DOC’S TRIP TO CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE – PART 1: Films 1 to 4

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This is a tidied up, greatly expanded version of a three-part article I wrote many years ago back when this website was just starting off. Initially deciding to just watch through all the films again, I realised that I had more to say about them, and hopefully I’ve improved a little as a writer since then. I initially decided to give them star ratings this time but eventually gave up because I found it hard to get the right balance – these films are some of the ultimate guilty pleasures for me while some of them I do believe work pretty well as slasher movies – but nor do I think that they’re great movies, even of the horror genre.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS AND EXPLICITLY GORY PICTURES!

 

In 1958, two summer camp counsellors at Camp Crystal Lake sneak off to have sex and are dispatched by a killer. 1980: a young woman called Annie heads for the same place to join the small group of counsellors in refurbishing the camp, despite being told that in 1957 a young boy drowned at the camp and being warned by a crazy old man Ralph that “you’re doomed, you’re all doomed”. Annie hitches a ride and the driver ends up murdering her. As the other counsellors settle in, the same killer is watching them, waiting to strike and kill them off one by one….

Film academics usually seem at a loss to explain the success of the Friday The 13th series [or indeed the whole slasher genre]. Successive groups of young people being butchered by a hockey faced maniac  -now what’s fun about that? Actually I think it’s easy to explain. They combine horror reduced to one of its most basic forms – a monster and some victims – with the equivalent of watching Christians being fed to the lions. Fans enjoy seeing victims dispatched in ever more creative ways, and to me this is no more sadistic than watching stuff like The X Factor and seeing hopefuls being subjected to embarrassment and mockery which is, of course, real. I certainly don’t think that relishing the gruesome deaths of teenagers means that you’re sick in the head. Perhaps it’s more a way for some of us to deal with the inevitable that will happen to all of us one day. I’m far less keen on, for example, the Saw series which to my eyes seems to sadistically focus on torture and pain more than actual killing. By comparison, the Friday films just seem like brain dead fun, almost the ultimate in guilty pleasures. The first in the series isn’t the best, and may disappoint some young first time viewers who enjoy the modern slashers which tend to be faster paced, and who feel like checking out some of the oldies, but it worked pretty well for me the first time I hired it out on video, and really is quite well crafted within its limits.

Friday The 13th began life as a title, which producer/director Sean S. Cunningham [who had produced Last House On The Left] thought up as a great name for a horror movie and advertised it in ‘Variety’ without a script having been written, though the working title was Long Night At Camp Blood. Scriptwriter Victor Miller hurriedly cooked up a script which was obviously inspired by the extremely successful Halloween, and the somewhat shady outfit Esquire Pictures put up the money, cash flow being erratic throughout production. It was shot at Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in New Jersey, the crew only having to build the bathroom set. Lou Reed owned a farm next door and often played to cast and crew for free. The opening sequence originally involved a chase by water and through a boathouse but had to be cut down due to limited money, while the final shock was added to the script after main shooting had finished. Cunningham, special effects man Tom Savini, and Phil Kurz who was brought in by Esquire against Cunningham’s wishes to add humour to the script, all claim they thought up the ending as well as making Jason mongoloid. A bidding war resulted in Paramount distributing it in the US and Warner Bros. releasing it overseas. The US version lost nine seconds, shortening two murders, but most overseas versions were uncut. It became the 18th highest grossing film of 1980, making 39,754,601 dollars on a budget of 550,000 dollars, the critical hatred probably adding to its success. Gene Siskel revealed the killer on TV and urged viewers to write letters of complaint to Paramount and Betsy Palmer, even giving away the latter’s address!

