Sunday, October 19, 2014

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Warning: spoilers are inevitable with this one

Clearly, new Friday the 13th owners New Line Cinema did want to forget about the eighth film as much as anyone else who watched it; this film’s beginning doesn’t fit the ending of any of the other movies either, though, so make of Friday the 13th continuity what you want. I for my part will try not to have too many sleepless nights about it. So Jason (Kane Hodder) is undead and well, and killing people around Crystal Lake, at least until, right in the film’s very first sequence, a minor army of FBI people sets an oh so clever trap and blasts our hero into quite a lot of pieces.

This time, that should truly be that, yet the script writing gods – or rather Dean Lorey and Jay Huguely whom nobody will actually mistake for the gods of scriptwriting – decide that the coroner responsible for the autopsy develops a sudden and intense taste for Jason’s hypnotically beating heart, and begins killing people while making his way to Crystal Lake, at least until his body is worn out and the parasite thingy that seems to be the real Jason takes over the next host.

Jason the worm is out to catch, kill and take over either his sister Diana (Erin Gray), Diana’s daughter Jessica (Kari Keegan), or Jessica’s baby, for only the body of a Voorhees can be a long-time host for the thing. Why? I have not the faintest idea, and I don’t think the script knows. On the plus side, another Voorhees will also be able to destroy Jason forever with the help of – of course – a random instant magical dagger. Diana’s getting offed by Jason rather quickly, but Jessica – with the help of her ex-boyfriend Steve (John D. LeMay) and crazy expositional bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Steven Williams) – just might be able to put up a fight against her uncle.

First things first, after the horrors of Jason Takes Manhattan, (of course not the) Final Friday can only be an improvement but then, so would the Star Wars Christmas Special. Adam Marcus’s movie is a curious thing, really. I understand the new producers’ impulse to want to “fix” the Friday franchise, to find a viable way to not have to tell exactly the same story at best in a slightly different place (though I’m still holding out for Jason Heats up Antarctica) but the actual thing they want to replace the core of the series with seems even less useful in the long term as what they had at the beginning, particular in the random and under-explained way the script introduces and uses it (instant magical dagger!). Or how exactly is a cheap rip-off of the Terminator just with demonic/alien (the Antarctica expedition crate in the Voorhees cellar suggests the latter, the whole getting dragged to hell business and the magic dagger the former) body snatchers any better than the very basic slasher set-up of the series thus far?

Then there’s the little fact that this whole retcon approach to Friday the 13th as a series leads to another entry that lacks the actual iconic element of the whole franchise, Jason the hockey-masked killer, replacing him with a series of possessed people that just don’t have an ounce of the big guy’s menace and are just as desperately lacking in originality as he is. I suppose a more clever script, that is, one that either really went for broke with the moments of comic book grand guignol a few of the film’s better scenes aim for, or one that had thought through the whole parasite possession angle (I can’t believe I’m asking for more exposition here, but I kind of do, don’t I?) a little better, could have gotten away with it. As it stands, however, a random series of possessed people involved in a long series of chases that are only broken up by sub-plots that are prematurely ended via character deaths (see Jessica’s evil TV personality boyfriend) does not a new, improved Friday the 13th film make.

If I’m trying to look at it as a series independent film – change the names and take away the hockey mask and you’re already there, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if the script wasn’t initially meant to be a Friday film – Jason Goes to Hell is a bit more palatable, the kind of early 90s low budget horror that has competent direction, some icky and fun special effects but not enough brains to be either dumber or cleverer, the sort of thing you can spend ninety minutes on without railing against the universe afterwards and that is decent enough entertainment if you manage not to think about it.

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