It is Friday the 13th today, which is already enough for at least some level of celebration for all things that go bump in the night. What makes this Friday the 13th special, however, is that it happens to fall in the month of October.
This October has a lot of things to be excited about. Whether it is the release of the survival horror videogame Alan Wake II or the live-action adaptation of Five Nights at Freddy’s capping off the month, I am happy to say that horror is, not only alive, but doing very well these days.
To commemorate the holiday season, I decided I needed to continue delving into the Friday the 13th movie franchise (to my surprise, it has been almost three years on the dot since I last walked about the first three Friday the 13th films).
In summation, although I love the iconography of Friday the 13th and the Jason Voorhees character, thus far, I haven’t been explicitly infatuated with any singular film in the franchises’ catalog. Although I did find things to appreciate from both the original Friday the 13th and its sequel, I left with the belief that their ideas didn’t amount to strong films overall. I love the closing moment of a young Jason emerging from the waters of Camp Crystal Lake and the greenery that the camp setting provided, and I loved how the second film approached itself with a savage, Norman Bates-esque approach to the Jason character. Unfortunately, the movies’ themselves don’t hold up as well as I would like them to. The third film is, by far, my least favorite of the bunch.
For what it’s worth to any of you who may be rolling your eyes, I am happy to report that I liked Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.
I believe any time I talk about Friday the 13th, I always run the risk of attracting the wrong type of person. The type of person with a holier than thou impression of themselves, believing that I am unable to understand the series’ appeal. As mindboggling as it may sound to believe there are elitists who hold the Friday the 13th franchise up on a pedestal, I can assure you that they exist. With that in mind, I will say that, every film (except the third), I usually come away with some level of enjoyment. I have, for better and for worse, seen more slasher films than any other genre. Like any other subgenre, there is, in turn, subgenres within subgenres.
Whereas Halloween focused on suspense, Friday the 13th is more of a bare bones, slasher junk food. It didn’t focus too much on characterization or making you invest in the narrative on display. Some enjoy that. It certainly can have its appeal, however, I would argue that it hadn’t necessarily created a truly decent film for the Friday the 13th series until now.
It isn’t fantastic, mind you. I reiterate – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is a decent film.
The characters are simple and straightforward, but I would argue the characters a little more fleshed out than the prior films. Maybe fleshed out isn’t exactly the word, but rather that I feel The Final Chapters fills its runtime better than the prior movies. There were times in the earlier movies where I felt like scenes went through the motions, struggling to find something for the characters to do in-order to reach that feature-length runtime.
This one doesn’t perfect the formula, but it does at least introduce some colorful characters. It’s a lot of horny young men and a lot of women in the buff, but, at least they feel like they are doing something (each other). They aren’t filling the runtime with groundbreaking performances or particularly thoughtful characterizations, but they are filling the runtime, which I think is an important distinction I had with my experience with this film compared to the earlier movies. They aren’t merely playing tug-of-war or sitting at a campfire singing songs, waiting until Jason has the chance to off them. One character is horny but lacking in self-confidence (he thinks he’s a dead lay), one character thinks himself a ladies’ man, but winds up being one of the only ones’ that doesn’t get laid. Corey Feldman‘s in it too, introducing the Tommy Jarvis character. None of it will blow you away. You won’t find a final girl as strong as Nancy Thompson or Laurie Strode, or anything like that. Some of the characters outright blur together, whereas some of the ones you spend the most time with, are pigs to the slaughter. It’s a formula I do like about Friday the 13th, in some respects, because it means you don’t always know who is safe and who isn’t, which is a rarity in the genre. Characters that look like they may have some type of plot armor have their heads squashed in, and that’s pretty cool.
The film doesn’t have my favorite payoff, I admit – that’s still the first film (even if it did always bother me they felt the need to have a scene after Jason’s on-screen debut, showing us that the young lady survived), and, in-fact, the Tommy Jarvis character still strikes me as pretty silly after all these years (I still cracked up seeing Corey Feldman’s bald-head).
The kill scenes I like a fair amount in this film as well, Jason feels a lot more aggressive and brutal, and I’m here for it. This is the first Friday the 13th where I felt like it transitioned to what it was then and what it is known for now. If you were to make a “Friday the 13th” type film now, what that would mean would differ from what year you were in. Early on, it would look something like The Burning, and now, it looks more like Hatchet. This film hit the spot, for lack of a more apt explanation. It is a mindless slasher film that rarely dawdled and had a lot of bloodshed, benefited by more emphasis on characterizations and narrative structure.