After about ten years of loyal service slaughtering teens of various shapes and sizes, Jason Vorhees found himself for sale. Sold by Paramount to New Line -aka. the house that Freddy built – the rights to Jason (but not the name Friday The 13th, because Hollywood is just fucking weird) were now in the hands of a company who now had a clean slate to run with and could do anything they wanted with this legitimate horror icon. The world was their bloody, mutilated oyster and so for Jason’s premier outing under their new management, New Line chose… to kill his hockey masked ass.
Now, it’s not like Jason hadn’t reached the end of the road before; after all, Mr. Voorhees’ fourth movie was titled “The Final Chapter” which obviously turned out to be a metaphorical blanket knitted from the purest of lies – BUT, New Line was a same studio that had “killed” their razor-fingered cash cow two years earlier with Freddy’s Dead and that had stuck (at least until 1994, anyway…).
Gathering a clutch of young, hungry filmmakers and attempting a story utterly unlike anything the franchise had tried before, Jason Goes To Hell was set to raise the franchise into something more than it’s usual stalky, stabby antics but the finished product turned out a little too different.
After Jason’s decade long rampage is finally ended thanks to a small army and a well-placed mortar shell (slight overkill, but ok…), it’s seems that his devastating bodycount has finally been curbed but after a coroner gets hypnotized by the mass murderer’s exposed heart and eats it he gets possessed by Jason’s essence and continues to wreak further havoc around the town of Crystal Lake. While the coroner pays the ultimate price for eating on the job, infamous bounty hunter Creyton Duke has publicly offered to aid the authorities in ending the carnage and has claimed to has mysterious new information that could actually bring this to pass despite coming off as a second rate Quint from Jaws. It seems that (all of a sudden) Jason’s evil is something that can be transferred from person to person by a creature that sometimes looks like a worm and sometimes looks like a lizard and if he enters a blood relative (steady now…) he will be reborn into his old, indestructible form – but… he CAN be killed by relative too, if they’re wielding a magic dagger that can only activated by having a certain bloodline. While the audience tries to digest this whole new status quo that suspiciously feels like the filmmakers made it up as they went, we’re introduced to Steven and Jessica, the heroes of the piece, a couple of exes who have a baby between them but not much chemistry. After Jessica’s mother is killed by Jason seeking another form, Steven is blamed for the crime and jailed but discovers that both Jessica, her mother and therefore his baby, are all related to Jason and are therefore all means for him to get his old, kickass body back. Can Steven finally mature enough to fight for his family against a malevolent force that has quite possibly the most illogical horror movie of the 90’s, or will Jason, obviously as confused by this new backstory as anyone else, achieve his confused goal?
To give the devil it’s due, Jason Goes To Hell starts magnificently enough with a glorious pre credits sequence that subverts EVERYTHING you’ve ever seen in this kind of movie. A young woman clad only in a towel and blessed with the kind of insane body proportions only found in a 90’s comic book (neverending legs, rock solid breasts, but no visible room for a single internal organ), is stalked and chased by a very determined Jason in a very business-as-usual kind of way only to find revelation that she’s an armed FBI agent. It’s a cracking start and one of the best scenes in the entire franchise but despite being loaded with boundless energy, Jason Goes To Hell suffers oddly from the filmmakers trying so hard to be original. Making the ninth movie in a series so utterly different from what has come before should be an act that automatically comes with a round of applause, but things have been made SO different the film ends up alienating all the aspects about the series that fans have come to love.
It’s a real shame because the film is obviously enjoying flipping conventions left, right and center with a good example being the scene where a couple deep in the act of love making get murderlized not because the movie is punishing them for having sex, but because they make a big deal of refusing to use a condom.
However, what we have here is deeply convoluted plot that makes the curious choice of writing out it’s main character – imagine watching a 90’s action movie featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger where he only turns up at the beginning and end and the rest of the film is basically a bunch of random people pretending to be him during the action scenes – and expects us to be happy about it.
Plus this new story, involving a ton of supernatural shit like possession and magic knives, turns out to be as well thought out as a chocolate flamethrower, featuring dozens plot holes you could comfortably cruise a battleship through. If Jason can reincarnate via the body of a relative, why the fuck does he reappear wearing his hockey mask and all his original clothes? How does Creyton Duke know any of this crap and why does he insist on breaking Steven’s fingers as payment for giving this extraordinarily vital information out? Also not helping matters much is the realisation that pretty much every person in the movie is vaguely unpleasant and spends most of the film doing and saying shitty things to each other and despite the fact that main character is supposed to be an everyman he can shoot a gun like a pro, jump backward through his own handcuffed arms in one deft move and somehow hold his own in a one on one fist fight with a resurrected, super-strong Jason himself.
To add to this very random reimagining of Friday The 13th lore, Jason himself indulges in some very un-Jason like behavior while wearing his succession of meat suits throughout the course of the movie, one of which involves strapping a naked guy to a table and then shaving him for seemingly no reason at all. Sure, it’s creepy but it’s also as out of character as Spider-Man shooting crack or Winnie The Pooh watching porn and the general confusion overrides the scares.
The problem, of course, is that everyone seems to be putting their energies into making a Friday The 13th movie for people who hate Friday The 13th movies and it’s this very fact that stops it from being any more than a diverting oddity in the franchise.
However, JGTH: TFF may be an ugly retooling of a beloved, yet dated series but it’s certainly not dull. Featuring more than it’s fair share of gore that contains – but isn’t limited to – head crushing, bisection by fence spike (unrated version only – sorry), some guy fucking melting and somebody’s jaw being crunched back into their skull by a well-aimed backhand, The Final Friday’s bodycount is varied and energetic while the pace maintains a fair amount of zip and is frequently witty.
“He weren’t nuthin’ but a big old pussy anyway.” scoffs a couple of burly, smug SWAT goons at one point, blissfully unaware that they’re addressing the coroner Jason’s possessed; cut to the news report which shows the two guys deader than trodden in shit.
At times strangely endearing (Jason’s design of having worn his mask so long his face is actually growing over it is a cracker) and at others simply fucking dumb (Jason’s climatic trip to Hell really only amounts a bunch of rubbery monster hands rugby tackling him to the ground), fans even now have problems appraising it, but as a ditzy little exercise in 90’s horror, it’s a fun, if confusing diversion which also contains the most shameless sequel grab of all time…
You’ve gone to Hell, Jason. But are you ready for Freddy?