Few characters feel as necessary to a genre as Jason Voorhees. The iconic serial killing monster has been in many frustrating and sometimes bad films. Yet few would accuse Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter as being one of those films. A seeming swan song for the boy lost in the woods, The Final Chapter features many of the best moments of gore and storytelling in the franchise. It would not be the Final Chapter; shockingly, there would be another handful of films after the disastrous Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. Yet for fans of watching Jason Voorhees chasing teens, there’s almost nothing better.
Friday the 13th – Part IV: The Final Chapter picks up in the immediate aftermath of Part III. A seemingly deceased Jason arrives at a morgue. He makes short work of the sex-obsessed nurses and doctors and begins his trip back to Crystal Lake. A group of teens arrives with plans to hook up and party the weekend away. Meanwhile, Trish (Kimberly Beck) and Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) settle in for a quieter night. When Jason arrives, the lake erupts into chaos.
Director Joseph Zito actually showcases an eye that few other directors in the franchise seemed willing to display. He uses every aspect of Jason to allow him to terrify at the highest levels. He does not rely solely on Jason’s build or terrifying visuals. He instead marries the psychological approach that made Part II a phenomenon, with the gut-wrenching gore Tom Savini brought to the original film. Zito gets to paint horrifying kills with stunning imagery. In one sequence, a silhouette emerges from the darkness to alert the audience to Jason’s presence. In others, Zito openly lets Jason make mincemeat of a room of teens.
Jason’s killing certainly showcases unique creativity that the rest of the franchise struggles to recreate. While sleeping bag slams would later become a definitive kill, Zito seemingly utilized the cast’s odd skills in his favor. A scene with a teen walking on his hands becomes one of the most absurd kills in the franchise. Kids die watching movies. Others are thrown through windows. If nothing else, Jason’s variety gets turned up to 11.
Ultimately, the success of Jason Lives hinges on the Tommy Jarvis sequences. Feldman never shies away from a challenge, and there are plenty inherent in the role. Where the role would go from here was very much up in the air, something openly acknowledged by Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. However, Feldman’s take seems clear: Tommy Jarvis has been put in the position to become the next Jason. Scarred by the events of the night, he will never be the same. In a way, his actions feel like those of a possessed child, one whose method of acting simply went too far.
Ultimately the sequels seek to undermine this performance and side with Tommy over the long haul. However, Feldman’s turn provides a more interesting path toward a franchise with rotating villains, one where the only way to become the next big bad is to take out the previous one for good.
Finally, we have to get back to Jason, the party-goer who kicks ofr the night. Played in The Final Chapter by Ted White, Voorhees is more athletic and faster than in most of the films that follow. Kane Hodder who don the mask a few films later and become the definition of the physically imposing Jason, but White ties this version of Jason to the earliest depictions. The first Jason was sneaky and gnarled, which was adapted into a more redneck hillbilly lens in Part II. Yet here, Jason has understood where he’s gone wrong in the past, while also showcasing a shocking emotional vulnerability. This version of the character might be the most tragic of all. He sees what became of him and truly suffers existential dread as a result. However, he remains brutality that one might not associate with this emotional fragility. Whether you count him as empathetic or simply confused by what stood before him, this version of Jason attempts to understand a child, drawing a line in the sand between him and other Jasons.
Ultimately each person loves their own version of Jason, but Part IV gives us the best of each. With highlight kills, extremely proficient filmmaking, and the most enjoyable side characters of the series, Part IV ranks among the most enjoyable slashers of all time.