Written by Sombra Blanca
I understand and fully support the need to suspend disbelief when it comes to movies. Doing so allows the viewer to take part, or at least become an engaged observer, in the world rolling through the screen. Said suspension is especially necessary when it comes to the horror genre. We know it’s not real and for many that’s the whole reason to watch. And much like a soap opera, with a horror franchise like Friday the 13th, the viewer is required to forgive certain inconsistencies with previous attempts in the series in order to enjoy the current one.
I wish that were the case with Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, the ninth installment in the series, released in 1993. Obviously it was not the last Friday the 13th movie, but it makes sense to put “final” in the title because who would watch Jason Goes to Hell: Until We Think Of A Cockamamie Way To Bring Him Back.
It’s been 16 years since I saw this movie in the theater, and maybe it’s the fact that this time around I was forced to take a more analytical approach rather than forgetting everything I know and enjoy the ride. But it’s one ride I vow never to take again, even if I work my way through a marathon of the series. The film was produced by Sean S. Cunningham, who also produced and directed the first Friday the 13th and produced the next two, Jason X and Freddy vs. Jason. With Cunningham on board for Goes to Hell, fans of the series might expect some throwbacks to the original. At least I was.
You get some of that through a fake news show called American Case Files and its host, Robert Campbell (Steven Culp), who provides a quick history of Jason and introduces us to the only man claiming to know how to kill him, bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Steven Williams).
A bit of the sex and violence fans expect from slasher movies comes from three pieces of eye candy who hitch a ride with the protagonist, Steven (John D. LeMay) to Crystal Lake in order to “smoke a little dope, have some premarital sex, and not worry about getting slaughtered.” But the inconsistencies were just too egregious to forgive.
In Goes to Hell, we learn that our masked anti-hero has a sister, Diana Kimble (played by Erin Gray of Silver Spoons fame). While it soon becomes clear Diana’s presence is necessary for the premise, this reviewer could find no reference whatsoever in any of the previous eight movies about Jason having a sister. (If I’m wrong, please correct me and set my dork mind at ease.)
Okay, fine. You invent not only a sister, but a niece, Jessica (Kari Keegan, looking like a young Jessica Lange) and give Jessica a baby daughter. It’s necessary for the premise because we learn from Duke that even though Jason was blown to pieces in the opening scene by more than 100 bullets and two precision-guided bombs that leave the surrounding SWAT team unscathed (the first one missed), he is of course not really dead. Only Duke and Kimble know that, as Duke puts it, “from a Voorhees is he born, from a Voorhees may he be reborn, and from a Voorhees must he die.”
The fact that Duke can’t kill Jason does not stop him from offering his services for a $500,000 bounty. He also offers his worst Quint impression, explaining that for his fee “you get the mask, the machete, the whole damn thing.” It’s one of several horror references, along with an appearance from Evil Dead’s actual Book of the Dead — and appearance only, since they don’t take the time to explain its connection to Goes to Hell — and one of the crates from “The Crate” in Creepshow.
Since a Voorhees must kill Jason, and since he suffered from what a coroner describes as “explosive trauma” and being “deader than shit,” how can the contradictions be rectified? Keeping with the theme of disbelief suspension, it’s magic: Jason has the evil power to hop from body to body and continue his murderous reign. The first leap comes when the coroner examining Jason bites into Jason’s heart, which wasn’t beating for a while, but begins beating again when no one else is around. After that, Jason’s “spirit” is manifested by a long, black tongue that squirms from the host body to the next body, and looks way too similar to the tongue that snakes out of Freddy Krueger in the second Nightmare on Elm Street.
Oh yeah, even though Jason’s evil takes over the bodies of others, the “real” Jason can still be seen mirrors. Just so you won’t forget who it really is. Ugh.
After one of Jason’s minions kills sister Diana, he won’t stop until the other two “relatives” are dead. The next inconsistency: with Diana dead, Duke tells the protagonist, that leaves two remaining Voorhees to either kill him or through whom he can be reborn. Nope, scratch that. Turns out Jason can also reincarnate himself through the dead Diana, which he does when his evil spirit — which in physical form looks like a skinned Gila monster with fangs — crawls between her legs.
Cutting to the final scene (Spoiler Alert if you’ve waited 16 years to see this), we have Duke, Jessica, Steven (the protagonist and father of Jessica’s baby) and Jason. In a confrontation with Jason, Duke asks, “Remember me?” If the viewer doesn’t remember why he would say that, apparently the part about Jason killing Duke’s girlfriend was cut from the script because, well, that might “explain” something. Jason’s “niece” kills him with some magic dagger that causes Tron-like flares to fly into his body and send him to hell.
In setting up what was supposed to be the next installment, the last shot shows Freddy Krueger’s arm launching out of the ground and pulling Jason’s mask down into hell. But Freddy vs. Jason would have to wait for various reasons, and fans were treated, or subjected, to Jason X in the meantime.
If I’m short on details of the killings, it’s because only one is worth it, and that’s when the three younger travelers spend the night at Crystal Lake. It’s actually the only scene of the whole movie worth watching because it has both the best murder and the only sex scene. During the amorous event, the first Jason reincarnation drives a road marker through the tent wall, through the woman on top, and rips her in half. But to see it, you have to choose the unrated version on the DVD, which is the only way to go if you want to watch this movie.
Besides offering the unrated version, the DVD does allow the viewer to jump to each death scene and skip the “plot” in between. There’s also the standard trailer and, for die-hard fans or anyone who wants to hear those responsible explain this stink bomb, there’s commentary by the director Adam Marcus and writer Jay Huguely.
If I could send this movie to hell, I would. But I’ve never been so happy to send a movie back to Netflix.