After a pan from a full moon at night down to the camp, we see some counsellors having a sing song inside, two of them going off to have sex, and we assume the point of view of a killer. He stabs [or rather we stab] the boy in the chest – though we don’t actually see the knife go in, only the boy’s stomach covered in blood – then we approach the girl and go to slash her throat as everything goes all slow motion. The camera zooms in on her screaming mouth and the Friday The 13th title comes up. It’s worth pointing out that this restraint was intentional so the gruesomeness of some later kills would shock, but I would say that only around half a minute of Friday The 13th consists of gory violence, the rest is build up and ‘in-between’ stuff, making a mockery of what many critics were saying. After the credits we begin to mostly follow a character who we think is going to be the main protagonist, poor Annie who is trying to get to Camp Crystal Lake. She enters a diner and silences everyone by mentioning the cursed camp, gets a lift half way by a trucker, then thumbs a lift for the rest of the journey – which turns out to be a big mistake, the film borrowing from Psycho the idea of a person being killed off who appears to be the heroine. After this, the film becomes very leisurely for a while despite the warnings of Crazy Ralph. We hang out with counsellors Ned, Jack, Bill, Marcie, Brenda, and Alice, along with the owner Steve Christy, all being onsite to refurbish the cabins and facilities. At one point, they kill a snake slithering around one of the cabins, and it’s quite obviously a real reptile being hacked up with a machete. The camera slowly pans around the camp and its inhabitants from a distance, giving the sense of a killer constantly watching, and although I wouldn’t say that it’s Hitchcock-worthy, there is definitely a feeling of unease – though I can see some first time viewers getting restless.

About half way through the killings begin in rapid succession, though a surprising number are off screen and we only see the gored bodies, and the film does seem to then drag a bit until we get the climactic struggle between killer and heroine. This never works for me as well as it should, perhaps partially because of the killer’s amazing strength – though it’s obvious that Adrienne King is really getting bashed about even if you don’t know that she was full of bruises after the scene had finished shooting. The climactic revelation was a big surprise first time for me [living in the UK, I’d never even heard of Siskel and Ebert back then] but remains a little laughable – there’s no way that the relatively elderly Mrs Voorhees could have done things like throw a body through a window. But it all ends well with a quite convincing slow motion decapitation [which weren’t always done well even in 1980], and, just when you think the heroine is safe, BOOM! Jason [who by the way was originally called – Josh!] bursts out of the water! One of the greatest jump moments in horror film history. Maybe it’s a little illogical, but so what, it’s almost as good as the hand in Carrie which inspired it. When I first saw the film, around 1986/87 on video, at this point I jumped out of my skin like I had rarely done before, and it still gives me a mild jolt now because it’s so well done.

The other moment that gave me a jolt was a murder scene where a young Kevin Bacon [who really isn’t too great, in 1980 you’d wouldn’t have thought he’d have much of a future in film] think he would become the very fine actor he turned out to be] lies on a bed and gets an arrow coming up through his neck which is then turned around, splashing blood. It follows a fairly explicit sex scene for the time, similar scenes in the sequels tending to be tamer, though they still show the bizarre mixture of Puritanism [don’t have sex or you’ll die] and exploitation [let’s see some of the sex that’s supposedly wrong] that became a staple of slasher movies.  A simple pan up to a dead body on the above bunk and back again is enough to turn the eroticism of the tryst into something more ominous.  When examined, the arrow through the neck bit possibly works better in the cut version as Savini couldn’t quite get the effect to work properly and the blood pumps through somewhat unnaturally. There aren’t that many onscreen deaths in Friday The 13th though and, aside from the afore mentioned scene, Annie’s throat slashing, and an axe in the head where you don’t even see the axe go in [though you kind of get the impression that it does  through the editing] that’s about it in terms of what you see. Said axe scene also resorts to Psycho’s swinging lamp, while of course Halloween is riffed in places, Mrs Voorhees even having some Michael Myers-style fun in a couple of places. Cunningham and co. claim they weren’t even aware of the giallos which many claim were an influence.

