Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Director: Adam Marcus

New studio, new director, new... Jason? This is the ninth film of the "Friday the 13th" series, and despite the fact that Jason has been killed on numerous occasions, this film boasts to be “the Final Friday”; needless to say, it wasn’t. I guess they didn't learn their lesson from part IV: "The Final Chapter". The production makes it look light-years ahead of anything fans have seen. It’s by far the goriest entry of the franchise, and it’s not ashamed to be so. It’s also the biggest departure. In this film, we don’t even get to see the Jason we all recognize until the climax. During the rest of the film, Jason transfers his soul into various unlucky characters. We even see Jason resembling a large finger puppet at one point. It’s probably the most inventive story of the series, but fans of the original “Jason” will most likely feel as though the ship sailed without them.

It begins with a SWAT team taking Jason out at Camp Crystal Lake after he’s lured out into the open by a towel-clad babe. Wel,l Jason gets blown into a million pieces, and is gathered up and shipped off to the morgue. Jason’s still beating heart is eaten by the coroner, who was under its “spell”, I guess. Now Jason’s a black guy with a moustache wandering around and killing random folks. Jason’s cult status in the film rivals that in real life. The news reports are doing exposes on him, and restaurants are naming dishes after him. This undercuts Jason’s ability to terrorize, and now he seems to have an attitude and demeanor that resemble the T-1000 from “Terminator 2” more than a psycho with a machete. Instead of just randomly appearing at the windows of campers, he's now strolling through police stations and morgues with ease. He loses his spookiness and becomes a gore-obsessed man on a mission, even more so than he had been in the previous films. He’s unstoppable except for one way, as we’re informed by the Jason bounty hunter, Creighton Duke (played by Steven Williams). Duke is a refreshing addition to the cast and isn’t afraid to embellish his role in order to match the goofy plot.

Here’s a quick rundown of the plot, as mainly told by Duke: Jason needs to be “born again.” No he’s not going to become a Bush-loving, Bible-thumping Christian. He actually needs to enter and subsequently exit the body of a Voorhees female. With only three relatives left (his sister, Diana, her daughter Jesssica, and Jessica's baby daughter), Jason now sets out to find them. He plans on killing the remaining members to insure no one can ever kill him. First off, there’s the skinny dipping, hitchhiking teen campers with a love for unprotected sex... do I even need to explain what happens to them? Skinny dipping, hitchhiking, and having unprotected sex are pretty much the Jason trifecta. I mean they're REALLY asking for it. The violence is ridiculously over the top. I have a feeling this will endear fans rather than turn them off, though. The nerdy "Archie Comics" reject who picks up the hitchhikers is the “hero” of the film. His name is Steven (played by John D. LeMay), and he's the father of Jessica's daughter. Did you follow all of that? We’re also told that Jason can only be killed at the hand of another Voorhees with a special knife that Duke just happens to have for some reason. He must be stabbed in the heart in order to send him to Hell, forever. It’s never revealed how Duke knows all of this or why he has the knife. I guess the information is out there, but people are just too lazy to look. The first descendent to be hunted down is Jason’s sister, Diana (played by Erin Gray) who is killed when Jason fails to transfer himself into her when he’s interrupted by Steven, and is chased off. Steven meets Duke when he’s arrested as a suspect of Diana’s murder, and gets the gist of the plot from him. Jason’s niece (Diana’s daughter and the mother of Steven’s baby) Jessica (played by Kari Keegan) is now the next “Sarah Connor” on the list for the Terminator/Jason to hunt down. Steven attempts to protect Jessica and their daughter, but Jason is hot on their heels. Diana’s body is moved to Jason’s old house on Camp Crystal Lake by the sleazy TV reporter, who is Jessica’s new boyfriend. He wants to make a better story by discovering her body in Jason’s home. Needless to say, he’s quickly killed by Jason after he’s used as a temporary soul-transference body. This is a pretty ridiculous element to slip into the film, but I needed to mention it only because it figures into the plot later.

Okay, this is getting complicated. I’ll try to make this quick. Jason, Jessica, and Steven all converge at Jason’s house. After Jason exits his last body, he comes out of the dude’s neck like an enlarged finger puppet. He scurries about the room like the creature from “Alien”, and finally finds his way into Diana’s dead body...I’ll spare you the details. Now he’s born again! He comes out of the house fully grown, complete with hockey mask and tattered jumpsuit. Jessica grabs the knife, and stabs Jason in the heart, after a brief battle with Steven. You see, even though Jason’s been taking people out with nothing more than a swat of his hand, Steven, the bespectacled letter jacket wearing dork, is now engaged in fisticuffs with him. Jason throws him around a little, just so Jessica has time to give the knife a good kick to insure it gets Jason’s heart. Jason is then dragged down to Hell by a few Muppet hands, and the couple walks off. In the most memorable scene, and finale of all the Jason flicks, his mask is dragged underground by the knife-clad hand of Freddy Krueger as he gleefully laughs.

In conclusion, the special effects and death scenes make this movie more engaging than its predecesors. The meandering plot drags you down with its excessive exposition and sci-fi mumbo jumbo. It’s hard to love a Friday the 13th film where Jason doesn’t appear until the final few minutes, but it at least tries something new with the franchise. It’s funny that it took them nine films to invent this way to kill Jason, but it adds a few more layers to a series that probably should have called it quits about five sequels ago. Fans of the previous films probably won’t make a connection between the hockey mask wearing zombie that they used to know, and the body transferring worm in this film. It will feel like something completely foreign to them, and ultimately, disinterest them. The death scenes now resemble something out of “Evil Dead 2” rather than those of the slasher genre. They are inventive, and reaction-inducing enough to delight horror fans, though. On its own, it works; it’s cringe-inducing and respectful to the series that gave birth to it. It gets points for its cool climax and special effects, but it just needs more Jason, plain and simple.

Best Death: Chick gets cut in half by a pole, mid-sex scene.

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