Every month, we at The Spool select a filmmaker to explore in greater depth — their themes, their deeper concerns, how their works chart the history of cinema and the filmmaker’s own biography. 40 years after Camp Crystal Lake appeared on the silver screen, we look back at Friday the 13th and how the perennial slasher series mutated across the years. Read the rest of our Friday coverage here.
Ask most casual fans of slasher movies to describe the quintessential Friday the 13th experience and they’d most likely list a few must-haves: Jason Voorhees, the hockey mask, a group of mostly bland 30-going-on-18-year-olds for Jason to dispatch in creative and gory ways. That’s about all you need for a successful Friday the 13th yarn.
The early ’80s screamed into being with an onslaught of teen slashers unleashed on cinemas from coast to coast. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho saw its own sequel in 1983’s Psycho II, those looking to cash in on the summer camp massacre sub-genre saw the release of Sleepaway Camp, while Jason’s contemporary, and future nu-metal-fueled sparring partner Freddy Krueger, wouldn’t introduce audiences to A Nightmare on Elm Street until late in 1984.
Nestled right in the middle of the first-wave slasher-boom of the ’80s stands a crown jewel of the genre: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. (Spoiler alert: there are six more main-franchise flicks after Final Chapter.)
Paramount Pictures was historically embarrassed by the success of the gruesome trilogy of terror which began in 1980. Not embarrassed enough, of course, to stop releasing sequels year after year. There was a sense that while the series swan song was intended to be Friday the 13th Part 3-D, there was still a little more blood to squeeze from the stone. Why not get the band back together for a fourth and “final” hurrah?
Frank Mancuso, Jr. stayed on to produce, Harry Manfredini manned the keyboards and echo mic, and legendary special effects artist Tom Savini, who designed the look of Jason Voorhees in Friday’s initial entry, returned one last time to kill off his creation.
For the gore-hound lore-hounds out there, The Final Chapter is the last piece of convoluted series continuity that even tries to make sense. Picking up moments after the conclusion of the third movie, our fourth film establishes that chapters two through four have taken place over most of a week beginning Thursday, July 12th 1984 and concluding at the end of Final Chapter on Wednesday, July 18th 1984. Once you leave the Final Chapter, you enter a world where 1984 never stops, for better or for worse.
There was still a little more blood to squeeze from the stone. Why not get the band back together for a fourth and “final” hurrah?
There is a feeling that flows throughout The Final Chapter of pulling out all the stops for a grand guignol finale. Aside from the aforementioned franchise heavy-hitters, the fourth chapter of the Voorhees saga introduces mainstay protagonist Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) and an off-the-wall, tour-de-force performance by noted Hollywood eccentric Crispin Glover.
Granted, both Feldman and Glover were a year out from their career-making turns in The Goonies and Back to the Future, respectively, however their star power is on full display in the woods of New Jersey. Feldman is instantly charismatic, slightly dodging the trap of precocious child actors by portraying a precocious child enamored with gruesome masks and special effects makeup. Relatable, slightly annoying in that younger-sibling way, and downright terrifying when he needs to be, Feldman proves he was a force to be reckoned with at the dawn of the 80s.
Glover is…difficult to explain. His character Jimmy, on paper mostly flat, forgettable, and defined by best friend Ted’s (The Last American Virgin’s Lawrence Monoso) inability to refer to Jimmy as anything other than a “dead fuck,” transcends the page every single time Glover opens his mouth or furrows his brow. One thing can be guaranteed after watching this performance – you will never ask for a corkscrew the same way again.
Of course there is a plethora of machete-fodder aside from these two – a set of sociopathic twins with matching pastel pants (Camilla and Carey More), pervy ambulance drivers (Bruce Mahler), silent slapstick hitchhikers (Bonnie Hellmen), and a Brawny Paper Towel Man come to life (E. Erich Anderson) seeking revenge for the death of his sister at the hands of the murderous morality clause known as Jason Voorhees (Ted White).
Relationships are forged and tested, skinnies are dipped, dogs make grate escapes, windows are smashed, and one guy gets a spear gun to the junk (a kill that inspired the Junkbucket films). It doesn’t behoove you, gentle reader, for this columnist to go kill by kill (there are far smarter folks who have expertly done this already) though the 91 minutes of blood-soaked celluloid. Suffice it to say that any casual genre fan owes it to themselves to see this tentpole in a franchise that maybe never knew when to quit, and couldn’t quit even when it wanted to do so. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is anything but final, but it sure thinks it’s taking the series out with a bang.
If you’re still not convinced Final Chapter is worth your time, let Crispin Glover change your mind with the universal language of dance.