Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Ghoul Versus Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter

Previously on Friday the 13th Part III...

We finally got the REAL Jason Voorhees on film, as he donned his iconic hockey mask for the first time and morphed into a fearless badass that didn't cower from chainsaws. Amped up by a rocking disco soundtrack, he hacked and slashed his way through the usual gang of idiots and into our hearts. Awww!

Hey, I'm back! Sorry about the hiatus, but zombie things came up. Being undead can get rather busy at times, and just an occurrence popped up the last couple of weeks. We're going to continue with the Friday the 13th franchise since that's been so much fun to review, continuing with the fourth film of the series: the so-called “final” chapter. This was the first movie to break the yearly release trend the series had become known for, as the studio wisely took 1983 off because the dreaded “genre fatigue” had finally set in around this time. It feels like in the early 1980s every 1.3 films released was a slasher movie, something audiences were finally getting sick of.

Steve Miner was done with the franchise at this point, so writer/director Joseph Zito was brought in to helm the new movie. Zito was fresh off the cult classic slasher the Prowler, which is most notable for featuring makeup effects by the Horror Lord and Saviour, Tom Savini. Luckily for all of us, Zito brought Savini along with him, giving him another chance to wreak havoc with the character he helped to create. At the time this was intended to truly be the swan song of Jason's story, so Savini wanted to send off our lovable slasher in style. With a quality team of filmmakers on-board and a year to build anticipation, the movie turned out to be a monster hit, grossing over $30 million dollars off a budget somewhere around two million. Critics once again hated it, but fans loved it to the point it's considered one of the best movies of the series. It even ended up outgrossing Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street, which was also released the same year. Let's find out why, so get ready to rise from the dead again because it's time for A Ghoul Versus Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter!

We open with footage from the second movie, where Paul is telling his campfire story about the legend that is Jason. This is cut with highlights of kills from the past three movies, which is turn lead us to the cheesily awesome opening credits. The next is of the police cleaning up the aftermath of the last movie, Jason's body finally getting that sheet I bitched about previously. He's taken to the morgue, which is ran by a lecherous man named Axel who is much more interested in flirting with the nurse on duty and eating. I wonder if there's some kind of law that if you're a mortician that you ALWAYS have to be eating while working?

Axel gets the nurse, Robbie, to go into the cold room with him for hot sexy times, but their mood is ruined by Jason's arm flopping out of his sheet. Robbie leaves, forcing Axel to watch an workout video featuring a hot brunette getting her flex on. In a bit of unintentional foreshadowing, the woman in the video is actress Darcy DeMoss, whom we might just be seeing a couple movies from now. Naturally, Jason rises from the dead to slash Axel's throat with a hacksaw and then break his neck for the flourish, because he's developed a serious sense of style now. Robbie is next to fall by getting disemboweled with a scalpel, as we can see Savini really upped his game for this one. This film is well known for being one of the most brutal of the series, both these kills illustrating why.

This transitions to the Jarvis family, who are staying out in a cabin by the woods... somewhere. There is Mrs. Jarvis (it's a horror movie, parents don't need names!), her twenty-something daughter Trish, and her preteen son Tommy. Trish's actress, Kimberly Beck, never went on to do anything else notable besides the gripping role of “housewife” in the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day, but you MIGHT have heard of Tommy's actor, Corey Feldman. At only twelve years old, Feldman was already a huge star due to his numerous television and film roles, and was in the midst of a scorching box office run between this, Gremlins, the Goonies, Stand By Me, and the Lost Boys. Of course, this is years before he went crazy and started making bizarre music videos where he (badly) channels Michael Jackson.

Mrs. Jarvis is a loving mom, Trish is blonde, and Tommy is a really smart nerd, that's pretty much all you need to know. Oh, and they have a dog named Gordon too that'll inexplicably vanish from the movie by jumping out a window later on. I also would be remiss if I don't mention we're introduced to Tommy as we see him playing the space shooter video game Zaxxon, which was one of my favourites when I was a kid. They discuss six kids have rented the cabin across the way, who are the next people we get to meet. ROLE CALL!

-Paul, who is... handsome, I guess?
-Sam, Paul's girlfriend and the Mandated by Horror Tropes “slut” who TOTALLY won't die. She is played by Judie Aronson, who would have a featured role in the 1985 smash hit Weird Science.
-Sara, the shy virgin.
-Doug, whom Sara has the hots for and is also handsome?
-Jimmy, played by Crispin Hellion Glover, a man that I'm pretty sure the word “eccentric” was invented centuries earlier in preparation just for him. Like Aronson, he would also go on to greater box office success the following year, his coming in the form of a little film called Back to the Future.
-Ted, the clown of the group. Always got to have one! Thankfully, he's NOWHERE near the abomination that Shelly was and actually is pretty funny.

