You may have noticed my reviews of the Friday the 13th films stopped rather abruptly. I thought this was a couple of months ago, but was shocked that it has been 12 months. Basically, I was struggling to get my hands on a copy of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993). Luckily for me it reappeared on DVD here not so long ago and I was able to snaffle a copy. This was especially lucky, because this is a cracking slasher entry and continues the strange theme of the later entries in this series generally exceeding the earlier ones.
Right from the start Jason Goes to Hell is a much creepier effort than the rest of the series. The isolated atmosphere is really well done in the prologue style opening, blown light bulbs shading a frightening return to Crystal Lake. The culmination of this prologue is a smile inducing early twist that sets the plot off in a unique direction for the franchise, though it is reminiscent of Shocker (1989) and perhaps one of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels (but I can’t recall which one). Changing of mythology in a series can really rub people up the wrong way and that has often been the case for me. But this change to the Jason formula felt like a real regeneration. All of the initial set-up is great, moving from Crystal Lake to an autopsy scene that changes up the rhythm you would expect from a slasher, with a literal black heart beating strong. The narrative approach, diverging more than you would expect from the slasher formula, is one of the chief joys of the film. There is some nice reflective ideas, a current affairs program reporting on Jason’s murders, without ever going into over the top meta territory.
One of my major criticisms of this franchise is that the films are not particularly frightening. But this is easily the scariest of the lot. There is far more tension here than any of the other films, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that Jason as we know him featuring less prominently. That lends an unpredictability to the action and narrative that is thankfully not overused by the plot. Tension also comes from the quality of the writing, especially of the characters, which is better than average. We care about these characters more than in most of these films and as a result, care a lot more about what happens to them. None of these films are overly stylish, but Jason Goes to Hell looks and feels better than most of them. There is a charming quality to most of the style, with funky looking camera movements and unnerving angles used, whilst the soundtrack joins Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986) as one of the best in the franchise. It is used really well too, foreboding tunes setting up the atmosphere initially and helping enhance the many scares.
Verdict: Jason Goes to Hell is the scariest film in this iconic series, and one of the best too. The narrative conceit feels original, boldly giving us less of ‘Jason’ as we perceive him, but making the story beats feel different to what have come before. And if you don’t know of the final scene in this film, then whatever you do go in cold – it’s a cracker and I wish I didn’t know what was coming. Stubby of Reschs
- Friday the 13th Part VII
- Jason Goes to Hell
- Friday the 13th Part 2
- Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI
- Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
- Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan
- Friday the 13th
- Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning
- Friday the 13th Part III
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Interesting that you like this one better than most of the others. I’m going to have to watch it again soon. I remember liking Ft13th X quite a bit even though many people don’t like it. That will probably be your next review.
This is my favorite part of the series for all the reasons you covered. It almost feels like a comic arc or a graphic novel the way the story twists and with the strong characters. Love the main character and the bounty hunter. Both really well written and acted. The gore effects are probably the best of the series too.
You’re in for a doozy with Jason. Space is typically the lowest a non-sci-fi horror series gets…
Lol I didn’t want to say it, but since you did: that poster is pretty damn terrible. Lol. Good to hear that the movie is worthwhile though. I’ve never really been interested in watching these franchises play out b/c to me they’re just more of the same, but maybe one day I’ll try to crack one of them open more. I might start with this, since Nightmare on Elm Street I hear goes downhill much quicker. Good stuff here, Tim.