Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #35
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: April 13, 1984
Sub-Genre: Eighties Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: £32,980,880
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: Joseph Zito
Producer: Frank Mancuso Jr, Tony Bishop
Screenplay: Bruce Hidemi Sakow
Characters: Victor Miller
Special Effects: Tom Savini
Cinematography: João Fernandes
Score: Harry Manfredini
Editing: Joel Goodman
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Stars: Corey Feldman, Kimberley Beck, Barbara Howard, Joan Freeman, Lawrence Monoson, Crispin Glover, Peter Barton, Clive Hayes, Judie Aronson, Camilla More, Carey More, Bruce Mahler, Lisa Freeman and Ted White as Jason Voorhees
Suggested Audio Candy
Harry Manfredini “End Theme”
I’ve got decidedly mixed feelings about childhood friends. While, at the time, it may seem they understand you better than anyone else and the good times you spend together are incalculable, things alter over time and often such allegiances are better left firmly in the past. People invariably change as they grow older and that is where social network tools such as Facebook can prove matchmakers made in hell. We’ve all been there, clicking the add friend tab as we spot a vague acquaintance from yesteryear, only to never utilize this fresh connection. Should we pass in the street, then both parties will likely make awkward conversation for as long as we can humanly endure, before pledging to “do this again” even though we have no intention of honoring our word. Sometimes it’s better just to let sleeping dogs lie.
Speaking of which, I recently decided it was high time I revisited an old pal of mine from the eighties, namely Joseph Zito’s Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter and did so with a fair degree of trepidation. It had been over fifteen long years since it was last placed under my microscope and has long been my personal darling of all the franchise’s many sequels. Maybe reappraisal would unearth something heinous I’d preferred to have remained oblivious to or perhaps the years haven’t been kind to it and it was never the powerhouse entry that my rose-colored spectacles have suggested it to be. Generally, I’m a staunch believer in trusting your gut and there seemed no reason to be suspicious of the glowing report it provided me way back in 1984. However, I was on the cusp of adolescence first time out and all those swirling hormones may have clouded my judgement somewhat so I felt it necessary to prepare myself for the worst.
Right off the bat I wish to corroborate that Zito’s film is every bit the high point I had committed to memory. All of the vital ingredients to a prosperous slasher are very much present and correct: a dumb and likeable flock of lambs marked up and primed for the puncturing, a striking opening double execution (featuring Bruce Mahler better known to some as that douche in bifocals from Police Academy), splatter by the absolute barrel-load courtesy of none other than Tom Savini, suspense sorely lacking in many later entries, plus turns from the marvelously mystifying Crispin Glover and a youthful Corey Feldman complete with spherical shaved cylinder. How could it possibly not be at least vaguely awesome?
While we’re on the subject of Feldman, I harbor something a soft spot for this particular Corey. During my favorite epoch, this young rapscallion did many things right. A five-string cinematic flurry comprising The Lost Boys, Stand By Me, The Goonies, License To Drive and The Burbs makes for a pretty impressive résumé for one of such tender years. Alongside his namesake, the sadly departed Corey Haim, he forged a fairly formidable partnership on the straight-to-video circuit throughout the late eighties. They worked together, partied together, and I’d even wager they’d occasionally awaken spooning in some musky motel bedstead without the faintest clue how they got there. Whatever they got up to, the Coreys enjoyed their time together and I sure as hell did too.
Here Feldman plays Tommy Jarvis and, straight off the bat, he is far more sufferable than your average brat-faced snot gobbler. Tommy has a large obsession with horror and I would imagine his poor mother peddles crack to fund his habit. His room is crammed with horrendous heirlooms in a nice knowing nod towards other grisly delights from the same era. He also knows how to swing a machete and, if Jason was looking to branch out and take on a young apprentice, then he could do far worse than adding this young tyke to the roster.
As I regularly articulate, a decent pool of affable protagonists is one of the key components to any slasher worth its salt. Mercifully, there is a decent melange of disposable teens here, including some more than some welcome inclusions. Aside from the usual suspects, we are presented with a first for the franchise in frisky teenage twins Tina (Camilla More) and Terri (Carey More), both of whom are more than up for a spot of skinny dipping. That equates to double the trouble, four titties as opposed to the customary two, and around twenty pints of blood all set for the spilling. We also have the lovable Ted (Lawrence Monoson: The Last American Virgin) who, in the world of freaks and geeks, is one of the most chic (at least in his own mind). Monoson has a great face that appears as though the skin has been pulled too taut around his cranium and he is impossible not to like here, despite any disillusioned outbursts.
