By 1984, Jason wasn’t going anywhere, even if every single sequel promised his final kill or the final chapter or the end of the series. As they say in pro wrestling, red means green. And Jason was bringing in plenty of both. (PS – We have an article on Jason in wrestling right here!)
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
Paramount — and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. — were both aware that people were growing tired of slashers. In fact, Mancuso, Jr. began to hate the series because no one respected him for making the films, despite how much money they made. So the order was made: let’s kill Jason.
Directed by Joseph Zito, who also made the slasher classic The Prowler (a much bloodier, much more interesting move than this), an interesting attempt was made to get you to actually care about some of the characters. But not all, of course. There’s always going to be cannon fodder in these films.
The evening after the last film, Jason comes back to life and kills a coroner and a nurse before making his way back to Crystal Lake. And, de rigueur, more teenagers show up — Paul, Sara, Sam (Judie Aronson, American Ninja), Jimmy (Crispin Glover!), Doug (Peter Barton, Hell Night and TV’s The Powers of Matthew Star) and Ted. They even pass Pamela Vorhees’ tombstone along the way.
Oh yeah — then there’s Trish (Kimberly Beck, Marnie), Tommy (Corey Feldman!), their mom (Joan Freeman, Panic in the Year Zero!) and their dog Gordon. And there are the skinny dipping teens, Tina and Terri. Oh yeah — and a young drifter named Rob with a secret.
Tommy’s family are the sympathetic characters mentioned earlier, with the kid being a stand-in for the beloved Tom Savini. He shows off his collection of special FX early and often.
Of course, those teenagers all do drugs, have sex and die horribly. We’re used to those things. But the murder of Tommy’s mom has some emotion. And then we learn that Rob is the brother of Sandra from Friday the 13th Part 2 and has been obsessed with finding and killing Jason. Oh, he finds him, and dies like a complete bitch, screaming “He’s killing me!”
The close, where Trish cuts off Jason’s mask to reveal his face and Tommy has to flip out to hack Jason to death, was the stuff of legend in my pre-teen days, oft-discussed at lunches and study halls.
Tom Savini returned here for the chance to kill off Jason, but come on, everyone. We all knew what was coming next.
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)
Presenting the scummiest, vilest Friday of them all — a film packed with more kills (22!), more nudity and more drugs behind the scenes than several of the other films combined!
Years after killing off Jason, Tommy Jarvis has nightmares that the man he killed has returned. That’s why he’s in Pinehurst Halfway House, where Pam Roberts and Dr. Matt Letter (Richard Young, who gives young Indy his fedora in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) are trying to help him to get over his violent past and the death of his mother.
But are there a bunch of teens to get killed? Sure there are. There’s Reggie, Tommy’s roommate whose grandfather George works there as a cook. Plus, we have Robin (Juliette Cummins, Slumber Party Massacre 2), Violet (Tiffany Helm, O.C. & Stiggs, Reform School Girls), Jake, Vic (Suicide from Return of the Living Dead), Joey, Eddie and Tina (Debi Sue Voorhees, no relation). There’s also rich neighbors Ethel Hubbard and Junior, who want the halfway house closed down.
What follows is a bit of a mystery movie, at least for a bit. Is one of the kids the killer, like Vic, or has Jason come back from the dead? Even the end of the movie leaves that up in the air, to be honest. It’s kind of a mess, but along the way there’s a ton of blood and gore.
Danny Steinmann is the director here, perhaps better known for The Unseen and Savage Streets. Well, maybe not by most people, but by me? Of course. He also broke into movies by directing and writing the adult film High Rise and probably would have created more films in the Friday the 13th saga, but a bicycling accident and long recovery meant that this would be the last film that he would direct. The working title for this film was Repetition.
So what happens after this? Well, what do you think?
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)
Directed by Tom McLoughlin, a veteran of plenty of made for TV movies and Sometimes They Come Back, as well as playing the robot S.T.A.R. in The Black Hole and Katahdin in Prophecy, this is the film where Jason became fully supernatural and it’s also one of the few films in the series to get good reviews, probably due to the amount of humor throughout.
The original plan was for Tommy Jarvis to become Jason, but audiences were pretty unhappy with that hint at the end of the last film. So this one begins with Tommy (Thom Matthews, Return of the Living Dead) heading to Jason’s grave to destroy his body so that he can never come back. But of course, as soon as he stabs the murderer with a metal fence post, lighting strikes him and he’s back from the dead — and kills Tommy’s friend Alan (Ron Palillo, Horshack from TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter) right away.
Tommy freaks out and heads to Sheriff Garris’ office and the lawman locks him up, thinking that this is all in his head. The truth is that Jason is back and he is on a rampage, killing camp counselors Darren (Tony Goldwyn, Carl from Ghost) and Lizabeth. A whole new crew of kids go looking for them and despite Tommy’s warnings, they think of Jason as only an urban legend.
This time, Jason is stopped by being chained underwater, but even at the end, his eyes are wide open and he’s obviously ready for more.
Again, this movie was a major big deal in my teenage years, particularly because it had a music video for it! “He’s Back (the Man Behind the Mask)” by Alice Cooper announced that Jason had survived the final chapter.
The working title for this installment was Aladdin Sane. I really enjoyed this installment, which even has a nod to James Bond in the beginning. In our movie hallway, we have several versions of the poster for this one. It’s nearly a comedy in parts, but still has a great plot.
Of course, Jason was ready for more. But were the kids? We’ll be back in a few hours with our next chapter!