In 1980, Sean S. Cunningham introduced us to Mrs. Voorhees, the monstrous-feminine at the core of FRIDAY THE 13TH. The next year, we met her son Jason in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981). Jason gained his now-legendary mask in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART III (1982) and subsequently died in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1984). It wouldn’t be until FRIDAY THE 13TH VI: JASON LIVES (1986) that we saw the masked killer, now zombified by Frankensteinian means, returned to the screen following the series gaslighting experiment that was FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NEW BEGINNING (1985). Jason fought against psychic powers in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988). Following the stress of yet another drowning, Jason finally decided to take a vacation in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN (1989) and wasn’t seen again for several years. Now, having established the minutiae of the series, this next step is most critical: throw it all out. Because JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993) doesn’t give a shit about it, and neither should we.
Instead of following in the footsteps of its predecessors, JASON GOES TO HELL veers off the beaten path and enters the forest of meta-narratives that populated the ‘90s: WES CRAVEN’S A NEW NIGHTMARE (1994), SCREAM (1996), URBAN LEGEND (1998), and FUNNY GAMES (1997). However, a cursory glance over the meta-horror films will show that despite a few early entries into the style — GREMLINS 2 (1990) being a perfect example — the majority of the works begin popping up after SCREAM — no surprise after it made $173mil back on its $15mil budget. Before there was SCREAM, there was WES CRAVEN’S A NEW NIGHTMARE, which explored it’s slasher killer’s influence on the real world and took its core premise directly from JASON GOES TO HELL. It could very well be that without JASON GOES TO HELL, there would be no SCREAM, no CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012), no TUCKER AND DALE VS EVIL (2010).
JASON GOES TO HELL is a rather complicated film to breakdown plot-point to plot-point, so in interest of saving time what follows is a heavily condensed version of the plot. After Jason is succesfully killed by the army, his heart continues to beat and exerts a telepathic force over the coroner that performs the autopsy, causing the coroner to devour the heart. The force that is Jason travels from person to person, a parasitic infection trying to make it’s way back to Crystal Lake, now a tourist destination planning to capitalize on its morbid historical significance, in order to find a permanent home within the body of a relative; as bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Steven Williams) informs Jason’s sister, who is also the mother and grandmother to the only two other remaining Voorhees’, “In a Voorhees he was born. Through a Voorhees may he be reborn.” With a rising body count — that includes a police station assault in the tradition of THE TERMINATOR (1984) and MANIAC COP 2 (1990) — it’s up to Steven (John D. LeMay) and Jessica (Kari Keegan) to save their child, the youngest Voorhees, and stop the evil that we know as Jason Voorhees.
Now remember, we threw away our knowledge of the minutiae of the previous films at the start of this week’s Cinéma Dévoilé; however, the figure of Jason Voorhees has pervaded the popular culture to such an extent as to be mentioned in the same conversations as Dracula and Frankenstein, so we have to allow ourselves so level of recognition when viewing the film. So let’s define the figure of Jason in popular culture.
The one thing that everyone knows about Jason to be fact is that he is THE murderer to end all murders. It is understood that the Friday films are about killing teenagers and that no matter what happens to Jason, he keeps coming back in film after film. Is he a zombie, then? To the popular culture, zombies eat brains and shamble so he’s not quite a zombie, but he has a resilience to death that does concur some level of supernatural origin; however, the nature of that origin is rather vague and poorly understood. That’s where JASON GOES TO HELL comes in. It is a representation of Jason based on his pop culture persona and fills in the blanks with imagination and the kind of self referential humour later popularized by SCREAM.
JASON GOES TO HELL was the first of the Friday series to be produced by New Line Cinema; this begs the question: is the title itself a joke? By positing it not as a Friday the 13th film, but rather as THE FINAL FRIDAY, New Line Cinema sets the film apart from the Friday the 13th tradition of Paramount; what’s more the title JASON GOES TO HELL pokes fun at a keypoint of the popular culture surrounding Jason: Just what the fuck does it take to kill this guy? This seems like the kind of self parody that must have been intentional; otherwise, the note of finalism in the title, taken seriously, suggests the purchasing of such a popular figure — with no intention to make further films to profit of the license — was a poor one.
The world that JASON GOES TO HELL inhabits is ours. It imagines that Jason’s pop cult character is real and the questions that are always wondered — how can anyone kill that many people without just Everyone knowing about it? — are taken to a logically extreme. The opening scene plays like the Paramount films, where a teenage girl up in the woods “thinking about smoking dope [and] having a little premarital sex” ends up stalk-and-slashed by the big J. But just when it looks like our victim is doomed, the curtain is raised to reveal the whole situation was a trap to lure Jason to his doom by the military which subsequently explodinates him; a response that’s surprisingly appropriate.
Which is one of the most shocking things about JASON GOES TO HELL: every decision the film makes is shocking appropriate (except for one that we’ll address in a moment). The character decisions make logical sense throughout the movie — if one takes the eating of Jason’s heart to be a telepathic signal from pure evil (which the diegetic seems to suggest by using almost Karloff-like close ups of the heart and eyes). The town of Crystal Lake continues to survive economically by trading on the tourism generated by the growing North American serial killer culture. The economic side of serial murder is a heavily referenced point in the film that eventually leads to a horrific mother the likes of BRAIN DEAD (1992) and whose set-up is a perfect Chekov’s Gun of foreshadowing. What’s more, the level of violence and gore this time around is easily equal to or greater than any of the previous entries (or those that came after). In its unrated form, JASON GOES TO HELL is a gruesome sight to behold which bring, for the first time, people melting in their entirenly like a reverse of Brother Frank’s rebirth in HELLRAISER (1987). The film features groups of fortified people falling to the onslaught that is Jason Voorhees – the carnage is at times closer to THE RAID: REDEMPTION (2011) than to FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980). There’s even direct references to THE EVIL DEAD (1981) and a CARRIE (1976)-like jumpscare ending — just like our first introduction to Jason in FRIDAY THE 13TH – that sparked a decade of excited speculation.
JASON GOES TO HELL has its flaws. In its rated form, it’s a neutered version of itself that lacks the graphic kick to the gut the movie offers. There’s a jailhouse scene that paints a character as pointlessly dramatic — thankfully, this scene also goes on to present a more complicated and interesting character relationship than expected from a Jason flick. Unfortunately, the final act of the film features a line spoken by a Jason-possessed character; this short transgression is a step that not only misses but shouldn’t have been taken in the first place. But even so, I believe that JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY is a film that is deserves a re-evaluation, in the same vein as HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982) and THE EXORCIST III (1990) have received in recent years.
What’s your thoughts on JASON GOES TO HELL? Trash or treasure? Leave a comment below with your thoughts, and be sure to check out next week’s Cinéma Dévoilé as we continue our first dive through the sequels from ‘90-’99, with NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2 (1994).
And for an interview with director Adam Marcus, please click here!
Tags: Adam Marcus, Bill Dill, Billy "Green" Bush, Cinema Of The Devoid, Erin Gray, Friday the 13th, Harry Manfredini, Hell, Horror, John D. LeMay, John Shepherd, Kane Hodder, Kari Keegan, Leslie Jordan, new line cinema, Richard Gant, Rusty Schwimmer, Sean S. Cunningham, Sequels, Steven Culp, Steven Williams, The 1990s, Victor Miller