And so here comes the third gimmick that drew audiences from the pavement into the cinema. Part 2 gained attention because it was the sequel to one of the goriest movies then known to cinema-goers, Part 3 used 3-D as a launch-pad of interest, and now here, Part 4 of the hugely successful Friday the 13th franchise, boasts itself as the final chapter, where we should ultimately see the demise of beloved killer Jason. And if this, in fact, had been the last movie in the series, I am sure that many fans besides myself would have felt completely satisfied in what is a creepy, brutal but undeniably fun film.
The first four movies in this series are without a doubt the most eerie. This, in part, is due to Harry Mandelini's wonderfully edgy score which uses screeching violins and continuously ominous under tones (I suspect using cellos), which give them all a very gloomy, creepy feel. This works particularly well in The Final Chapter, and many scares come from the music and its ability to slink into silence without the viewer noticing, and then leap back full blast as something horrendous occurrs. I believe I jumped a total of six or seven times throughout The Final Chapter, at almost every death, and this is also because of Joseph Zito's brilliant direction which so many times sets up 'double-bluff/misdirection scares' where you expect Jason to jump out in one place, and he appears in a completely different area. The atmosphere created by Joseph Zito is also something that adds chilling ambience to the film, and while night-time scenes in most modern movies are brightly-lit or fake-looking, in The Final Chapter the night is full of shadows, which constantly keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat in anticipation of Jason emerging from a bush or lurking in the darkness.
The thing that sets The Final Chapter aside from the other (previous and following) sequels in the series is the post-modern set-up that fails to comply with the rules within the Friday the 13th series already set up. Whereas beforehand the plot in all first three movies centered only around numbers of horny teens that were isolated at Crystal Lake, in The Final Chapter we still have these teens, but the focus of the movie is mainly on a civilised and respectable family who live nearby. The family - which is composed of sexy-but-reserved Trish, her younger brother Tommy and their recently-separated mother - is illustrated well by both the actors and the script-writers, who give the family a very real feel that immediately the audience can associate with. Their closeness and seemingly-genuine relationship gives the movie some much-needed and rarely-used depth - yes, a Friday the 13th movie that has depth!
In truth, much of The Final Chapter has added depth that helps the viewer to genuinely like the characters. There's the afraid-of-sex girl, geeky-but-nice guy etc, and although we all know they will end up crushed, stabbed or smashed in some way by Jason, it adds a lot to the film in its ability to shock you. There is also some great emotional weight to the confrontation between Tommy and Jason in the end, as Tommy reaches out to the child-like need of Jason to be like everybody else (no matter how ridiculous that proposal is, after he's slaughtered so many people and has a face like a wet potato).
The gore/special effects in The Final Chapter are remarkable, most probably even the best of the series. All the deaths are brutal and shocking in their inventive nature - Jason here is undoubtedly at his most ruthless, especially in the first death in which an intern's head is ripped almost clean off. The thing that is most surprising, however, is that The Final Chapter has an uncanny ability to be subtle (this is no doubt thanks to director Zito), a feat that no Friday the 13th has had the balls to attempt at. The assumed death of Mrs. Jarvis is left at just that - assumed, while a very nice piece of photography in which the shadow of a victim being stabbed by Jason is cast across the side of a house due to a strike of lightning makes for interesting creativity on the film crew's behalf.
One thing that always annoys me with the Friday the 13th series is the fact that it always skimps when it comes to continuity - perhaps thinking that the franchise's target audience is too nonsensical to notice that the amount of houses and huts surrounding Crystal Lake that appear across the numerous sequels could have formed a small village by now, whereas in the original Friday the 13th Camp Crystal Lake is miles from anywhere. Also, the barn and camps seen in the previous three sequels amazingly vanish here, and are replaced with two cosy houses! The wonders of movies! Another thing... the reason behind why Jason is indestructable is not even hinted at, and it's left up to the audience to figure out why he cannot be killed. This in itself slightly marrs the enjoyablity in watching The Final Chapter, but if you forget all this and relax into the *ahem* story, I suppose all of that doesn't matter.
The final showdown is one of the greatest face-offs in Horror history, with a long and arduous chase involving Trish and Jason which can't help but leave the viewer breathless. Though she gets little screentime, Kimberly Beck is one of the finest heroines of the franchise, and as she battles Jason the exhileration and fear for her life is one quite unmatched in other films. And then we have the final demise of Jason, and how fitting that it is accomplished by a child! After he has slaughtered so many frolicking teens, this ironic take is one that thrills and horrifies at the same time as Tommy hacks unceasingly at the killer. As stated before, if the franchise had not continued after this, the ending to The Final Chapter is one that ultimately satisfies, as does the whole movie.
Without a doubt one of the finest entries into the series (only beaten by Part 2 and Part 6), The Final Chapter is a bloody, creepy and down-right entertaining slasher. Here Jason is undoubtedly at his most brutal, and while the movie is eerie to the extreme, The Final Chapter is filled with a sense of fun and creativity.