Joseph Zito (The Prowler) gets in the director's chair for this fourth entry that ups the gore (once again supplied by Tom Savini) and the nudity just a little bit from the first three films in the long running Friday The 13th series. When Jason snaps back into action after a brief stay at the county morgue, an amorous doctor and nurse get first dibs on death. Once he makes it out of the hospital he heads back the Crystal Lake where he finds a group of horny teens (Crispin Glover, Lawrence Monoson, and a few cut chicks) renting the house right next door to the newly moved in Jarvis family, where young Tommy (your friend and mine, Corey Feldman) lives with his mother (Joan Freeman) and his sister, Trish (Kimberly Beck). Once again, Jason gets a hackin' and the teens get naked and die until the inevitable showdown between Tommy and Jason occurs. While all of this is going on, a lone woodsman named Rob Dier (Erich Anderson) is skulking around the forest looking for Jason. Apparently Jason killed his sister. While we never learn just who his sister was, it's motivation enough for him to want to do the hockey mask wearing killer in for good.
The fourth entry is a personal favorite not only because it has a really weird Feldmanesque ending and more nudity than the first three films (hey, at least I'm honest) but also because Zito and Savini have widened the mean streak for this film. Dubbed The Final Chapter, (obviously it wasn't) Zito's film has a faster pace, better and more inventive kills, and lots of breasts. Basically, it takes the exploitative qualities that made the first three films so successful and ups the ante making for the goriest film in the series and the one that features some of Jason's most memorable kill scenes.
Another quality that makes this one stand out from the others is the casting. While Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover weren't all that famous when this film was made, they've since become big enough that seeing them here in a trashy horror movie takes on an entertaining quality all its own. Much like seeing Kevin Bacon get it through the neck in the first Friday The 13th film, seeing Feldman and particularly Glover, who performs a truly bizarre dance sequence that kind of comes at you out of left field, is a kick.
And then there's Jason. Part of the 'cool' factor that this entry carries with it stems from the fact that Jason is still scary in this film. He's not a lumbering, unstoppable supernatural killing force, he's a big dude with a knife who can and will mess you up but good. By resurrecting him time and time again, the further sequels obviously lose a big part of this 'mystique' but here it still carries some weight. Played (outside of the 'archival footage' clips) by Ted White, he's a lumbering mass of death and destruction, seemingly unstoppable but not so far removed from reality, at least reality as far as horror movies are concerned, that somewhere in the back of your reasonable adult mind, he's still a pretty creepy guy.
While there's no point in deluding ourselves into thinking that this is some sort of masterpiece, The Final Chapter is at least a rollicking slice of hack and slash entertainment. A great drive-in film with some good scares, strong effects and fun performances it rightfully deserves its place as one of the best slasher films of the eighties. It holds up well both in terms of entertainment value and technique and it hits a high note that the following entries would rarely match, let alone top.
Paramount's new 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is pretty sharp stuff. The film still looks a bit grainy, as it should be, but many of the darker scenes that were just too murky in earlier releases now look quite sharp with way more detail easily noticeable. Color reproduction looks a bit more vibrant without appearing oversaturated at all while skin tones look nice and lifelike. Black levels are pretty strong, and shadow detail remains quite good. Thankfully there aren't any compression issues to complain about nor is there any obvious edge enhancement. There also seems to be just a slight bit more picture information present here than in past transfers. Print damage has been more or less eliminated but the grain is still there, and all in all, we're left with a pleasing and film like image that looks much, much better than past DVD incarnations of this movie.
Audio options are supplied in a newly created Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track in English with Dolby Digital Mono options available in English, French, and Spanish. Subtitles are also supplied in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. While purists will be thankful for the Mono track, the 5.1 mix does a nice job of spreading things out though it doesn't take advantage of all that surround sound can offer as often as it could. There is a fair bit of rear channel activity but it's almost all ambient and background noise rather than distinct effects. The score in particular has more resonance to it than the last release afforded it while dialogue and sound effects are all nice and crisp and levels remain properly balanced throughout, though for the most part, this is definitely a front heavy mix.
Extras start off with the first of two commentary tracks. Director Joseph Zito is joined by editor Joel Goodman and writer Barney Cohen for a genuinely interesting look back at the making of this picture. This is, for lack of a cheesier term, a really fun stroll down memory lane for the three participants, all of whom seem quite fond of the work that they did on this picture and speak about it with some obvious affection. They cover everything you'd want and expect them to - casting, effects work, the film's sometimes relentless violence, location shooting and editing the picture - and they do it amiably and in very listenable manner. Fans will want to give this track a spin.
The second commentary is a 'fan' track that features two younger horror film directors, Adam Green (who did Hatchet) and Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2). The pair were obviously influenced by the series, Green in particular (if you've seen Hatchet it's obvious) and the pair spend a good deal of time talking about how this film shaped them and their respective projects. This is actually quite a bit more interesting than it probably sounds, as they rail off some interesting facts and trivia along the way and have an infectious enthusiasm for the material.
From there we move on to the video based supplements starting with Last Tales From Camp Blood Part IV, the forth chapter in the ongoing 'fan film' series that Paramount has been including on their Deluxe Edition re-releases of the series. As it was with the earlier entries, this is a fairly uninteresting quickie slasher inspired by the Friday The 13th films. Working along the same lines is The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited Part 1, which is an eighteen minute fake newscast that gathers together various participants to get them in front of the camera to talk about their experiences. It's moderately amusing and hey, Stuart Gordon of all people pops up here.
Moving right along, check out Jason's Unlucky Day: 25 Years After Friday, which is an eleven minute featurette that gathers together Joseph Zito, Tom Savini, Joel Goodman, Barry Cohen, Kimberly Beck, Bonnie Hellman, Erich Anderson to talk about what it was like working on the picture. They discuss various ideas for some of the set pieces, the scripting process and what it was like working in front of the camera. This is a pretty interesting bit, though it could have been twice as long and not suffered any.
Fans will definitely be interested in some of the excised material that appears here, starting with Jimmy's Dead Fuck Dance Moves which is two minutes of outtakes of Crispin Glover's infamous dance sequence that plays with an introduction from Zito. The Lost Ending is also well worth watching, as this three minute sequence plays off the endings of the first three films quite nicely. It's presented without any audio, so Paramount has wisely included commentary from Zito and Beck to put it all into context. Last but not least, the fifteen minutes worth of Slashed Scenes includes a wealth of awesome alternate takes from the various death scenes from the film, some of which are considerably nastier than the MPAA approved kills we see in the feature. These too are presented without sound, but Zito's interesting commentary puts it all into context and it's great to see this material included here.
Rounding out the extra features is the film's original theatrical trailer, a trailer for The Uninvited, animated menus and chapter stops. As with past Deluxe Edition re-releases, The Final Chapter also comes with a fancy lenticular slipcase cover. Annoyingly, there are a couple of deleted scenes that were included in the previous boxed set release that aren't seen here, meaning completists will want to hold on to that set - otherwise, Paramount has done an excellent job in the extra's department.
One of the best entries in the long running series, Friday The 13th - The Final Chapter gets a re-release from Paramount that is absolutely worth double-dipping on thanks to improved audio and video and a wealth of extras. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.