As for things like script and characters?  Well, they are serviceable, the dialogue is reasonable and the teenagers are fairly stereotypical but do convince just about enough. Cunningham is no great shakes as a director, but he manages to build up to the kills relatively well. And, despite what aghast critics said at the time, there’s plenty of use of more traditional horror tropes which have nothing to do with explicit bloodshed. I especially like the eerie child’s cry of “help me” which lures Brenda out to the archery range. Performances are okay and Adrienne King is a nice heroine who you get behind in the final quarter. She registers terror quite well. Walt Gorney sticks in the mind in his brief appearance as Crazy Ralph. Henry Manfredini’s music is obviously heavily inspired by the Psycho score along with a bit of Jaws, but along with its whispers of “kill, kill, kill” certainly adds greatly to the feel of the film. It only becomes calming with a melancholy piano-led piece at the end and it’s an effective contrast with what’s come before. There are many passages just reliant on thunder and rain. Is Friday The 13th a horror classic? I would say not quite, and as I said earlier I feel that some of the sequels did manage to better this movie in quality. It does intermittently work very well though, and I find its simplicity and primal nature very appealing. Like it or not, it was this movie more than the undoubtedly far superior Halloween that opened up the floodgates so that, for a while, you couldn’t move for maniacs killing off teenagers [though supposedly this movie wasn’t actually written with a sequel in mind] and whether you like this kind of horror movie or not [I do, though I’ll certainly admit there are plenty of crappy examples], its place in the history of the genre can’t be denied.

RANKING OF SERIES SO FAR

1/ Friday The 13th

 

Alice, the survivor of the events in the first film, is in her house when she is kiled by a mystery assailant. Five years later, a group of young adults have come to Crystal Lake to attend a counsellor training course near the condemned Camp Crystal Lake, despite warnings from Crazy Ralph. Around a campfire and their leader Paul tells of how some local residents believe that Jason didn’t actually drown as a child, how he may have killed Alice, and that he is now viciously protecting the area. Soon somebody kills Crazy Ralph, then starts to stalk the teenagers….

I think my write-ups of the Friday The 13th series may reveal a few of the typical Dr Lenera eccentric opinions, though it does seem that I’m in the slight majority of fans who consider this first sequel to be just a little better than the original, and that the first movie isn’t the best. Though I won’t know for sure until I’ve reviewed all the films, at the time of writing I think I’d rank the first movie around the upper middle. Something I reckon everyone would agree on is that it was Part 2 that really set the style and tone for the successive movies, particularly with its greater number of kills, even though Jason wouldn’t wear his iconic hockey mask until Part 3. Anybody who wants an idea of what the slasher movie used to be about could do far worse than watch Part 2, it really does have all the cliches, all the tropes, all the elements that haters of this kind of movie find bizarre and even worrying, served up with certainly a reasonable amount of enthusiasm. It’s a slightly slicker piece than number one yet still possesses some of it’s raw, lo-fi “let’s make a movie” feel, and due mainly to having over twice the number of characters – and therefore victims – is a bit faster paced yet still finds time for plenty of suspense.

When Part 2 was announced it was to be the second entry in a series of films related only by the Friday the 13th superstition, but Phil Scuderi insisted Jason return. Some of the crew returned but Sean Cunningham, Victor Miller and Tom Savini all thought it stupid that Jason was going to be the killer, so were replaced by Steve Miner, Ron Kurz and Stan Winston respectively, though Winston later had to be replaced by Carl Fullerton due to a scheduling conflict. Adrienne King was pursued by an obsessed fan so insisted her role was as small as possible. The film was shot at Kenwood Camp, Kent and New Preston, Connecticut, and with a higher budget than before which allowed for a steadicam. Stuntman Steve Daskawisz played Jason throughout the film except for when he was unmasked at the end in the form of Warrington Gifford. Daskawisz sliced one of his fingers with a machete and had to go to hospital for stitches. Paramount ordered the cutting of a final shot of Mrs Voorhees’s head smiling as it looked fake, plus the removal of a sex scene because Marta Kober was under-age, while the MPAA, under pressure at the time for passing the original with little fuss, required nearly a minute’s worth of cuts, nearly every murder scene losing thereby some shots or parts of shots. The MPA would be a thorn in the side of this series from now on. But the film was another hit.

