A bold statement. But a true one. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is the best Friday the 13th film, and I say that as a diehard fan of Betsy “Mrs. Voorhees” Palmer. Here are all the reasons why part four is number one.
In an extended flashback that incorporates footage from the first three films, we’re brought up to speed on the series so far. We hear the legend of Jason Voorhees, and we see the carnage that’s been wrought upon “Camp Blood.” Then there’s a brief sequence that picks up exactly where part three ends (except not in 3D), in which the body of Jason is taken to the nearest morgue. Naturally, he re-animates and takes out the horny morgue attendant and a nurse, and probably more. But after that re-introduction to the character and his urge to kill so powerful he’ll apparently come back from the dead to keep doing it, we immediately dive into part four’s story proper.
Once the plot really begins, we’re no longer at summer camp. We’re still in the backwoods, but the context has changed. This time, we’re with the Jarvis family—college-aged Trish, tweenager Tommy, and their newly-single mother—and the group of Trish-aged kids who rent the house next door. The kids are of the Camp Crystal Lake counselor variety (obsessed with sex, like to party, etc.), but the relationships between them actually feel genuine. There’s also a mysterious hiker, Rob, who claims to be “hunting for bears,” but is instead “hunting for Jason,” the maniac who killed his sister. He’s the only character who knows Jason is alive and has escaped the morgue, and is inevitably headed back to the woods to do more damage.
Corey Feldman (pre-Goonies, Stand By Me, and The Lost Boys) plays Tommy Jarvis, who is basically the little-kid embodiment of the film’s special effects make-up guru, Tom Savini. Has there ever been a sixth-grader so brave against a ruthless serial killer ... and so well-equipped to mind-fuck said killer, with his amazing collection of handmade monster masks? The answer is no.
Also, Crispin Glover plays one of the horny kids who moves in next door to the Jarvis family. He is a huge nerd and nervous about girls (see his dance of seduction, below), but he ends up having stupendous bedroom success with one half of a pair of preppy twins who join the group. That is, before he dies in an absolutely violent and horribly gory manner, as nearly everyone else does. (Thanks for that, Tom Savini!)
While every kill (and even some false alarms) are announced well in advance by the Friday the 13th signature sound effect, there’s more suspense in this series entry than most. You always know when Jason is going to strike (ki-ki-ki-ah-ah-ah!), but at least he gets some creativity-staged kills this time around. One particularly artful touch: as the kids watch vintage stag films they’ve inexplicably found in their vacation home, a girl is killed outside—a brutal act only witnessed as a shadow during a lightning strike, much like a projector beam.
It will never not be funny that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was followed by EIGHT more films, including another sequel nearly 10 years later that optimistically-yet-falsely dropped the word “final” into its title, too: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. (It probably goes without saying, but ... it wasn’t.) However, all things considered, that final-shot freeze-frame on Tommy Jarvis, still decked out in Jason drag but with newly crazy eyes, suggests the filmmakers behind part four knew this story was far from over.
Here’s the trailer, which would have you believe that “Jason’s reign of terror is over:”