Written by Puño Estupendo
At the risk of letting the cat outta the bag here, I'm guessing that most of you realize that Friday the 13th Part IV is not the final chapter that it promised to be. This was the first of the 13th movies I saw in the theater and it holds a warm spot in my heart because of it. In a lot of ways, this really is the final chapter in the fact that the films that followed it in the series set the tone for what most people think of when they envision Friday the 13th. The cliche set-ups, the stupid kids, an undead Jason that just gets more and more ridiculous as each movie came out, but this one tried it's best to make up for the ridiculousness of it's 3-D predecessor and gain a little dignity as it thought it was closing up the franchise. I think it did. I think that if it had been the final film in the series people would have a completely different regard for the films and they wouldn't have ended up being such a joke.
I'm of the opinion that Friday the 13th Parts I and II are completely solid, awesome horror films. They're well made and not cliche at all. Younger or first-time viewers see them as having all of the cliches, but should realize that some of those formulas weren't so played out when those movies hit. Those are two of the horror films of the time period that created (what came to be) the formula because so many people ripped them off. I still think that if the series had stopped here, people would have some jokes about the third movie being pretty hokey, but rave about the series overall and not with their tongue in cheek.
Breaking from the mold it had set, The Final Chapter centers around the Jarvis family: a single mom and her two children, a son and a daughter. Sure, the daughter Trish is a cute blonde teenager (somebody has to be) but her little brother Tommy (played by Corey Feldman no less!) adds an element that hasn't appeared in the series before this: kids in the firing line. Tommy isn't a party-ready teen looking to get some; he's a 12-year-old kid with a talent for making masks. Even by today's standards that isn't something we're used to seeing. You get a bunch of young twenty-something actors and maybe a few older ones, but it's fairly rare to see a serial killer chasing a 12-year-old kid around.
The house next door to the Jarvis' is hosting what you've come to expect. Filled with drunk horny teens, you immediately know that there's the cannon fodder you've been waiting for. This brings us to the real treat of the film, the return of the gore master who pioneered spectacular onscreen deaths, Tom Savini. His effects and outrageous creativity of all things horrific were a huge part of what made the original 13th such a phenomenon and to get him back for this installment was the best thing the filmmakers did here. The showdown between Jason and little Tommy at the end of the movie could not possibly have been as great without the skills of Savini. The man uses a machete like a paintbrush and his finished artworks are masterpieces on morbid canvases.
The Final Chapter isn't a great movie, but it still hits all the beats and it does so with a dignity that the rest of the series seemed to have lost after it. If you need it, there's even a bit of fun factor going not only because of the Corey Feldman factor, but a young pre-freakshow with his life Crispin Glover. There's flubs galore if you pay close attention, but the end pays off large. You may be jaded to onscreen killings by this point in cinema, but this finale is still something to behold.