We open with Alice remembering the climactic events of the previous film, a scene which perhaps goes on too long, but we soon launch into a really effective terror sequence that almost looks forward to the classic beginning of Scream. Because most of us spend far more time in houses, there’s something especially scary about someone being alone in a house [rather than a cabin or campsite] with a possible killer, and the suspense is drawn out almost unbearably as Alice does things like answer the phone and have a shower, the subjective camera tracking towards her and opening the shower curtain in a really cheeky, almost tongue-in-cheek moment.  We are treated to possibly the most effective cat-jumping-out scare ever, then Alice opens her fridge and sees somebody’s [I’m not actually sure who’s!] head lying on a shelf, after which she is then killed from behind with an ice pick into the cheek, which is really a relief.  Her onscreen agony is actually real as the pick-ax prop failed to retract. Matters then proceed a bit like the original – for example we again follow for a short while a girl, called Sandra, who is not actually the heroine – but with more potential victims which now include Crazy Ralph and a cop who pays the price for following into the forest someone he sees running across the road. This new lot aren’t actually at Camp Crystal Lake but are very close by and two of them go to take a look at the shut down, derelict place. But Jason is already about, and that’s really it in terms of plot [you mean you want a plot?]

It all moves a little quicker but there’s some attempt at creating atmosphere – I especially liked how the moon plays a large part in many shots, as if it’s somehow causing the shenanigans. The campfire scene where Paul tells of Jason’s drowning and survival is a good example of its type, and the final struggle really does work much better than the original’s – for a start Jason is far more believable as a strong opponent who just won’t stay dead. In my opinion Jason’s potato-sack-with-eyes headgear is actually scarier than the hockey mask, even though The Town That Dreaded Sundown did it first. His first full appearance revealed under a bed sheet is quite a fright. There’s an interesting moment when the heroine finds a shrine Jason has made with the head of his mother and she pretends to be the mother, though the idea was done better afterwards in Humongous. The last two minutes actually make no sense at all, but do succeed in achieving three things – giving us a window smashing jump scare that’s almost as good as the at the end of the first film, showing us Jason’s deformed face, and leaving it wide open for another sequel.

There’s a wickedly nasty diversity in the killings, including a hammer in the head, a garroting by wire, and two scenes which copy Bay Of Blood – a guy in a wheelchair getting a machete in the face, and two lovers being impaled by the same spear. This all sounds outrageously gory, but the cuts mean that actual blood is minimal and in the impalement bit you don’t even get to see the spear go in despite a still of it doing so often turning up, even on the back of videos of the film. Still, the staging is often quite effective, especially with the murder of Vicki, whom Jason seems to taunt, except that of course we are the ones doing the taunting, as it’s from our point of view. He slashes her leg, then seems to derive great pleasure from her fear before he eventually finishes her off. Despite all this the script is not above a bit of black humour, such as a cut from a dog, about to be killed by Jason, to hot dogs roasting on a barbecue. Interestingly there’s no explicit sex in this one though there’s more nudity. The characters of this movie aren’t really any more developed, in fact they’re probably less developed than before because there’s more of then, but I like Vicki [even if she sprays perfume on her crotch] – it’s nice to see a ‘hot’ girl decide to sleep with somebody in a wheelchair, and it’s quite upsetting when they’re both killed off. On the other hand there’s also Ted, one of those irritatingly goofy guys you sometimes get in slashers who think they’re funny but whom you pray will be offed soon.

