Tommy as a potential hero when, at the same time, you are lazily trying to sell him as the potential villain. It just comes off as very shoddy work. This is a script that just meanders from one death scene to the next with no idea of what story it’s trying to tell.
All in all, this is really a sad sequel that delivered next to nothing worthwhile, and Paramount heard the cries of fans everywhere regarding it. They ignored what this film attempted to setup for the Tommy Jarvis character, and took the following film into a far more satisfying and enjoyable direction. I think it was a very fortunate turn of events that Corey Feldman was already working on The Goonies at this time, and could only do a single scene cameo. It undoubtedly gave his career a massive boost to be working with great filmmakers like Richard Donner and Steven Spielberg on an eventual blockbuster instead with Danny Steinmann on a low grade slasher sequel. Again, there are vastly worse films you could subject yourself to, but there are also so many better slasher films around than this sad entry in the Friday The 13th series. However, there is one worse entry in this franchise, in my opinion, but it’s much, much further down the line in the New Line Cinema era.
This purported “Final Chapter” of the franchise would not be the last, but it made for a convincing conclusion. However, as is the way in Hollywood, if it makes money, make more of it! So, they did. Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter is arguably the best of what I call the classic formula before Jason rose from the grave or any self-aware satire crept into the films. However, I do have one terribly stinging point with this film that has actually forced me to turn it off time and again. Now that I have you intrigued, let me break down the premise for this fourth film.
The film begins, again, where the last one left off. Jason’s supposedly dead body is carted off to the Wessex County morgue, but it is only a matter of time before Jason Voorhees is back on his feet killing his way back to Crystal Lake. Arriving at the lake is the Jarvis family which include the mother (Joan Freeman) along with daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck) and the pre-teen Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman). Of course, there is a whole station wagon full of teens on the way, and soon after, there is also a man named Rob Dire (Erich Anderson) camped out in the woods who is on the hunt for Jason. He has caught word that Jason’s body is missing from the morgue, and believes that Jason is alive and headed back to Crystal Lake. His sister was a victim of a previous massacre, and he’s out to stop Jason himself. He crosses paths with the Jarvis family, and becomes an instant friend with young Tommy who shows him his collection of personally created horror monster masks. Shortly after Rob departs back into the woods, Jason begins to pick off the fun-loving teens next door one-by-one, as usual. However, the climax of the film shows Jason getting the tables turned on him in the worst way, despite how madly he fights to off these final few potential victims.
Okay, the positives here are many. First off, Tom Savini returned as special make-up effects artist to kill off Jason. His talent and quality elevate the film very high up beyond the previous two films. It’s not just the quality of the effects, but the dynamic ideas that Savini can put into practical execution that make for more inventive kills and scenarios. This only gets better and more graphic as the film goes on. They don’t hold back in the climax, and really drive home the “death of Jason” intent with highly convincing and elaborate make-up and physical effects. It’s one of the most successfully graphic films of the series being able to put more of the unsettling violence on screen than ever before.
Director Joseph Zito does a wonderful job to make this a more cohesive piece than the previous entry, and also brings along some character depth. Screenwriter Barney Cohen develops the characters well giving them strong introductions with distinct personality. As with Part 2, we get actors with some charisma, energy, talent, and rich personality. They jump into their roles fully, and have an enjoyable time in front of the camera. Among the young talents featured are Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman. Both of which turn in solid work. Glover is mostly known as George McFly from Back to the Future as well as the Thin Man from McG’s Charlie’s Angels films. Director Zito clearly knows how to work well with actors, and how to bring some entertaining qualities out of their performances. He also crafts some of the best suspense of the series using Manfredini’s music, smart camera work, and nicely plotted scenes to create a tense atmosphere for Jason to thrive in.
This is one of Manfredini’s most tense scores, yet. I think it tends to depend on the director he’s working with on how good his scores end up being. On the films where the directors have a strong, vivid vision for the film, and know how to craft horror with suspense, we get his musical talents at their best. This is a prime example of what Manfredini can do when collaborating with the right filmmakers.
