I have an interesting relationship with the Friday the 13th films—and it’s the same type of relationship I have with a lot of the iconic slasher franchises that originated from the 70s and 80s. Basically, with the exception of the first few films, I find the franchises to be cheesy and overwhelmingly silly (but fun to watch because of said silliness) but I am an unapologetic fan of the central characters. I may think that most of the movies with Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, and Jason Voorhees are accidental comedies that are better left to be mocked as though I’m with Joel and the bots on the Satellite of Love. But I love the characters. They’re a part of pop culture and icons from films that established the horror and slasher genre. However, I’m not here to talk about how awesome the hockey mask slayer that punishes campers that love premarital sex and doing drugs. Nope, I’m here to talk about the film that is, quite possible, the worst film in the Friday the 13th franchise. Hell, the film didn’t even get the title of Friday the 13th and was simply called Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday.
Taking place one year after the events where Jason slaughtered a cruise liner and took a bite of the Big Apple, Jason somehow returns from being a toxic waste-transformed baby (yeah, that actually happened in that one) and is, equally mysteriously, being hunted by the FBI. A comic book was released to explain all this but it’s not like fans of this franchise really need intriguing stories—we want to see Jason kill people, plain and simple. We need no explanation of how and why he’s back… or why the FBI set up a very elaborate plan to catch him that involved an FBI agent getting nude and showering. Couldn’t she just have hung around and waited for him?
The FBI, seemingly, finally kills Jason but a mysterious bounty hunter (Steven Williams) knows that it is all horse plop because apparently only a family member can kill him and he can possess other people’s bodies because, deep down, Jason is actually some demon worm thingy—for those who haven’t seen it and our young readers, I am not making any of this up. Luckily, however, we learn that Jason has a half-sister (Erin Gray) and a niece (Kari Keegan) and it will soon be up to the niece and the man who is head-over-heels in love with her (John D. Lemay) to finally stop the madman and send him to hell where he belongs.
By this point in the franchise, it’s clear that the owners of the property have stopped caring—and this was 8 years before someone said, “Hey, you know what would be cool? If we put Jason in space and made sure the trailer played that ‘let the bodies hit the floor’ song so people know its hardcore!” To boil The Final Friday down (which really wasn’t that final was it? I mean, we later see him in the future) this movie is f*@king silly. A whole bunch of new rules are established that were never hinted at EVER in the series—like him having a sister (what a transparent plot device that was), a mystical dagger (which just magically appears in the hand of Jason’s niece), and the concept that only a family member can kill him. As a viewer, we accept that Jason (or Freddy or Michael Myers, etc.) can’t die and doing everything you can to make this film appear to be the “final” film feels empty and silly.
And there’s the fact that Jason can possess other bodies because he’s a demon worm. I would have loved to see the amount of cocaine it took for the studios to think that this was a good idea. However, when you consider that the film has Jason resurrect himself by crawling his worm-self into his own half-sister’s vagina (it’s not spoilers, this movie is 21 years old, it can legally drink), the simple fact of having this iconic slasher character be, deep down, a demonic invertebrate doesn’t seem as silly as it could have been.
However, as ridiculous as this film is, there are some cool things going on. First off, this movie has some spectacular gore effects. This actually shouldn’t be a surprise because Greg Nicotero—who you might know from The Walking Dead and the fact he is a gore effect GOD!—worked on the film and made the kills actually something pretty cool. For example, there’s a great kill where a coroner who is possessed by Jason’s worm stabbed a girl, who is riding her boyfriend hard, with a sign post and rips her in two. It’s shocking and has the expected level of realism that Nicotero has been known to created in his long career. That being said, there are some ridiculous kill scenes, too. For example, there’s a particularly annoying character who owns a diner and, realistically, feels completely out-of-place in the film and is only there because she’s the boss of Jason’s half-sister. Well, Jason takes this character out—who is quite the loud-mouth and talker—by punching her in the face and, I’m guessing because it’s not made perfectly clear, collapsing her entire jaw inward. It’s weird and even comes complete with a cartoonish reaction that is reminiscent of Daffy Duck after having his bill shot to the back of his head.
Additionally, this film offers up a cameo of a prop from one of the greatest cult classics in existence: Evil Dead II. The Necronomicon from the film makes an appearance and nothing really comes of it because all the new established rules about Jason come from the bounty hunter character played by Steven Williams—who, by the way, apparently has a history with Jason but the scene that explains that was deleted… still, it’s cool the Necronomicon was in it.
In reality, the only reason to watch Jason Goes to Hell is because of the final seconds of the film. Before the Internet, horror fans debated hotly about who would win in a fight: Freddy or Jason? Eventually, we would get to see the two slug it out in the genuinely fun Freddy vs. Jason but, prior to that, it was all speculation. The Final Friday gave the horror nerds a reason to scream for delight as we get to see Freddy’s gloved hand pull Jason’s mask down to hell. However, beyond that, the film is still really flippin’ silly. The story makes very little sense in the overall mythology, the characters are cliché, the acting is hysterically awful, and the film gives you a lot of WTF moments like the Jason-worm going into his own sister’s naughty tunnel, a mystical dagger that has never been mentioned before, a bounty hunter who somehow has all the answers, the FBI actually having a task force to take out the guy, and gigantic rock hands pulling Jason into the underworld. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is not a good movie—not at all. It’s a shadow of what the franchise started with but it’s in its straight-up silliness that makes it worth watching. You can’t appreciate a film like this as you would a traditional, and excellently executed, horror film. No, instead you appreciate this as a work of comedy and as a strange lesson about how badly franchises can fall and how some people in the film industry just don’t care.
Rev. Ron is a stand-up comedian, performs drunken, unrehearsed Shakespeare every month, is a propane and propane accessories salesman, and is a total geek. You can read more of his mad ramblings about movies at his blog: RevRonMovies.BlogSpot.com.