|Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993)
|Jay Huguely and Dean Lorey
|John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams, Steven Culp, Erin Gray, Richard Gant, Billy Green Bush and Kane Hodder
“In a Voorhees was he born. Through a Voorhees may he be reborn. And only by the hands of a Voorhees will he die” – Duke
The first Friday the 13th film I saw in theatres; I was beyond psyched to see Jason on the big screen having devoured the first eight instalments on VHS in my early teens. What I got was this:
In the opening scene Jason (Hodder) is blown to smithereens as the FBI hatched a sting operation to wipe out the Crystal Lake serial killer once and for all. Jason’s remains are brought to a coroner’s office who subsequently starts to chow on his heart. In doing so he becomes possessed by Jason’s entity and mindlessly heads for another killing spree.
But not so mindlessly it turns out. Jason in fact goes looking for his sister Diana (Gray) because she can help him be reborn. That’s at least the theory that bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Williams) has and he’s the only who knows that Jason is still out there. Things become a bit more complicated when Jason murders his sister (in another body, this time as a policeman, since he has to switch regularly) and then he has to gun for his niece Jessica (Keegan) who’s recently had a baby.
Then we get to know a little about her. She doesn’t have the best of relationships with the father of the baby, Steven (LeMay), who’s trying to smooth things out so he can be in their lives. Through a series of unfortunate events Steven is on the scene when Diana is killed and subsequently becomes the number 1 suspect. With the help of Duke he escapes from jail and sets out to stop Jason before he can complete his mission. Meanwhile Jason goes from body to body trying to track down Jessica.
This was not what I was expecting when I got in the theatre. For years I considered this film to be the nadir of the series (there’s even a scathing review by me on IMDb trashing the film years ago) and could find no bright spot to comfort myself with. Then in 2020 I bought the Scream Factory deluxe set that has all the films and decided to check it out again. It went down better, especially after watching an interview with director Marcus, and I warmed to it a bit. Then last Friday the 13th (October 13, 2023) I religiously watched two Friday films; this time the excellent Part 2 (1981) and “Jason Goes To Hell” once more. And what do you know! I actually found it quite enjoyable.
It still resides in the bottom spot (but possibly the eighth film, “Jason Takes Manhattan” (1989) will replace it next year) but I can in all fairness say that I truly appreciate what Marcus was going for here. This kind of world building is very ambitious, and the young director (25 years old at the time of release) honestly did inject new life into a very worn out formula which eventually led to the surprisingly good teaming of “Freddy vs. Jason” (2003) and a number of other films who’ve gone down the same route of combining realities. There’s also a clever nod to the “Evil Dead” franchise (and a decent possible plot point as explained by Marcus but nowhere near evident enough in the film) so there’s some definite passion here for the genre and taking it a step further.
But it’s a bit too much to take in the short span of 90 minutes and it will definitely take some re-watching to fully grasp and some digging into the behind the scenes facts which many will not take the time for. So much is completely new here; a sister and a whole family connection, the fact that Jason is an evil entity that can possess bodies at will, a dagger with powers that has to be used by a family member to extinguish Jason, a huge and creepy Voorhees family house, a bounty hunter with all sorts of knowledge…you get my drift. All this in an hour and a half and with the requirement of plentiful kills at regular intervals. It’s not too unlike what director Danny Steinmann was tasked with in the fifth instalment, “A New Beginning” (1985), when trying to add a little world building with a copycat murderer and the main character/victim becoming the main villain after that. The burden of a trim runtime filled with gore and kills every 8 or 10 minutes doesn’t leave a lot of room for storytelling. So in the end the script for “Jason Goes to Hell” is pure toilet paper but that doesn’t mean that the core idea should be discarded…and here it’s pretty good. This would definitely benefit from the limited series model that’s populating the streaming services nowadays.
And what we’re stuck with is the end product. Like I said earlier; I’m warming to this movie. Marcus adds enough genuinely weird things for it to be somewhat of a head scratcher -the moustache shaving scene! – and has a flair for standout gory scenes – the tent scene with the girl getting sliced in half! – so it’s got some standout moments. He can definitely stage impressive scenes of carnage and mayhem. It moves along at a breakneck pace so one’s never bored and is very mean spirited for the most part with hard hitting violent scenes. Cinematography and lighting schemes are expertly well done and the film is quite atmospheric at times; particularly in a diner massacre and inside the Voorhees family house.
Performance wise it’s pretty decent. LeMay is very likeable and hopefully the “Friday the 13th: The Series” (1987-1990), where he was the co-lead for two seasons, can be resurrected on Blu-ray in the near future. Williams is a hoot as Duke although the character is a bit hard to take, the underappreciated Culp does good work as a slimy reporter and it’s always good to see Bush in the ensemble.
In the end; “Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday” is still at the bottom of the barrel but it’s just been upgraded to more rotations so who knows how far it will climb up.