Jimmy instantly steals the show thanks to Glover's patented line delivery and mannerisms, he is one of those rare actors that grabs your attention no matter what he does. Kind of like a young Christopher Walken. The six are driving out in the woods to find their cabin, but soon get lost. They pull over to the side of the road so Paul and Doug can consult their map, while Sam looks over to a nearby cemetery where we can see Mrs. Voorhees' tombstone. I wonder if they dug her back up and placed her head in the coffin as well? Doug gets a handle on their location so they drive on, passing a female hitchhiker on the way. She is promptly killed by Jason with a knife to the back of her throat, who is once again using his expert navigational skills to return home. Seriously, how did he get out of the hospital, and the city for that matter, with NO ONE noticing?

The six finally find their cabin and meet their neighbours, giving us NINE FREAKING PEOPLE to keep track of right now. Jason better show up, and he better show up SOON. Scratch that, ELEVEN people because our campers meet a set of brunette twins, Terri and Tina, out in the forest the next morning. DAYMN, create too many characters much there, Friday the 13th?! They all decide to go skinny dipping in Crystal Lake for some fine blatant nudity, all except Sara of course because she's a shy virgin who wants to challenge Trish for the title of Final Girl.

Elsewhere in the woods Trish and Tommy are driving alone when their car dies, Tommy getting out to fix it because he's sharp like that. They encounter ANOTHER character in the form of a hiker named Rob to bring the cast number up to a jaw dropping twelve, and if we don't get a mass murder spree in the next ten minutes this is going to turn into a Paul Thomas Anderson movie. Rob proves to be immediately suspicious when he keeps asking questions about people in the area, as well as claiming he's hunting bears which Tommy dismisses as nonsense since there are none nearby. They bring him home anyway because Trish is digging his rugged charm, and Tommy wants to show off his collection of monster masks.

Our six campers bring the twins back to their cabin, where we are treated to a GLORIOUS scene of Jimmy doing something that I believe is meant to be dancing. I've always thought it resembles a martial arts training routine, but what it is, it is AWESOME. Things start getting hot and heavy between Paul and one of the twins (I'm not going to bother to find out which one since the film is making no effect to tell me), prompting an angry Sam to storm out for a night swim. Finally! Let's get this show on the road already! Sam strips down and swims out to a rubber raft floating in the middle of the lake so we can see a “the killer leaps out of the lake to grab her” scene for the umpteenth time in the series. One down...

Paul, feeling guilty about that whole trying to cheat on his girlfriend right in front of her thing, grows a conscience and goes looking for her. This proves to be a gift to movie reviewers having trouble keeping track of everyone, as Jason impales him to death to take another piece of dead weight out of the picture. Rob, who is in a tent nearby, hears the scream and heads out to investigate. Come on, come on! No dice though, as he finds nothing. As an added bonus, he returns to his tent to find his rifle broken and his map shredded. That was... rather out of character for Jason. Is there a reason he couldn't have just, you know, KILLED HIM?

Jimmy and Tina (yay, the film said her name!) go upstairs to have sex, which pisses off Terri who decides to leave since she is NOT feeling Ted's lack of charm. She soon meets the business end of Jason's machete in a disappointingly off-camera death. Whatever, it got the job done. Sexy Times Cabin isn't the only place where the action is happening however, as back as the Jarvis cabin Mrs. Jarvis comes home to find there is no power. She goes outside in the rain looking for their dog, but instead finds something that scares her. We don't get to see what happens though, as the scene cuts to Trish and Tommy driving back home from wherever the hell they were. This film is not great at establishing stuff. Worried by their missing mother, Trish decides to find her while Tommy stays behind to fix the power. Trish ends up running into Rob, who nearly kills her after thinking she's the person who broke his gun.

Getting tired of waiting for people to come to him, Jason takes matters into his own hands and goes back to the other cabin. He ambushes Jimmy in the kitchen, putting his machete right into his face. BOOOO! Not the only developed character in the entire film! Tina joins him in death right after, as Jason smashes through the bedroom window to grab her and then throw her off the second floor onto Paul's car in a SPECTACULAR stunt. The icing on the cake is watching all the windows of the car explode as she lands on its roof, they went all out for that one. That wholeheartedly makes up for how dull the entire movie has been paced thus far, because that freaking ruled. Rob reveals to Trish what he's really up to, that Sandra from Friday the 13th Part II was his sister and he's seeking revenge against Jason. When Trish tries to tell him Jason is dead, he shows her a paper detailing Jason's body vanishing from the morgue along with Axel and Robbie.

Ted is our next pointless character to go, taking a knife to the back of the head. Yawn. This film is definitely a showcase for Tom Savini's masterful art than any attempt to tell a story at all, how else can you explain all of these characters getting screen time when the entire thing should have been about Rob's quest for revenge? There's also Sara and Doug to deal with, who have basically done nothing the majority of the movie. Sara has said fuck it to being the Final Girl and tells Doug she wants to sleep with him, going to the bedroom to get ready while he takes a shower. This kicks off Jason's Sex Sense, so he rushes upstairs to kill poor Doug before he gets a chance to seal the deal. Harsh, Jason, harsh.

