Well, I give “Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter” (1984) credit for trying a few new things, at least. Unfortunately, this debut entry from director Joseph Zito and writers Barney Cohen and Bruce Hidemi Sakow pulls back from all of its slightly new ideas and ends up being the weakest of the first four entries.
To start out, refreshingly, we see the police actually doing their job in the wake of “Part III.” But when Jason (Ted White this time) inevitably wakes up and breaks out of the morgue, we see none of law enforcement’s pursuit of him.
By the sequels’ standards, we do get marginally punched-up characterizations and personalities. The batch of horny teens renting a house near Camp Crystal Lake includes Crispin Glover’s Jimmy, who is sexually unconfident. There’s also a gal, Sara (Barbara Howard), who is hesitant to be intimate with her boyfriend, which certainly makes her stand out in the “F13” series.
One teen, Ted (Lawrence Monoson), is distracted by an ancient pornographic filmstrip — that’s something I didn’t expect to see. And there’s also twins. The party goes well for some of the teens and not as well for others, and this is awkwardly genuine.
Next door, we get the start of a warm family portrayal with little Tommy (Corey Feldman, also in “Gremlins” in 1984), his older sister Trish (Kimberly Beck) and their mom (Joan Freeman). A camper named Rob (Erich Anderson) is hunting in the area, and it’s a nice touch when we realize he is hunting Jason (the Jason-as-bear metaphor is reprised from “Part 2”). But again, where is law enforcement?
At any rate, it’s nice to know at least one person follows the news and is aware that there was a killing spree and a morgue escape within the last 24 hours in this very area.
I’m beginning to realize that characters in this series can only go partway toward being memorable people, because their ultimate identity is that of Jason’s latest victim. I started to look up the names of the characters and actors other than Glover and Feldman and found it exhausting. None of the actors are awful, it’s just that they don’t have much to work with.
The most interesting arc – to use the term very generously – belongs to Feldman’s Tommy. Fans of “Halloween 4” (1988) will recognize it. We’re confronted with the notion that the young kid might take after Jason, after surviving his encounter with him. The monster-mask-making Tommy goes gung-ho with the machete on the dying Jason, something that bothers Trish, this entry’s Final Girl. And then he gives a wicked smile for the camera at the end.
But this kid-turns-evil concept would be done so much better by Danielle Harris and the “Halloween 4” writers that it crystalizes how hesitantly it’s done in “The Final Chapter.”
The “F13” films are no longer even in the ballpark of scary, even though Zito’s direction is competent. The saga does get slightly funnier here, but not enough that the movie connects as a comedy. The kills aren’t creative here, although Jason makes the best use of corpses so far, using them to block doorways and smash windows.
Despite tiptoeing into ideas not precisely found in this series so far, the fourth entry doesn’t commit to any of them and it’s ultimately more (or less) of the same. But at least it’s “The Final Chapter.”
Oh, wait. There are seven more after this.