After Jason Takes Manhattan essentially lied to us right in the title, what do you expect from a movie titled Jason goes to Hell: The Final Friday? Do you expect it to truly be the “Final Friday,” especially after we, with this release, have five installments after the “Final Chapter”? Do you think Jason goes to Hell, and that’s where most of the film takes place? My dear reader, that would require a larger budget than a studio is willing to give a Friday the 13th movie. Essentially, the title is nothing more than something somewhat clever to draw in a viewer.
In practice, Jason goes to Hell barely feels like the type of Friday the 13th film we’ve come to know (and love?). The Jason Voorhees, the hockey-masked serial killer, that we’ve seen murder dozens of people is in the film for only a few minutes. In the first scene, he’s brutally gunned down after falling for an FBI ruse. I assumed at this point Jason was going to Hell, but, alas, this isn’t what happens. Instead, a coroner tasked with examining his remains gets a little too close to his heart and winds up possessed.
Essentially what we’re doing here is a version of The Thing, where Jason goes from location to location and takes over a new body every so often. There’s only one scene where we’re not sure which body is currently Jason’s — the film doesn’t want to test those waters — and the ones he’s done with decompose a very short time after, but the basic idea is the same. He murders people in possessed bodies, all while looking for someone, or someones.
See, it turns out that, like we all thought, Jason cannot be killed by a normal person. For some reason, the only person who actually has the knowledge of how he can die is a bounty hunter, but I’ll spoil it for you anyway. Only a Voorhees can kill him, and only a Voorhees can create him again. In order for Jason to return to his “true” form, he needs to find either his sister or his sister’s child. Presumably, after that, he’d kill them, because they’re the only ones who have the ability to kill him.
I’ve always thought of Jason as a relatively boring killer. He’s always got a single reason for killing, and he mostly just kills anyone he encounters while looking for the person or persons he wants dead. He kills primarily with a knife, he can’t speak, he just walks at anyone he’s chasing, and he is impervious to most attempts to even knock him down. Now, we get a little more reason to his immortal nature. I’m not sure if removing that touch of mystery makes him more interesting or less frightening or both.
It might ruin any loose continuity the franchise used to have, too. How does it make any sense that one man — and only one man — can unearth the power behind Jason’s immortality? Why is a sister we’ve never before heard of just now being introduced? How does Jason talk at one point? (Seriously, he does!) How were people able to kill him earlier, leading to his multiple resurrection scenes? Is asking these types of questions the most redundant and pointless thing I’ve ever done? Quite possibly.
There are a couple of fun scenes and kills scattered throughout Jason goes to Hell, but I think some of the fun is lost when it’s not Jason — or, at least, someone who looks like Jason — doing the killing. What point is there to a Friday the 13th movie when it’s just some random guy slicing throats? I mean, Jason’s not exactly an interesting villain but at least he’s got films upon films to back up his legacy. What does Random Joe #2 have? Nothing, that’s what.
I laughed a few more times during this film than I had during the last couple of Friday the 13ths. Some potshots are taken at other similar slasher films, and there’s some meta-humor in regard to the genre. The film was produced by Sean S. Cunningham, who directed the very first chapter in this saga, and he’s probably gotten just about as tired of it all as I have, and likely some of you have. So, he gets a few laughs in by winking at us. Or maybe it was the director, Adam Marcus, who did this, but at age 23 at the time of filming, he probably hadn’t even seen all of the other entries.
Oh, yes, and the film ends with one heck of a cliffhanger. Assuming you’re a horror movie aficionado, or at least have a working knowledge of the slasher genre, the film’s final shot will leave you filled with glee, or at the very least it might shock you. It’s the type of conclusion that you and anyone else you watch the movie with will cheer. And then the discussion will begin. I won’t spoil it, but there’s one central question you’ll be discussing.
Jason goes to Hell isn’t an offensively bad Friday the 13th film, but it also isn’t an especially good one. The kills are sometimes fun and the in-jokes are amusing, but the Jason we’ve come to know is notably absent for most of the proceedings, the new mythology introduced here brings with it a ton of questions and plot holes that will never be filled, and if you were hoping to see Jason fight his way out of Hell, you’re going to be incredibly disappointed.