Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Where The Hell Is The Corkscrew?

FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER was, of course, the last movie of the series.

A-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You don't really believe that, do you? I doubt that Paramount thought so either, considering the film's hokey final scene. Two things stand out about this fourth film of the FRIDAY franchise. One is that it's gorier than parts 2 and 3, thanks to the return behind the camera of makeup effects guru Tom Savini, who created the bloody demises on the original F13 (and worked with director Joseph Zito on THE PROWLER, which serves up some of the most horrible gore moments in any slasher movie). Odder is that the FRIDAY THE 13TH film with the most professional and recognizable cast (up to that time at least) should also contain the least amount of characterization. Peter Barton, who had just come off a couple of network TV series (like THE POWERS OF MATTHEW STAR) and is billed as if he were the male lead, has perhaps the least amount of screen time among the main cast.

THE FINAL CHAPTER (snicker) opens the day after the events of PART III, meaning that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th films occur within the same week (and, in reality, opened on Friday, April 13, 1984). You'd think the local hospital would be a lot busier than it's shown to be. Jason Voorhees (Ted White, the fourth actor to portray the role), still wearing his signature hockey mask, is taken to the morgue, presumed dead following the bloodbath that closed PART III. Fooled ya! After "waking up" or whatever he does, he wipes out a pair of horny hospital workers and returns to the Crystal Lake area to kill even more young people. These kids have rented a country home located across the road from the Jarvis family--pretty Trish (Kimberly Beck), her little brother Tommy (Corey Feldman) and their mother (Joan Freeman, who once upon a time played love scenes with both Don Knotts and Elvis). The six college kids--four guys and two girls--as well as a fat hitchhiker, a camper and a pair of twin hotties, are no match for Jason, as he slashes, pokes, hacks and smashes his way through the cast, leaving only Trish (who doesn't skinny-dip or have sex, making her the obvious candidate for Final Girl status) and Tommy (not even Jason kills little kids...does he?) to stop his reign. Notable among the cast are Crispin Glover, one year before his breakout role in BACK TO THE FUTURE, LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN Lawrence Monoson (who doesn’t get any here either), Erich Anderson (still a busy TV actor), comedian Bruce Mahler, Judie Aronson (WEIRD SCIENCE), Wayne Grace (recently in the Fox TV series DRIVE) and twins Camilla and Carey More.

Barney Cohen's screenplay is nothing if not efficient, stripping away all but the bare essentials of a plot and giving the cast just enough to do to keep them from becoming bored with their characters. The MPAA must have been more lenient with Paramount this time around, since more of Savini's creations are spared the cutting room floor. Machetes smack into foreheads, bodies hang from doorframes, heads are smashed and bodies are gutted. Zito also directs some nifty stunts, including a couple of high falls that appear as dangerous as they are thrilling. In addition to the gore, FINAL CHAPTER offers more nudity than any of the previous films (although not, alas, Beck, who bared all in 1976's MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH, a very good film that is not a slasher, despite its ten-cent title). It’s a tossup whether this film or PART 2 is my favorite of the series.

Despite the promise of a "final chapter", director Zito (MISSING IN ACTION) provides room for a sequel, which occurred just a year later and would be reviled by many fans as the worst FRIDAY ever. And I almost agree.

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