Sara finds his body and freaks, running downstairs only to get an ax in the chest. Alright, we are now officially down to a super manageable three survivors! Rob and Trish go to the cabin to check on the campers, finding it empty. Genius Rob decides to check the creepy basement, which just goes to show he knows Jason better than anyone because he finds him. This is probably the movie's most famous scene aside from Jimmy's “dancing”, as Jason begins to stab him to death while Rob screams “He's killing me! He's killing me!”. A scene of what should be absolute terror negated by him doing play-by-play of his own death. This would go on to set the tone for the series ultimately, as it began to EMBRACE goofy ass shit of this manner.

Trish goes into GTFO mode, doing the spot where she runs around the house and finds numerous dead bodies that we've ALSO seen over and over again. She runs back to the Jarvis cabin where she left Tommy all alone with a serial killer on the loose, making her probably the dumbest Final Girl that we've had to date. She further proves this by nailing the doors and windows shut instead of going for that CAR that they have right outside, but then again it has been proven to be unreliable so maybe she's just really Genre Savvy. Jason continues this stunning rendition of Friday the 13th's Greatest Hits by throwing Rob's body through the window as I seriously start to wonder if I'm watching a new movie or just stock footage.

Jason grabs Tommy but Trish is able to fight him off with her hammer, taking Tommy upstairs so they can be trapped even further. They hole up in Tommy's room, but Jason just smashes the door down with his growing strength. He's come a long way since the second movie, that's for sure. Trish FINALLY does something competent and smashes a television over his head to knock him out, but this is only for a moment as he gets up and chases her outside. After a pointless runaround she winds up back in the cabin, where Tommy has gone upstairs to... cut his hair?! Time and a place, dude! Jason overpowers Trish and is about to kill her when Tommy, his head clean shaven, comes downstairs and yells to distract him.

This makes Jason stop, who regards the boy as an earlier version of himself due to the bald head... I think? It's been established Jason's grasp on reality is tenuous at best, but does he really think he's looking at himself here? This never made a lick of sense to me. Trish takes her chance and picks up a machete to slash at him, but only ends up cutting off his hockey mask so we can see his disfigured face. He turns his attention back to her, allowing Tommy to retrieve the blade and drive it into through his eye. Jason falls but is still moving, so Tommy begins to HACK THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF HIM! Wow, you know this kid is going to be a tad fucked up in the future. The screen fades to white, coming back to show Trish in a hospital bed with a doctor and a sheriff. She asks to see Tommy, who creepily walks in and hugs her. Our final shot is of him glaring directly into the camera as “ki ki ki” starts playing, implying we're going to have a situation on our hands in the future.

Cue the credits.

I've never agreed with this being one of the better films in the series, there is BARELY a plot going on here besides Jason kills people in impressive fashion. There are way too many characters that never get an ounce of development, giving us no reason whatsoever to care about them. It's also very boring, as half this movie is just idiots exchanging idiot speak until Jason puts them out of our misery. There's highlights of course, like Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman proving not all child actors are completely annoying little shits, but overall it's just a mess.

It's frustrating too, because they had SUCH a great premise buried within the film in the form of Rob's barely there plot. I know at this point these films were NOT about telling a compelling story, but the idea of a person out for vengeance against Jason practically wrote itself. He could have been playing a cat and mouse game with Jason the entire time, which would have even explained Jason fucking with his stuff instead of just killing him. We'd get there eventually, but they REALLY missed the chance here to create something special way back in the early days of the slasher genre.

The second straight film I can only recommend to diehard fans, although it is pretty essential if you have an interest in continuing the series because it does become the first part of an in-series trilogy that finally elevates the series into earning the massive fandom it boasts. Onto the Massacre Meter!

1. How Many People Did The Villain Kill In This One?
An unlucky 13.

2. What Was The Coolest Kill?
Tina getting pulled through a window and thrown onto a car in slow motion, easily the highlight of the entire film.

3. What Was The Lamest Kill?
Mrs. Jarvis' completely off screen death. We never even see her body turn up! There's an alternate ending to this where the next day Trish finds her mother's body in a bathtub only to have Jason attack her (which would turn out to be a nightmare ala every single other damn movie), but they didn't go with it because they truly meant for this to be the final film.

4. Did The Best Character Die?
Once again yes. We love you Jimmy!

5. Did The Worst Character Die?
I guess you could say it was Paul because he was a cheating scumbag, but no one in this film inspired outright hate from me.

6. How Did The Villain Die In This One?
A knife through the eye and then hacked to pieces by Corey Feldman. What a way to go...

7. How Competent Was The Final Girl
Not very. Our second straight Final Girl that was mostly an idiot, highlighted by thinking her little brother would be just fine left alone in a house with Jason on the rampage.