Director Steve Miner is hardly John Carpenter, but he shows more skill than Sean Cunningham, even if he never strays from what you expect. The cast generally aren’t much better actors or actresses then before though in my opinion Amy Steel is a better heroine and she seems far more convincingly frightened [just watch her when she’s trapped in her car] then King. Daskawisz obviously doesn’t get much of a chance to act as Jason but he’s imposing enough, yet not too superhuman-looking so he’s unbelievable. Henry Manfredini scores much more of the film than he did of part one, and in exactly the same fashion, though most of his cues are at least slightly different and makes use of an eerie synthesiser sound in some scenes. I’m aware that I’ve spent probably far too much time praising Friday The 13th Part 2. In the great scheme of things it’s not really that good a film. But it’s well crafted for what it is and achieves its goal as simplistic manipulation. Of course there are many people that despise slashers and consider them all crap, and they probably do appeal to our most base instincts, but – well – if you feel that way then why are you reading this?

RANKING OF SERIES SO FAR

1/ Friday The 13th Part 2

2/ Friday The 13th

 

Jason visits a shop, changes his clothes and kills the couple who own it. Meanwhile Chris, who many years ago survived a run in with Jason, returns to her lakefront family property Higgins Haven with some friends. When two of them have an encounter with three bikers, they have a narrow escape and the bikers also head for the camp. Unfortunately Higgins Haven is only round the corner from Crystal Lake, and Jason is about to turn up in Chris’ life again….

Friday The 13th Part 3 is an enjoyable entry in the series, it has a smooth confident feel about it, a “we know what we’re doing and we’re really having fun” vibe, but it’s definitely a notch down from the previous two movies and almost comes across as a virtual remake of the first one, combined with elements of the second including its faster pace, right down to directly copying some scenes. Little attempt was made to do some new things, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it, ay? It doesn’t quite do enough with the idea of someone who encountered Jason once going back into the wilderness again to prove that she’s now strong, but I’m sure that the 3D would have been some kind of compensation in cinemas back in 1981, with the format being used as the gimmick it is with various things from ping pong balls to a severed eye being thrust at the viewer. Even in 2D these moments are fun though of course they’re totally gratuitous, that ping pong scene going on for rather a while!

Once again much of the same crew returned including director Steve Miner, though Allan Apone took over the effects. The Esquire trio had little creative input this time, Paramount wanting to back the films directly with Frank Mancaso Jr producing. Ron Kurz turned down scripting duties so Martin Kitrosser and Carol Watson were hired with Petru Popescu contributing. Originally it was supposed to have Part 2’s heroine Ginny in a psychiatric hospital and Jason running amock there rather like Halloween 2, but Amy Steel refused to come back. A certain Richard Brooker played Jason this time. Shot under the fake title of Crystal Japan [starting an on-off tradition of giving the films David Bowie song names], Part 3 was shot at the Valuzet Movie Ranch in Saugus, California, the house, barn, and lake all being custom-built. The man-made lake wasn’t properly sealed and the water drained into the soil during the first week of shooting. The cumbersome 3D process meant that shots took ages to set up and there were endless retakes. The decision to dress Jason in his now-signature hockey mask occurred during a lighting check on set; 3-D effects supervisor and hockey fan Martin Sadoff gave a Detroit Red Wings goaltender mask to Miner who loved its look, though it was greatly altered. Two other endings were considered: Jason beheading Chris in a dream, and both Chris and Ali surviving. This time only 14 seconds from the kills had to be cut, but here in the UK the BBFC cut a further four. Part 3 was the first 3D film to get a really wide release in the format, and was another hit.

We begin with a recap of the climax of Part 2, except that Jason does not crash through that window, leading us to assume that was a dream. Then we are introduced to two people who are obviously going to be early victims, like Annie in Part 2, but this time they’re funny characters, with a husband constantly being berated by his wife because he keeps secretly eating [even trying some fish food] while he is supposed to be on a diet. This very drawn out sequence doesn’t quite have the terror of Part 2’s comparable scene, but it’s decent nonetheless with the usual false scares and wrong footing of the viewer ending in quick, sudden violent death. Then we’re introduced to three of our teenagers including heroine Chris who survived an encounter with Jason three years ago. After everyone’s arrived at the camp, Shelley and Vera go to a shop and are harassed by three rather amusing looking bikers who follow them to the camp when the leader’s bike bites it, but this subplot goes nowhere and all it does is set up three more victims for Jason to slay.