Focusing back on the cast, Feldman richly demonstrates the potential he had as a young actor here. He’s essentially a lead actor, but an unexpectedly so. He surely charms an audience, and is highly relatable. Still, one would not focus on him as the real forefront character of the film until they see where the story weaves itself in the third act. As Tommy Jarvis, he starts out like any young kid – fun, energetic, and imaginative. However, when the story finally takes a more dangerous turn near the end, Feldman shows his diversity with a very intense and dramatic performance. It sells the ending of the film entirely, and could have been a gross failure with any lesser of an acting talent.
Ted White has never been a standout Jason performance for me. From many accounts, it seemed like he didn’t care for the job himself, and was just collecting a paycheck. How accurate that is, I’m not sure, but where Richard Brooker seemed to have a definite and distinct personality for his portrayal, White’s seems less distinct and more generic. There’s nothing particularly bad about what he does, it has just never made much of an impression on me. However, he does do a quality job that some fans do appreciate and enjoy.
Now, the big negative mark I personally put against this film is the character of Trish Jarvis. In the latter end of the film, she becomes so painfully DUMB that it literally becomes a chore to continue watching the film. Now, this is a bit of a spoiler, so, avert your eyes for until the next paragraph if you wish to avoid such things. It’s the dead of night, Rob Dire goes down into the pitch black basement, and gets bludgeoned to DEATH by Jason! So, what does Trish do? She runs away, but then, changes her mind – as if she suddenly came to her senses (when she really takes all leave of them) – and goes back to find Rob in that basement where Jason is undoubtedly still lurking around! This is moronic beyond comprehension! Anyone who would get anywhere NEAR believing this to be a good idea deserves to have their brains bashed in! Sorry, but this level of moronic incompetence just pisses me off, and I think Barney Cohen owes me an explanation for writing the character like this. Unless you’re doing a horror movie parody, this sort of writing is just ridiculous, and is reflective of the worst, most clichéd writing in the horror genre. It’s dumbing down the characters to the point where they are just short of brain dead to service some idiotic need in the storytelling. Furthermore, she continues on from this point being a total moronic idiot making the stupidest decisions in the midst of an attack from a homicidal madman, and it is only a total shame that it’s her who embeds that machete in Jason’s cranium!
This is all just sad because the film is filled with smartly written characters. The cast has great chemistry, and make for a very entertaining film. Zito balances the light-hearted moments out well with the hard hitting horror elements. It’s all solid examples of what the genre can offer at its best, which many films don’t tend to strive for, or don’t have the talent involved to make happen. So, it baffles and angers me to see such a dumbass character be given the run of the third act of the film. Actress Kimberly Beck does nothing in her performance to make it any more bearable. He flashes these dumbfounded expressions over and over again throughout the movie further instilling no confidence in Trish’s intelligence.
If you ever wonder why I don’t tend to post numerical ratings on my reviews, it’s because of maddening conflicts like this. It’s a great, excellent film except for this one terrible element. I should look on The Final Chapter as a crowning achievement in the franchise, its high point, but because I have to spend a third of the film watching a badly written character run around like she’s looking to get killed, I can’t do that. I have literally turned this movie off after that basement scene and not gone back to it. It’s at that point where the film takes a nose dive for me, but that’s just me. For whatever reason, other fans can look past that, or just never viewed it in the same light as me. I just can’t tolerate a stupid character unless there’s something endearing about them, but there’s none of that here for me with Trish Jarvis.
Aside from that, this really has all the best elements the franchise has always strived to bring together in a cohesive whole. The previous three laid the ground work, some doing a better job than others, but this entry got it right in spades – suspenseful tension, high quality make-up effects, and a solid story with wonderful, memorable characters. Regardless of my sole gripe with the film, you can hardly pass this one up because Joe Bob Briggs says, “it’s got important plot points,” in regards to the following two sequels. This begins the Tommy Jarvis trilogy of the Friday The 13th franchise, each film starring a different actor in the role Feldman originated, and I have contrasting opinions on the following two films.