This no pussy-getting sexual trainer comes as a package deal and has himself a faithful minion by the name of Jimmy (Crispin Glover), which is a prize worth savoring in my book. I have always found Glover to be a fascinating specimen. His off-the-wall performances, which include Andy Warhol in Oliver Stone’s The Doors – a role he seemed destined to play at some point during his career – have never been any less than engaging. Whilst he doesn’t have much scope here to let those creative juices flow, there is a certain innocence about him that makes the character of Jimmy Mortimer eminently endearing.
Thus, we have all the rudiments we require in order to muster a flourishing Friday. Events aren’t restricted to this faction and Tommy’s family unit provide welcome relief and flesh the roster out which, in turn, helps distinguish Zito’s film from the crowd. Of course, there has to be a final girl and, in Tommy’s older sibling Trish Jarvis (Kimberly Beck), that base is soundly covered too. Needless to say, the numbers are whittled down in no time and in an order that comes as no great revelation. However, they are a far more diverse crowd than is customary and there are enough of them to ensure that our interest never once wains.
The first two Fridays were remarkably similar in tone, while the third got by just fine by being goofy. Friday The 13th IV: The Final Chapter has a feel all of its own and this is largely due to Zito’s sturdy direction. It’s a less insular feeling movie than its predecessors, featuring a wider range of locations but, as he had already proven with The Prowler, this cat knows precisely how to set up a scene and manages to cram in sufficient suspense to prise the maximum amount of trepidation from every scene where the hulking frame of Voorhees appears.
Regrettably, Zito provided precious little afterwards outside of some admittedly decent direct-to-video Norris and Lundgren action flicks and I consider this crying shame as he showed considerable potential. A year of pre-production on an ultimately doomed Cannon version of Spiderman was likely the final nail in his creative coffin and, subsequently, he hasn’t worked in the industry for well over a decade now. Here he teams up once more with make-up maestro Savini and the partnership once again yields most agreeable results.
There are numerous impressive executions on exhibit, all of which are handled expertly by the skillful hand of the Sultan of Splatter. After supplying the blood pouches for Sean S. Cunningham’s original he turned down a gig on the second installment to work on The Burning. This was an astute move in my mind as his work on Tony Maylam’s slasher behemoth was exemplary but it’s great to see him return to the franchise. The body count rises with some haste as any peripheral characters fall like a whore’s breaches and the Sultan supplies a veritable smorgasbord of splatter. Should you desire the most blushing garland of grue the entire series can supply then consider your needs well catered for as he is on his A-game here.
By the time our generous numbers have been chiseled down sufficiently, we are left with the inevitable showdown and this is where Tommy begins to reveal his more sinister side. Years of watching horror flicks, long before his classmates, has prepped him for the eventuality of a bloodbath and, like Macaulay Culkin with a dash of Charles Manson, he takes to defending both his turf and loved ones from the impending threat of obliteration without a quibble. The tables are then turned on our assassin in dramatic and typically bloodthirsty fashion in a finale right up there with the very best the genre can offer.
The Final Chapter is a wonderfully ill-fitting title for a series never destined to conclude so prematurely. Not quite the thirteen piece ensemble envisaged, the long-running franchise finally ran out of steam at ten, if you exclude the remake and Krueger collaboration. Zito’s entry administers healthy doses of apprehension and is laced with more than enough succulent splatter to propel it way above other incarnations. It just saddens me that later entries never aspired to the same lofty standard. If I have learned anything from this revisitation then it is to trust my gut more often. And this is one childhood friend I have no intention of snubbing.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Savini and Zito unleashed on a bloated cast of lambs for the slaughtering? Sounds like an open invite for carnage to me. Whilst not quite Savini’s finest work, there are numerous malicious brutalizations to feast your eyes on. The opening hack saw head-swivel is my personal standout in a pretty magnanimous bunch but, aside from this priceless dispatch, there is a wealth of splatter on the platter. Bananas are crushed, faces rearranged, corkscrews used for far more nefarious use than opening bottles, and much more besides, making this effortlessly the most bloodthirsty entry since the original set its precedent. That’s what you get when you unleash Zito and Savini on a bunch of disposable teens: sheer unbridled carnage. There’s even a dash of shoehorned-in nudity, which is something no Friday flick should be without.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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