Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday might be my favourite film in the Crystal Lake franchise on deliriously excessive shock value and purely deranged artistic inspiration alone; this thing is fucking lovably unhinged. There just comes a time in every franchise where the filmmakers feel the need to shake things up, throw a bit of seasoning into the stew that wasn’t there in previous incarnations (see the wonderful Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6) and the result is often a tributary effort like this where a simple, effective slasher motif has the doors of mythology blasted wide open and we get something really unique and striking. Jason Voorhees is blown to bloody smithereens in the first ten minutes of this film, and rendered all but deceased… or is he? Of course he isn’t, you ninnyhammer, that’s the golden rule of these things. It’s revealed that Jason’s essence, his very spirit itself transcends the physical flesh and can jump between hosts like a murderous parasite, which he does quite frequently on his journey from a big city morgue back to Crystal Lake to kill the sister and granddaughter he never knew he had, and quite frankly neither did we until this uncommonly elaborate script came into being. On his tail is gregarious bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Steven Williams, also awesome in True Detective & The X Files), who believes he can end Jason’s recently esoteric reign of terror and stop the legacy of blood. Much of the Friday The 13th franchise exists as primitive narrative framework for sex, suspense, substance consumption and modest murder special effects with nary a whiff of any real storytelling, supernatural or swanky FX. Not this baby. There are countless super slimy gore effects here, starting with a weird turd/slug thing that Jason passes between hosts to control them and onto some *very* intense kills including a mid coitus, ‘split right down the middle’ machete Hail Mary execution that earns a sly slow clap from the viewer. Crystal Lake now has this bizarre little diner run by a a rampaging matriarchal bull hen called Joey B., played by the great and always under appreciated Rusty Schwimmer. At one point Jason lays siege on her establishment and she arms her inbred bumpkin clan with heavy artillery for a demented firefight that.. well, let’s just say I didn’t think I’d ever see anything like it from this franchise. While there is story, it’s naturally all over the place, kinda like Jason himself and when he does finally show up in his traditional form once again (played by the great Kane Hodder, of course) it’s a cheer out loud moment. The legendary homages to other franchises like Evil Dead and Nightmare On Elm Street are wonderful as ever, and overall this is just so much goddamn fun for any loving fan of the Friday films, provided you employ a healthy level of imagination and capacity for abstract thought so you can play on its level.
Before Lord Of The Rings shot him into the stardom we know today, Viggo Mortensen had one oddball of a career leading up to it. Between playing the Devil, appearing in one of the more bizarre Texas Chainsaw sequels and training Demi Moore to be the first female Navy Seal he did Renny Harlin’s Prison, a little known, low budget horror flick that’s actually quite a lot of fun. A slick, schlocky hybrid between classic grassroots prison films and effects heavy gore of the 80’s, it sees an ancient precinct becoming haunted by the ghost of a long dead inmate who got the chair, perhaps wrongfully. The Warden (Lane Smith) is an angry old prick whose demons are coming back full force and he’s taking it out on the convicts big time. Mortensen is Burke, a mysterious con with integrity and grit who helps out when he can doesn’t stand for the warden’s bullshit. Chelsea Field is a prison board member who gets swept up in the whole thing and watch for Tom Everett, Kane Hodder, Lincoln Kilpatrick and Tiny Lister too. Smith plays the Warden not as so many have done like an outright sadistic villain, more a severely stressed out career man who has turned ugly overtime and started to project his frustrations in the most damaging ways, given his position of power. This is very low budget stuff and it shows, but there are still some striking set pieces including a solitary cell that heats up like a red hot furnace and fries those inside gruesomely and a string of barbed wire that comes to live and wreaks all kinds of havoc. Harlin made his debut here and it’s a strong one, he makes exciting decisions with the actors and handles the horror excellently. I could have used a tad more backstory on Mortensen’s character as some more exposition regarding the ghost convict, but other than that this is a blast.
Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan is kinda guilty of shitty false advertising, as well as just being an overall laughable effort in the franchise, which by that time had already run thin on new ideas. It was after Jason had run amok in the Camp Crystal Lake Woods, but before he got to go to hell, space or slap fisticuffs with Freddy Krueger, and kind of suffers in limbo at a juncture of the franchise that’s stuck in a quagmire of dumb ideas. Of all the evocative, atmospheric locales they could have switched his bloody tirades to, the big Apple just doesn’t seem like the ticket. That isn’t even the real problem anyways, as a good two and a half thirds of the film isn’t even set in NYC, but rather on a luxury cruise liner out on the coastline straights, bound for Manhattan and stuffed with more idiotic graduating high schoolers than you can shake a machete at. Lazy writing, nonexistent plotting and goofball acting are hallmarks in this terrain, but even more so with this flick, literally every non Jason character just being an insufferable ignoramus. The kills are passable but don’t even come halfway to topping the franchise charts, Kane Hodder shows up for his shift as the big lug in full gear, hockey mask and slimy mongoloid prosthetics included at no extra charge. When the boat does finally land on New York shores, it’s jarring to see Jason waltzing down fifth avenue looking like a homeless nut whose stairs don’t quite reach the attic, machete in hand in broad daylight as he pursues the few remaining partygoers through the crowded streets. Really, guys? Keep the big guy in his shrouded summer camp forests where he’s at home, and the feng-shui of his murders rings true. Or at least let him go to space where there’s still dark hallways and hidden alcoves. Probably the biggest misfire in the series.