Otherwise it really is mainly rehashed stuff. We have a substitute for Crazy Ralph warning of doom in the form of a vagrant, a heroine meeting an ex-boyfriend at the camp, a joker in the group, a character lying on a bed [well, hammock here] having blood drip on them and then having a pointed object thrust through him from underneath, a horny girl interrupting a manly competition with a not so subtle promise of sex, a body crashing through a window, even a climactic scene on a canoe which ends with a jump scare. There’s a slight feeling of knowingness to it all though, just a teeny sense of it being tongue in cheek, along with a few blatant laughs like stoner Chuck in the loo having a joint when Jason starts to shake the shack from outside and he remarks “heavy shit”, a moment which is either brilliant or crap, I can’t decide. However, the climax is the most exciting one yet in a Friday film. Even if it’s ludicrous what Jason survives, the excitement is well maintained and pretty high. The afore-mentioned canoe scene is a bit different to the one before. In comparison to the calm of the similar scene in the first film, we have several false scares before the real one, though the latter isn’t very well timed and consequently doesn’t come off as well as it should – and how the hell did Mrs Voorhees get her head back on?

The kills, which include a harpoon in the eye, a pitchfork, an axe and a poker in the stomach, and electrocution by fuse box, are slightly less inventive than those in number two though a bit where a head is crushed and an eyeball pops out would have been great in 3D.  In it’s current, still censored state there’s a tad more blood and dwelling on the carnage than in Part 2. A quick shot [missing from the UK release though restored now] of a cut-in-half body is a good gruesome shock even though it’s possible to notice a hand moving if you’ve seen it a few times. The characters are the usual types except for Shelley, who feels he doesn’t fit in and resorts to playing practical jokes like falling out of a cupboard with a fake axe in his head to get attention. Though annoying, one does feel sorry for the guy. Of course when he appears with his throat cut it’s not believed that he’s dying. Just before his death he wears the hockey mask which Jason then pinches. He’s very fast and agile in this movie, and you get the feeling he really enjoys going about his business. Dope heads Chuck and Chili are fun, though the film misses an opportunity for some crazy stuff near the beginning when they’re all heading for the camp in their van smoking spliffs and hear some cop cars coming up, whereupon they swallow their stashes. The police pass by but only one of the teenagers is seen to spit their bit out!

Miner’s direction is solid though I don’t feel he makes the most of the wider screen format of this one  [compare it to, for example, John Carpenter’s expert use of it in Halloween]. Dana Kimmell is very good indeed as Chris – she’s especially impressive when she delivers a monologue telling of her near-death experience – even if we’re not given a strong enough sense of her facing her nightmares later. Sadly overall the acting is the weakest of the first three films. Particularly inept is Rachel Howard as Chili – when she’s in danger and runs around panicking, the effect is unintentionally hilarious. Also funny is Jeffrey Rogers as Andy when he’s just had sex with Debbie and says “that was the best ever”. He delivers that line with no emotion whatsoever, as if he’s trying to be really cool like James Bond or something, but actually he just comes off like a robot. Henry Manfredini didn’t write an actual score for this one and the music editor simply put one together from the first two soundtracks, though he did contribute to the enjoyably cheesy disco-flavoured main title theme. Part 3 is basically average slasher stuff, not that great but certainly not that bad either and definitely good fun if you’re one of the wierdos who enjoys this kind of thing.

