Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Once in a blood moon, a franchise will come along that redefines a subgenre and takes it to the next level. Such is the case with the Friday the 13th franchise, which essentially created the horror subgenre of slasher flicks as we know them to this day. While it’s unlikely that we’ll get a new installment in the series any time soon, now’s still the perfect time to review this franchise as it celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. To commemorate the occasion, the fine folks over at Scream Factory have released The Friday the 13th Collection on Blu-ray! As such, I’ll be reviewing not only the movies in this franchise but these new Blu-ray releases as well. This time around, we look at the movie that brought Jason Voorhees to his early demise — Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984)!
These days, when a franchise runs out of steam, you wait a few years and reboot it. But, back in the 1980s, the term — let alone the accepted concept of a cinematic reboot — did not exist. Had they existed three decades ago, when the slasher film was riding an incredible wave of popularity, I’ve no doubt we would have been treated to several reboots for the various villainous icons of the era. After all, slasher flicks were a dime a dozen — just like comic book movies and their filmic multiverses are today. However, in the 80s, it was merely sequels or an ending to the series.
The latter was the case for Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter. No, the Jason movies had not run out of steam. On the contrary, the series’ grosses went up with each bloody entry. Moreover, every installment in the franchise had been extremely profitable, made independently, purchased as a negative pickup, and distributed by Paramount Pictures domestically and Warner Bros. internationally. Despite bringing in the greenbacks, though, Paramount always treated this golden goose like a red-beaked muscovy duck. Thus, it’s no surprise that the studio was keen on killing Jason and the series for good. Oddly enough, though, the idea of giving Jason a permanent dirt nap was brought to the table by none other than the recently minted primary producer of the franchise. Feeling that he and Paramount garnered no respect in the industry by distributing the series, producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. was allowed to end Jason’s rampage.
Mancuso, Jr.’s goal was to give the series a fitting end. Thus, he offered directing duties on this finale to a helmer familiar with the subgenre — director Joseph Zito. He made his bones a few years prior with the most boring slasher flick ever made, The Prowler (1981). While I find Zito’s previous effort to be duller than an 8:00 AM math class, I still think Mancuso, Jr. made the right call in bringing him on as he’s no doubt a competent filmmaker. Still, the producer overestimated the director’s talents, as he offered Zito double the paycheck to work as both a writer and director on the fourth Friday.
Mind you, this offer was made despite Zito’s repeated insistence that he was not a screenwriter. But, hey, who wouldn’t take the money, particularly when they a solution is within reach? After hashing out a story with Beni Hidemi Sakow, Zito gave his writer’s fee to his screen-scribe pal, Barney Cohen. Together, the two formed the screenplay for what was intended to be this franchise’s end.
As is the tradition at this point, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter picks up immediately after the previous picture’s events. Jason Voorhees (Ted White) is still kicking and about to have his busiest killing spree yet; he’s worked his way to the residential area of Crystal Lake. There, we find The Jarvises, a family of three living in a cabin. All is quiet around the lake until a group of partying early-twentysomethings rent the house next door. The new neighbors concern Mrs. Jarvis (Joan Freeman), but they interest her eldest daughter Trish (Kimberly Beck), and her younger son Tommy (Corey Feldman). Unfortunately, everyone is about to have a horrible day when their properties become Jason’s new hunting ground. But as luck would have it, the killer is also being tracked by Rob Dier (Erich Anderson), who is looking to avenge his sister (Sandra from Part II)!
From that plot synopsis, it’s clear that The Final Chapter is undoubtedly the most ambitious entry thus far. Unlike the previous Friday The 13th films, Part IV is a two-quadrant crowd pleaser in its own way. It becomes such by including the neighboring partiers for the teen and early 20’s audience; while at the same time attracting younger audience members with the inclusion of Tommy Jarvis. (Let’s face it, children were watching these flicks as well. Hence, why they were still being talked about when I was a kid in the ’90s and early aughts.) More importantly, though, the screenplay for this installment is exciting, and the characters within it are likable and memorable, which is much more than I can say for the group in Friday the 13th: Part III (1982).
The reason these characters are so special is due in large part to the cast who portrays them. While this entire ensemble is talented, I must say that there are some highlights among them. First-and-foremost, there’s the ever-eccentric Crispin Glover playing the endearing geek, Jimmy Mortimer, who is without one of my favorite characters in this entire series. Then there’s young Tommy Jarvis, played by the also perpetually odd Feldman in his first significant film role. While I found the adult Feldman to be strange and unintentionally rude in real-life upon meeting him a few years ago at a convention, his performance here as a kid is good enough to forget that experience. Moreover, it’s one of the best of his career overall and I wish he could have continued as Tommy in a more substantial fashion. Admittedly, both these characters resonate with me on some level as they remind me a bit of myself at those respective ages.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this film’s Jason, played by Ted White. Age 58 at the time of production, he is the oldest individual to play the character to date. Aside from that, White was a veteran stuntman who worked with the likes of John Wayne multiple times. Despite Jason being one of White’s self-professed least favorite movie gigs (thanks to his respective working relationships with Zito and Feldman), it’s evident he brings all his experience to be the man behind the mask here. I also love listening to interviews with White as he’s so candid. In fact, White strikes me as a sort of real-life version of Cliff Booth from Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019).
