Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, June 13, 2009
      ( 6/13/2009 09:49:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"HE CAN'T BE ALIVE!" Paramount's spiffed-up repackaging of its long and lucrative Friday the 13th series proceeds apace with entries four through six of the slasher saga. First of the threesome to receive the deluxe DVD treatment: the fraudulently named Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

Directed by the efficient action exploitation filmmaker Joseph Zito (who lensed Chuck Norris in two of his most profitable low-budgeters, including the bombastic Invasion U.S.A.), Final Chapter is best known among horror aficionados for the return of makeup fx maestro Tom Savini, who did the hacks and slashes for the first flick but was working on other projects during the next two sequels. This proved a lucky break for Savini, since the short-term outcry against this type of movie material had producers tamping down the kinds of gore effects that were his m├ętier.

By the time the fourth outing was released, the furor had died down sufficiently for Savini to be able to ply his trade without too much post-production tampering. You get to see lots of his trademark blade-tips-protruding-from-a-victim's torso shots, the first being a fat hitchhiker who gets it in the neck while eating a banana. Apparently, acting like a horny teenager is no longer the only way to get marked for death in this series: being a lover of fresh fruit will do it, too.

As with the previous installment, the flick picks up right where the last 'un ended. We're at the site of the earlier 3-D slashings, and Jason's seemingly dead body ("This the guy who's been leaving the wet stuff?" a compassionate paramedic asks when they come to pick up Voorhees' apparent corpse) is taken to the local hospital morgue. There, with no explanation whatsoever, the hockey-masked murderer returns to life, dispatching a dorky morgue attendant and a nurse before trudging back to Crystal Lake. Though his body's vanished and the two hospital employees are dead, nobody in a position of authority apparently thinks that maybe, just maybe, they should return to the original Scene of the Crimes.

Back at the said scene, yet another carload of randy kids arrives to provide Jason with stab-worthy material. Among these is eighties moviedom's favorite discomfort-making geek, Crispin Glover, who bemoans his bad luck with women and is nicknamed a "dead fuck" by his obnoxious friend Ted. Glover's Jimmy ultimately gets to score with one of two hot twins, but he isn't given a lot of time to enjoy his new studly status since killjoy Jason quickly does him in after first impaling the guy's hand with a corkscrew.

Still, Jimmy has one more memorable moment in the flick: the "dead fuck dance," which he spazzily performs to a generic hard rock track in a misbegotten attempt at impressing one of the twins. Glover's moves are so splendidly awful that the deluxe set includes outtakes of his frenetic footwork. They don't mention the full name of the dance on the outer DVD package, though; don't wanna freak out the customers at WalMart.

The big subplot, one that will have repercussions through the next three movies, isn't focused as much on bunk-hopping teens but on the family next door: a separated cougar mom with her teenage daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck) and younger son Tommy (Corey Feldman), who is into horror movie makeup in a big way. It's little Tommy Jarvis who winds up "killing" Jason, but not before confusing the big lug by using his mad makeup skillz (which essentially involves shaving off most of his hair) to impersonate the hulking killer as a young "special boy." This hearkens back to Part 2's big showdown where that flick's heroine faked out Jason by pretending to be his decapitated mother, though how it's supposed to work this time is a pretty big stretch. ("I can't kill that kid -- he's me!") For a serial slasher with the uncanny ability to be anticipate every potential victim's whereabouts, the guy's pretty damn gullible.

Unless I miscounted, this is the first 13th to actually live up to its advertized body count. Cougar mom's death is never really shown, doubtless to make way for a Diabolique-influenced ending not included in the final product, but I'm adding it, anyway. Can't really include Jason's own crowd-pleasing demise -- falling face first and slowwlly sliding down a machete -- since we all know that one ultimately doesn't take.

As an offering in the series, Final Chapter is arguably a cut above either of the two sequels preceding it, in large part due to the considerable enthusiasm that its cast bring to the whole shebang. Glover's a treat, of course, though Feldman also gets to distinguish himself in terms of physical overacting when he displays his joy over the sight of an undressing vacationer. That he makes it to the end of the film intact after this small bit of voyeurism seems like a violation of the "rules" of slasherdom, but if we learn anything from flicks like these, it's that Life Ain't Fair.

Paramount's "deluxe edition" contains the usual bonus material: two commentary tracks, yet another tedious low-rent "Lost Tales from Camp Blood" short, fannish features that include a "Slashed Scenes" segment revealing how some of Savini's bloody fx were done. Prime meat for the Fangoria crowd, which director Zito acknowledges in more than joking voiceover ref to the gorehounds watching this feature. We're also told that Glover "loved doing his death scene; he couldn't wait to do this," as we're shown him hamming it up with a cleaver in his face. Not a surprising bit of behind-the-scenes info, methinks.


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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