RANKING OF SERIES SO FAR

1/ Friday The 13th Part 2

2/ Friday The 13th

3/ Friday The 13th Part 3

 

As the authorities are cleaning up the dead bodies left by Jason Voorhees, the supposedly dead killer’s body is taken to a hospital. However he’s not dead at all, promptly offs two people working at the hospital and escapes. Meanwhile a group of teenagers arrive at a house in the Crystal Lake area ready to party, opposite the residence of the Jarvis family, where young Tommy, who’s a monster fan heavily into masks and makeup, seems quite fascinated by their goings ons. A ready made set of victims for Jason it seems, but a hiker named Rob is also in the area with mysterious reasons for visiting Crystal Lake….

Out of the first four films, Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter is in my opinion the best, just edging ahead of Part 2. In fact from memory it may very well be the best of the series, though that may change upon re-watching the other sequels in time.  It does seem to tie with Jason Lives: Friday The 13th Part 6 as the biggest fan favourite. I must say, as I think I did when I positively reviewed Part 2, that The Final Chapter is no masterpiece of cinema whatsoever – but it is a very good slasher movie. It seems that, because this was intended to be the last one, they really pulled out all the stops in delivering a fine slasher flick that has all the elements of the previous three movies and ramps some of them up, while also delivering a few changes and surprises including more non-teenage characters. And even the MPAA, probably in a good mood as it was supposed to be the last one, let a fair amount of violence get by this time, meaning that this one also delivers the gore even it it’s still pretty quick.

The honchos at Paramount were apparently getting tired of being associated with this series, despite the fact that these cheaply made films had made tons of money for them, so decided to finish the series – plus the slasher boom was dying. Director Joseph Zito was rang by Phil Scuderi after seeing his slasher The Prowler who said to him: “this movie is great, but if I could call it Friday The 13th, we could make a fortune with it. When I make another Friday The 13th film, I’ll make a beeline for your and you’re going to be the guy” . Zito had a fair amount of creative control and hired Barney Cohen to write the script. Tom Savini returned so he could kill off Jason for good. Camilla More actually read for the role of Samantha, but when the producers discovered she had a twin, they offered both sisters the roles of Tina and Terri. The film was shot at Topanga Canyon and Newhall, California. Zito treated the cast poorly, even requiring Judie Aronson to remain submerged in a near-freezing lake: she later developed hypothermia because of this, while Corey Feldman adopted a bratty attitude on set, and Zito and Jason performer Ted White became so hostile that White demanded his name be removed from the credits. The original ending had the supposedly dead Mrs Jarvis come out of the bath tub. Around five minutes of non-violent footage was cut but turned up in the American TV version to Zito’s annoyance. The murders were deliberately graphic so that the MPAA would focus on those and not require Jason’s death scene be removed. 30 seconds of gore was cut, and said death scene then failed to get by the UK censors who cut 20 seconds. The opening weekend was the strongest yet for the series, even if The Final Chapter didn’t quite match Friday The 13th’s grosses overall.

This time the recap includes footage from all three previous films before we carry on directly from Part 3 and the body strewn crime scene that now includes a dead Jason – or does it? A nurse and an orderly go to a store room to get it on, and there’s some nice playing with the viewer who probably expects the figure in the chair to be Jason but it’s not, and who also probably expects them to be killed after sex but that doesn’t happen. Instead, their tryst is interrupted by a hand from a dead body moving [good little jump this], after which she loses interest. After their deaths, we’re introduced to our various protagonists who of course include six teenagers en route to partying in a house, as well as two female twins they invite round and heroine Trish Jarvis who lives opposite them with her mother and, most interestingly, her young brother Tommy who with his love of horror and monster makeup is obviously a tribute to Savini as well as being maybe influenced by Salem’s Lot’s Mark Petrie. He’s a great addition to the film, as is Rob who’s out to avenge a death in Part 2, though not really enough ends up being done with the latter who should have at least had a more dramatic face off with Jason. Though Jason also polishes off a would-be hitchhiker early on, The Final Chapter returns to the more leisurely pacing of the first movie, though as a way of making it up for fans used to the way the last two efforts moved faster, there’s a fair bit of nudity this time including even clips from an old nudie movie the teenagers find, while nearly all the youngsters seem to be at it in this one, which seems to push the “have sex, you die” rule to its limits.

