Friday the 13th Part IV The Final Chapter

I remember being scared by this poster at the video rental store as a kid.

This movie caused quite a stir when it was released for its gruesome violence and abundance of blood and guts. These days, it’s very tame. It’s got nothing on any of the modern horror releases, but does it hold up in any other way? Kind of? It is a quantum leap in quality compared to its predecessor in the series, but it’s not a good horror movie.

So, I had such fun watching part 3, that I decided to give this one a chance. From the opening moments I could tell the budget had been raised and the filmmakers were actually trying. The lighting is motivated and moody. The camerawork is steady. The actors are actually trying, and the script has attempted character arcs. It’s not much, but compared to the last movie it’s a masterpiece. The opening shot of this film is a long tracking shot that is better in everyday than the entirety of part 3. The most fascinating thing about these two films is the quality of the filmmaking on display.

The plot is a little different this time. A family lives in a cabin on Crystal Lake. A bunch of teens are moving into the house next door. Jason escapes the morgue and returns to Crystal Lake to murder everyone. The family dynamic is the only new things here really. Otherwise it’s just murder by numbers for this series.

What did I like about the film? The practical effects. Seeing real fake blood is always better than cgi. Watching a prop hand her cut off is so much more satisfying than a computer generated fake. The final demise in the film is genuinely impressive bit of practical effects work that I loved. A head gets cut in half and the eyes twitch and look around. It’s gruesome, but great work.

The characters all have issues and storylines. Jimmy is worried about being bad in bed. Sam is worried about her boyfriend Paul and his wandering eye. The cool guy Ted is shown he’s not so cool. Everyone is killed before their story arc can be completed or just after the arc is completed. Jimmy’s moment of sexual triumph is cut short by his murder. Sam never gets to find out Paul didn’t cheat on her before she’s killed. And Ted is proven to be a loser and then dies. This doesn’t work because their deaths are inevitable. They never get a chance to fight back. They are surprised and killed before they ever realize they’re in danger. This creates a nihilism that just taints the entire film. Nothing matters. Death is inevitable. Did you care about these kids? Too bad! You shouldn’t have cared. Nothing matters.

In the previous film, they didn’t have character arcs except for the final girl and maybe one other, but that’s it. They were merely archetypes to get sliced and diced. This movie spent too much time on the characters without giving them a fighting chance in their own narrative. If that’s what they were going for, then job well done. But it doesn’t make it any fun to watch.

On top of that, it’s not scary. Jason has a magical ability to teleport wherever the movie wants him to be. In one moment, he’s murdering Jimmy in the kitchen. In the next instant he is hanging off the side of the house so he can pull a girl out of the second story window. In the next moment he is in the basement to beat up a boy who went to check the fuse box. This zaps any suspense out of the film. If we know Jason is in the kitchen, and Jimmy walks into the kitchen, we are on edge waiting to see if Jimmy will escape. If Jason pops up every time a character walks into any room, it just becomes monotonous.

It’s not bad enough to be fun. It’s not good enough to be scary. It’s too unpleasant an experience to be a good time at the movies. It’s not my cup of tea. D

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