While the cast here is excellent, what would one of these flicks be without the makeup effects and kills? Especially considering this installment was supposed to be the swan song of Jason Voorhees. Following the exit of the film’s original makeup FX designer due to creative differences, Zito knew there was only one way to bring the effects home. Thus, the director invited Tom Savini — who had previously refused to return to the franchise as he found the idea of sequels to be ridiculous — back to the franchise. Seeing as this was intended to be “the final Friday,” Savini jumped at the chance to kill-off Jason for good with his effects. Alas, this franchise would prove not to stay dead. Even still, Savini does some fine work in creating iconic effects here.
All of this is, of course, brought together by Zito as the director. Despite having a difficult working relationship with most of the cast, he delivers the most well-made and most fun Friday the 13th installment I’ve yet to cover for this column. More importantly, though, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is the most significant Franchise Expansion in this series thus far. In my humble estimation, The Final Chapter perfects everything about this franchise and what it has to offer. So much so that I would have been cool with the franchise legitimately ending here. Furthermore, this is the movie I immediately jump to when I think about this franchise.
But, of course, the franchise did not end here. While Paramount purportedly never considered a sequel while it was in production, that all changed once The Final Chapter opened in theaters with an initial $11.1 million in its first weekend and went on to a worldwide gross of $32.9 million. All of which provided a massive profit on a production budget of $2.6 million. Alas, while audiences bought in, critics still did not. The legendary movie critic Roger Ebert called The Final Chapter, “An immoral and reprehensible piece of trash.” Nevertheless, Ebert remained classier in his critique than his colleague, Gene Siskel, did with his treatment of the franchise. The critical reception didn’t matter, though, and soon enough, audiences would be treated to a controversial follow-up!
As with the other discs reviewed so far in this franchise, the Blu-ray for The Final Chapter is sporting a new 4K scan from the original camera negative. The result of which is this movie looking and sounding better than ever before — cinematographer João Fernandes’ camerawork has never looked so good! Thanks to the remastering, the atmosphere of the film feels more palpable than in the past. Of course, I’m sure the nostalgia of watching it as a kid on rainy days tinges my reception slightly. In addition to the fresh 4K scan, the artwork for the film is also reversible and features original poster art!
(NEW EXTRAS INDICATED BY *)
- Lost Tales from Camp Blood: Part 4: Clocking-in at six minutes, I found this to be the most entertaining entry in writer/director Andrew J. Ceperly‘s fan film series yet. Because, when it comes to scary locations, you can’t do much better than a hospital and its parking garage. The one pet peeve I have with this short is that the killer does not seem to resemble Jason in any shape or form. Instead, he appears to be a crazed ax-murderer wearing a hoodie!
- Slashed Scenes with Commentary by Director Joseph Zito: Unlike the full, uncut scenes featured on the Friday the 13th: Part II disc, what we get here is 15 minutes of uncut outtakes from the kill scenes; all of which were sourced from raw dailies and do not contain any audio. To make up for the lack of sound, we’re treated to a director’s commentary throughout. Again, this is only raw footage, but it was fun to watch nonetheless!
- Jason’s Unlucky Day: 25 Years After Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter: For only having a scant 11-minute runtime, this featurette is packed with interviews from director Joseph Zito, screenwriter Barney Cohen, SFX Makeup Artist Tom Savini, and cast members Ted White, Kimberly Beck, and Erich Anderson. Each of the interviewees mentioned above shares their thoughts on what they were led to believe would be the final Friday. Much of the information within this featurette is well-tread ground, but I found some of it to be new, and all of it entertaining.
- The Lost Ending: Ah, the often talked about original and unused ending! Three minutes of finished, albeit inaudible, footage makes up this rejected finale. To supplement the lack of audio, director Joseph Zito and actress Kimberly Beck provide a commentary track. I was jazzed to get to see this original ending; alas, I must agree with Zito’s sentiments that it was best left on the cutting room floor.
- The Crystal Lake Massacre Revisited: Part I: This is an 18-minute mockumentary written and directed by Crystal Lake Memories helmer Daniel Ferrands. If the Friday the 13th universe were real, I have no doubt this installment would have run on Investigation Discovery. Or, at the very least, Crystal Lake’s public access station.
- Jimmy’s Dead Dance Moves: Three minutes of outtakes from Crispin Glover’s infamous dance scene with commentary provided by Joseph Zito. While this extra is certainly a filler, any-and-all Crispin Glover is welcome in my book.
- Theatrical Trailer
- *TV Spot*
- Radio Spots
- Movie Stills Gallery
- Poster and Lobby Cards Gallery
- *Vintage Original Fangoria Magazine Article *REQUIRES BD-ROM DISC DRIVE**
- Commentary With Director Joe Zito, Screenwriter Barney Cohen, And Editor Joel Goodman: This commentary track was entertaining enough. However, I recommend listening to it before watching the other special features on this disc if you want the information to seem fresh.
- Fan Audio Commentary By Filmmakers Adam Green And Joe Lynch: As a horror fan, I love hearing fellow fans take joy in the genre or particular classic movie within it. Green and Lynch do just that here; I enjoyed listening to it. That being said, I felt they fanboyed out too much, because hey, it’s okay to be critical of the things you love on occasion as well.
The Friday the 13th Collection is currently available on Blu-ray!
Next Time, Franchise Expansion or Implosion will return to the franchise for a reboot of sorts: Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985)!
The Franchise’s Body Count Thus Far-
Friday the 13th (1980):
Friday the 13th: Part II (1981):
Friday The 13th: Part III in 3D (1982):