Things are back to being very serious again, and nearly of all the action takes place at night, while staging most of it in two houses makes things very claustrophobic and a bit scarier, because we can all relate to it more than spending time in a holiday camp. Zito manages to build up quite a lot of suspense and stages one really atmospheric sequence in a lake, where a potential victim is skinny dipping amidst lots of fog. This scene is beautifully photographed by Joao Fernandes, who brings a moody look to some of the film. Now I’m not saying that this movie ever rises above being a slasher movie, but it’s crafted with some skill and care. Even having some outdoor footage obviously take place on a set adds to the atmosphere. When the killings begin in earnest, we don’t actually see much of Ted White’s Jason at all – for much of the time he’s kept in the shadows, making him a truly frightening bogeyman who could be right there and yet you wouldn’t necessarily know it, something enhanced by the dramatic use of shadows and black throughout. The final showdown is truly exciting, made more so by having a child at the center of the action, and Jason’s death is a real crowd [dis]pleaser, a machete blade plowing into his head, followed by the hilt hitting the floor and the villain sliding headfirst down the blade. Things would have ended perfectly with the obviously affected Tommy hacking away at Jason screaming “die, die”  – this would have seemed both nicely victorious and “final” and just a bit dark – but they felt the need to add in that coda set in the hospital with Tommy psychotically looking towards the camera, as if the filmmakers were hedging their bets despite officially saying that this was going to be the last movie.

The deaths in this are truly brutal, including a hacksaw to the neck followed by the head being twisted, the crushing of a head in the shower, a corkscrew impaling a hand followed by a cleaver in the face, and a knife gutting – though we never do find out what happened to Mrs Jarvis [well, in the final cut anyway], nor the dog for that matter. I can never quite understand why Tommy shaves his head either – surely there would better ways to spook Jason then trying to look like him? – unless we’re supposed to believe that Tommy’s already starting to lose it? The dialogue is erratic – at times it’s fine and beleivable, but on other occasions it’s really poor and quite annoying, such as Ted constantly calling his friend Jimmy a “dead fuck”, even if was improvised by the two actors. I did like the exchange between Doug and Sara  after they’ve had sex [Doug:”I think I’m in Heaven”. Sara:”I love you”.  Doug:”What?”]. This time the annoying character is called Ted and he makes out that he’s an expert on women, but amusingly pays the price for being so irritating when the others all leave him to get it on with each other upstairs while he’s left alone to get stoned and giggle at the nudie movie he’s found.

Though he did go on to make Chuck Norris’s two biggest hits, it’s a shame that Zito didn’t do more horror: he really knows how to pace and stage sequences for maximum impact. His The Prowler really is a good slasher too and I think I’ll review it soon. And the acting is a little better than normal, even though Kimberley Walsh barely has a character to play as Trish. Crispin Glover is his usual somewhat odd self though his bizarre dancing may be the scariest thing in the movie, it’s positively freaky. The star of the show is really Cory Feldman as Tommy, he has star quality straight away and is given some wonderful moments such as when he looks out of his window and sees people having sex in the house opposite – his reaction is hilarious but also quite sweet. Harry Manfredini actually wrote a proper score here and it doesn’t really do anything new, resorting to the usual devices and variations on earlier material but still works well. All things considered, it would have been perfectly fine if they ended this series on this high note, going out with a bit of a bang – but of course that wasn’t to be.

RANKING OF SERIES SO FAR

1/ Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter

2/ Friday The 13th Part 2

3/ Friday The 13th

4/ Friday The 13th Part 3

Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 2227 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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