Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

(Reviewed in 2002 as part of a retrospective on the “Friday the 13th” series.)

I got angry with “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan” for suggesting Jason would be in New York and then not putting him there until an hour into the movie. So we won’t even talk about “Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday,” where Jason doesn’t actually go to hell until two minutes before the movie ends. I suspect a film all about Jason in hell would not be very interesting, as he would be lackluster indeed when surrounded by luminaries such as Hitler and Disney.

Part 9 in the series is by far the most polished and professional-looking. It appears to have been made by actual filmmakers, rather than the developmentally disabled youth responsible for Parts 1-8 (except 4, which I rather liked).

Looks are not everything, though. The film still suffers from bad continuity, sloppy editing, bland acting, ridiculous plot developments and cardboard characters. It is also by far the most grotesque film in the series. (A man gets his face put into a deep-fryer; a woman’s mouth gets smashed into her head.)

It begins promisingly. A girl drives to a secluded cabin in the woods, gets naked and takes a shower. We can’t believe a movie in the series that helped create these cliches would now be indulging in them. We are wondering why we’re even bothering with this piece of crap.

Sure enough, Jason shows up and tries to kill the girl. She runs into the woods and stops. Suddenly, an array of floodlights are turned on and a veritable army of police snipers shoot Jason to smithereens. Just to be sure, Jason is then blown up.

This is wonderful. Here the movie recognizes the cliches and uses them as a trap for Jason. (Think about it: If you wanted to capture him, how would you lure him out? You’d go to the woods, get naked, take a shower…. If Jason had watched a few “Friday the 13th” movies, he never would have fallen for it.) This was one of the few pre-“Scream” acknowledgements of how tired the genre was, and my, is it ever lovely.

It also makes sense from a practical standpoint, because what they did is EXACTLY WHAT WE WOULD DO. As a kid, I thought that if Jason were real, and he kept coming back to life, I would capture him, kill him, then cut his body into a million pieces and send them all over the world.

I also like how they don’t even ATTEMPT to explain how Jason is alive again after dying in toxic waste at the end of Part 8. I’m guessing they realized that whatever the explanation was, it wasn’t going to make sense, so they just skipped it. Good for them.

After that opening sequence, things fall apart, but quick. The coroner sifting through Jason’s body parts becomes entranced by the still-beating heart (note to self: don’t conduct autopsies on persons whose disembodied organs are still functioning). Then he eats the heart, which causes him to, um, become Jason. He still looks like himself, but his reflection shows the nasty guy in the hockey mask. (Apparently, the hockey mask is now PART of Jason, like his arm or his leg.) He kills people.

A weird cowboyish bounty hunter named Creighton Duke (Steven Williams, later of “The X-Files”) announces that he knows everything about Jason’s true nature, possibly because he just made it up. It seems Jason had a sister all this time (never mentioned before), who is now Erin Gray, formerly of “Silver Spoons.” Erin Gray has a daughter named Jessica and a little baby granddaughter. Jason’s body has been destroyed, and he’s using temporary bodies until he can get to a blood relative. Once he does that, and uses his black, serpentine tongue to transfer himself to that person, then Jason will be reborn again and forever and then we’re all screwed.

Creighton Duke also tells us the only way to REALLY kill Jason is for one of the aforementioned blood relatives to kill him (this rule has never been mentioned before). Oh, and it has to be with a special knife (also new). And it would help if it takes place at the Voorhees family home (this being the first time we’ve ever heard of such a place). I suspect they had Steven Williams improvise all that stuff, then they made the rest of the movie based on what he said. (“‘Voorhees family home’?” says the director. “All right, you heard the man! Build a set!”) (“Voorhees” is misspelled “Vorhees” on the mailbox, by the way.)

Creighton Duke reveals all this information to Steven, the mild-mannered ex-boyfriend of Jessica and father to her little baby, and ostensibly our hero. Creighton Duke also breaks two of Steven’s fingers in exchange for this information. I suspect the actor made that up, too, because there’s NO WAY anyone actually WROTE that scene.

There is a couple who has sex in a tent in the woods before getting killed. They are accompanied by a girl who is by far the most awkward third wheel I’ve ever seen in my life. She tries to pick up on Steven, who picks them up hitchhiking. Apparently, her thought was that she would go along with her amorous friends and just collect a boyfriend for herself on the way there. Very optimistic, this girl.

You may be interested to know, also, that after Jason is done possessing your body, he transfers to another body, and then you melt.

There are a few moments of honest tension in the film; more, perhaps, than most of the others in the series. The ineptitude is apparent, but not glaring. It betrays most of the what the series had already established — since WHEN is Jason a supernatural being, for crying out loud? — but it does it glibly and without regard for tact or decency. There’s something admirable about being so blatantly ridiculous, especially when the people doing it are so dumb they don’t realize what they’re doing it.

C- (1 hr., 29 min.; R, dreadful stuff.)