FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER is a mixed bag. In one hand you have the nastiest, darkest, most mean-spirited entry in the entire Jason saga with the most nudity and some incredibly gruesome deaths. On the other hand you have a movie filled with illogical characters (yes, even for a FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel), no plot to speak of, and major plot holes in continuity with the other movies. It's not that The Final Chapter is a bad entry in the series - it still stands as one of the best of the bunch. It's just that The Final Chapter is slightly overrated, and by no means the "ultimate Friday the 13th film."
The film's biggest problem is the characters. I'm no fool - I understand that when looking at a Friday the 13th film one must taken certain liberties and suspend a lot of disbelief concerning logic. But unlike the first three movies, where the legend of "Camp Blood" lingers throughout the movie (or in PART 3's case Jason's attack on Chris), the characters in The Final Chapter all seem too happily unaware of where they are living - a small town that has (recently) been transformed into a bloodbath.
The town of Crystal Lake has been savaged by numerous massacres throughout the past week, and the presumed dead killer has disappears from the morgue - yet no one seems concerned! The characters all jog and bike in the woods, leaves the doors open, and really seem to have no clue as to what just happened down the road from where they live! And this becomes even more illogical when Mrs. Jarvis (Joan Freeman) literally reads a newspaper article about the massacre. Wouldn't any good mother keep her children inside for a few days? It makes no sense.
While the characters in this movie each have full personalities, they are not quite as eclectic as previous entries. Certain characters like Doug (Peter Barton) and Sara (Barbara Howard) are interesting and have full arcs, but there is no time given to explore them. Out of all the kids in the film, their romance is the strongest, yet it never really shines. It's not as appealing as, say, Alice and Bill's relationship in the original movie, or Vickie and Mark's in PART II, or even Shelly and Vera's in Part 3. The teens of this movie, with the exception of the two Jarvis children, are slasher fodder with no purpose to the story but to be killed in various ways. They are there to heighten the body count, and that's it. And even minor characters, like that of the chubby hitchhiker girl (Bonnie Hellman) are wasted. That hitchhiker could have been a real entertaining character, had she been given a chance.
Of course, the most important character, aside from Jason, is the "final girl." Trish (Kimberly Beck) fills the role and she kicks ass at it. Like Ginny from Part II, Trish is self-sufficient, brave, and tough. She looks the frightening monster Jason right in the eye and tells him that she's going to "give him something to remember [her] by." But even still, at the end of the day, the writing for Trish is often flat; she needs a reason why she becomes the final girl in her battle against Jason. Ginny was a child psychologist who understood Jason's mongoloid mental problems, and Chris had been attacked by Jason in the past but survived the encounter. Trish is literally just a girl with no connection to him. In fact, if Rob Dier (E. Erich Anderson) had not shown her the newspaper clippings of the murders and explained to her who Jason was, then by the end of the film she still might not have a clue who the hockey masked killer that attacked her family was.
Speaking of Rob Dier, his whole story is without a doubt the film's biggest flaw. His character confuses the timeline, and messes with the movie's overall flow. Rob has come to Crystal Lake to avenge his slaughtered sister Sandra (who you might remember getting shish-kabobed in Part II). But according to the timeline, Part II's climax is on Friday the 13th, meaning that Part 3 takes place over the 14 and 15. This means that The Final Chapter starts on the 16... that's three days after Part II. Sandra's funeral would not have even taken place, let alone Rob having the time to travel to Crystal Lake and devise his revenge scheme. Once again, it doesn't make sense!
It's easy to go on a rant about a movie, especially when as a fan it's unclear why other fan's hold the film in such high regard (many fans of the franchise name it the best movie in the series). I am in no way a hater of The Final Chapter, as I have seen it multiple times and enjoyed it thoroughly each time.
I particularly like the opening of the movie, where it picks up after the events of Part 3 and then follows Jason's "corpse" to the hospital morgue. The entire opening was well constructed and set the mood for the rest of the movie very well. When you meet mortician Axel (Bruce Mahler) and Nurse Morgan (Lisa Freeman), you know they're going to get it, but director Joseph Zito plays with the audience, teasing them with the "when" and the "how."
Most of the film does an excellent job teasing the audience, as it is implied that Jason could be anywhere at anytime, ready to strike. But it is the third act of the movie that really is where things get stretched and become annoying. The best example of this is when Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman), Trish's younger brother, is preparing his assault on Jason by shaving his head to make himself look like a young Jason, "the boy that drowned in Crystal Lake in 1957." The pacing with this plot point is all off - while Trish is being chased by a bloodthirsty maniac, Tommy is upstairs cutting his hair? It's a far fetch, even for a Friday the 13th movie, and his transformation should have come sooner.
Ted White plays Jason this time around, and I have to admit that he's my favorite Jason in the entire series. Mr. White portrays the hockey masked madman with malice and brutality. He is hot on his victim's heels, and relentless in his pursuit of them. Jason may have been his creepiest in Part II, but he's his most intense in The Final Chapter.
Gore fans will notice a change in the tone and atmosphere; things are much meaner and nastier than the previous films. The deaths are stretched out, and the victims suffer this time around. For those who have seen Zito's earlier slasher THE PROWLER, the tone is very similar to that movie. And much of that nastiness, aside from Zito's vivid direction, is owed to Ted White.
Ah, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. A movie that, despite my many critiques, I still really enjoy. It's the best movie in the "Tommy Jarvis" trilogy by a long-shot - FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES each lose the edge of the original four movies. And The Final Chapter has certainly had its influence, as seen in later entries like FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD and the 2009 version of FRIDAY THE 13TH, which used The Final Chapter almost like a blueprint for how to make a Friday movie. At the end of the day, if you're a slasher fan, you've got to see Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter - it might be flawed, but its also a landmark in the genre, and really marks the end of the Golden Age of Slasher films (this was the last movie released before A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET).
The Prowler (1981)
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
Friday the 13th (2009)