6 Days of Friday: Day 2
Welcome back Friday lovers! It’s time for Day 2 of 6 Days of Friday, where we will be looking at Parts III and IV of the famed slasher series. Some dramatic changes are in store for the character of Jason Voorhees, who begins to fully take shape in these two entries, transforming into the horror icon that we all know and love (to fear).
Friday the 13th: Part III (1982) ————————————————————————————- 3/5 Stars
Synopsis: Picking up immediately after the events of Part II, Part III opens with Jason looking for a place to lay low and heal the wounds that were inflicted by Ginny and Paul. He hides out in a barn that sits on a property called Higgins Haven, where a new group of teens just happen to be arriving for a vacation, unaware that a psycho-killer is right next door! Murder ensues.
Part III is when the series really started to establish a familiar groove, and it also marked the beginning of Jason’s transition into a full-blown pop-culture icon. It’s an admirable sequel because, like Part II, it attempts to continue the same storyline from the first two and utilize a similar tone, which is not surprising considering the fact that it was directed by Part II helmer Steve Miner. I must say for the most part it succeeds in its aspirations, while losing a few points for lack of originality, sticking too closely to an established formula that was starting to grow a bit stale by this point. It also felt like a big step down in terms of plotting and characterization, but maybe that’s what the 3D gimmick was supposed to make up for?
It is important to note that this is indeed the film where Jason gets his famous hockey mask, and believe it or not, it’s one of the only films in the series to show the killer actually RUNNING after victims (instead of just walking in a slow but menacing fashion). There are plenty of unnecessary objects poking towards screen and several kills which try to cash in on the promise of a 3D experience, including a harpoon shot through the head, as well as a scene wherein Jason crushes the skull of an unsuspecting teen until their eye pops out at the audience. The climactic final act between Jason and the film’s female survivor Chris pretty much just runs through the list of horror showdown cliches, but is made better thanks to Jason’s new “angry goalie” look as well as the fact that, originally, this was meant to be the final film in the series (and thus, Jason’s actual death). Of course now that seems ridiculous, but at the time I suppose the final shot depicting the calm and undisturbed waters of Crystal Lake was meant to symbolize that the Voorhees family would finally rest in peace. Thankfully for us, the reality is more akin to the unnecessary multiple shock scares that are thrown in right before this moment simply to mess with us, recalling the original and suggesting that some families simply never die.
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) ————————————————————— 4/5 Stars
Synopsis: Picking up the day after the events of Part III, Part IV has Jason escaping from the morgue after being declared dead, at which point he returns (once again) to Crystal Lake…but this time it’s for the last time! Or…wait…scratch that. Waiting for him at his old stomping ground is a new batch of teens who have rented a house on the Lake and are looking to party. Among them is young Tommy Jarvis, a boy who would prove to be more important than Jason could have ever known…
The Final Chapter marks the end of the first “era” of Friday films, which attempted to continue the same story and consistently depict Jason as a truly frightening character. There is certainly the sense that the filmmakers wanted to take everything more seriously this time around, I suppose because they were actually attempting to bring Jason (and the franchise) back from the dead this time (for another slice at those killer profits). Thankfully however, this resulted in some higher production values all around, as well as a cast that didn’t suck so bad at acting, and happened to include teen sensation Corey Feldman.
I must say that the greatest thing about The Final Chapter is how intense and uncompromising Jason is at all times. This is definitely the Jason Voorhees that 12-year olds would have nightmares about, and special effects guru Tom Savini did a great job of making him and his acts of murder look bloody and terrifying. One kill in particular which occurs near the end in the basement is one of the most intense moments in the series for me, showcasing Jason at his most brutal yet displaying hardly any actual gore. There’s a very high body count this time around, leading up to a climax that is memorable, with an incredibly gory demise for our favourite hockey fan that is undercut by something of a lame plot twist, depending on how you look at it. But regardless of its flaws, this is easily one of the best Fridays, and remains my go-to pick for a truly scary Jason film from the “classic” era.
Safe to say, things would never be the same after The Final Chapter, as will become apparent by the diminishing ratings that you will begin to see in days to come. It’s a sad truth, but there’s still a lot of fun ahead, as well as some…questionable decisions about what direction to take the character and franchise from this point on. Stay tuned for my reviews of Parts V and VI next time and learn all about it!