Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Joseph Zito
Writer: Barney Cohen, Bruce Hidemi Sakow
Producer: Frank Mancuso, Jr.
Stars: Kimberly Beck, Peter Barton, Corey Feldman, Erich Anderson, Crispin Glover, Alan Hayes, Camilla and Carey More
Young Tommy Jarvis is forced to fight Jason Voorhees when the infamous killer threatens a new group of unsuspecting teenagers.
“The Final Chapter,” which of course this movie was not even close to being, is the first installment of the “Friday the 13th” saga to feature a definable story with more meat on its bones than just hapless teenagers meeting the pointed end of a killer’s weapon. It also has one of the series’ most capable casts with a roster of names whose resumes did not begin and end with a toe tag courtesy of Jason Voorhees. That includes Crispin Glover providing a distinctly “Crispin Glover” moment with a dance that resembles a coked out Fraggle channeling Elaine Benes.
As usual, a gaggle of oversexed and boozing teenagers brings their city slicker partying ways to a country cabin that sits a bit too close to Jason’s haunted stomping grounds. This time around, the neighbor in the cabin next door is a single mother raising her two bright and respectful children in a forest near a cursed summer camp. About to begin cresting towards the zenith of his child star fame, Corey Feldman stars as creature feature junkie and aspiring FX magician Tommy Jarvis, a character who featured prominently in two more “Friday the 13th” movies. Tommy’s sister Trish is the well-mannered young woman who may as well be wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words “Final Girl” when she appears onscreen.
Yet like a late night infomercial advertising a too good to be true set of cutlery, there is still more. Erich Anderson, who would go on to a prolific acting career, not the least of which included a stint playing Keri Russell’s father in TV’s “Felicity,” co-stars as Jason hunter Rob Dyer, whose sister Sandra was slaughtered by the bagheaded Jason in “Friday the 13th Part 2.”
Earlier “Friday the 13th” films demonstrated a predilection for disregarding previous story threads whenever they posed inconveniences for scripting a sequel. The most blatant example is the second movie’s complete scrapping of the fact that Jason was a boy who drowned and died at the bottom of Crystal Lake in 1957. Dollar signs prevailed and the original film’s ending, which was always intended to be nothing but a dream sequence, instead became the springboard for a new franchise. “Part III” had similarly willful blindspots that capitalized on the murky ending to “Part 2” without regard to Jason’s whereabouts or to continuity on things like the condition of Pamela Voorhees’ corpse.
“The Final Chapter” genuinely respects what came before and even draws connections to the established mythology beyond just having Jason take revenge on the girl who beheaded his mother. The film opens just moments after the conclusion of “Part III,” rivaling “Halloween II” in how fast it picks up where the previous chapter left off, with Jason lying in the exact same position where he was left at that film’s end. There really is no creative explanation for his sudden resurrection, but at least the filmmakers hide their cheats a little more discreetly on this go.
What sets “The Final Chapter” apart from other slasher films in general, and not just its namesake series, is the varied roster of characters and the performances that bring their personalities to life. This is a group of machete fodder that elicits sympathetic frowns upon having their throats cut because the script exerts the effort to make them likeable. Beyond hormonal bunking up, the couples on hand have various entanglements and backstories. The friendships have a realistic feel. Crispin Glover and Lawrence Monoson connect their characters as buddies with a lengthy background and a sense of familiar camaraderie. This is not a thrown together group of teens used to fill a quota of cup sizes or purposeless actions.
“Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” has stood the test of time for good reason. The franchise found its initial groove with “Part III,” but this was the installment where the production could capitalize fully on the personalized formula it had just perfected. It is still a delivery device for sequential murders by a faceless killer, albeit with a fuller sense of story. An unlikely hero exists in the form of young Tommy Jarvis. The teens are not so dull or so cookie-cutter that an audience wishes for their immediate deaths. And the splatter and the tension is on the money for a distinctly “Friday” tone. If this is not “Friday the 13th” at its peak, it is certainly close to it.
Review Score: 75