This year marks the 25th anniversary of what was supposed to be the big send-off of Jason Voorhees. Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday was released to theaters on August 13, 1993 with a notorious ending that had early 90s horror fans dreaming of a franchise crossover with Nightmare on Elm Street. In the film, after being blown to bits and taken to the morgue, “Jason” begins to inhabit other human bodies while being tracked by a bounty hunter who claims to know the key to destroying him once and for all. I recently watched the film for the first time in many years. What did I think? Read on to find out, but be warned: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Produced by Friday the 13th creator Sean S. Cunningham, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday was the directorial debut of Adam Marcus. The screenplay was written by My Boyfriend’s Back‘s (1993) Dean Lorey, from a story by Adam Marcus and Jay Huguely. The Final Friday stars Kane Hodder, John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams, Steven Culp, and Erin Gray. Bearing the tagline “Evil has finally found a home“, the marketing for the film heavily promoted the death of Jason Voorhees. In addition to the typical trailers and TV spots, there was a Jason Goes to Hell comic book adaptation and an official movie magazine to tie-in with the release.
The Final Friday starts off with what appears to be a typical Friday the 13th victim setup. A woman, alone in a cabin, strips down for a shower. It doesn’t take long for Jason to show up and a chase through the woods ensues. But there’s a twist! The woman leads Jason into a clearing where a bunch of armed agents are waiting. With maximum firepower, Jason is promptly, and literally, blown to bits. Then we get a seriously over-the-top opening title card that features fire AND blood. All of this sets up what viewers can assume will be a fun and violent gore-fest, full of stereotypical horror scenes being turned on their heads. It works for a while.
As mentioned earlier, the screenplay is by Dean Lorey who wrote the hilarious zombie comedy My Boyfriend’s Back. If there has ever been a horror comedy that shares my sense of humor, My Boyfriend’s Back is it. Some of the same dark humor can be found in the first act of Jason Goes to Hell and these are the scenes that I think work best. For example, the diner in the film has hanging banners advertising “Jason is dead. 2 for 1 burger sale!” setting up a fun, tongue-in-cheek approach that, unfortunately, quickly turns into a mish-mash of ideas, styles, and tone.
Once Jason‘s body is brought into the morgue, the coroner, who seems to be in a trance, bites into Jason‘s heart and becomes “possessed” by Jason. This is where one of the main plot points of the film is introduced: the “being” or “essence” of Jason is able to take control of other people, turning them into the same type of violent killer as himself. Really, the idea is a stretch for a Friday the 13th film, but I was willing to go along with it. Then, as if one major jump in the mythology of the Friday series wasn’t enough, viewers are quickly introduced to another.
Enter Creighton Duke, a bounty hunter that knows the only way to kill Jason once and for all. As he explains, only through a Voorhees can Jason be reborn, and only by a Voorhees can he be killed. Wait, what? There’s another Voorhees? Yep, Jason‘s sister works at the diner and her daughter & grandchild are on the way to visit. I actually like the ideas of this new mythology, but the fact that none of it has been introduced into the franchise until part 9 doesn’t sit well with me. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but Pamela never mentioned anything about Jason having a sister.
Once the story lines of Creighton Duke hunting Jason and Jason seeking another Voorhees in order to be reborn are established, the film completely falls apart. Gone are the touches of dark humor from act one. Here, “Jason” body hops through the next half of the film’s running time. The kills are okay, but none of them ever come close to reaching the iconic level of some of those from earlier entries of the franchise. A lot of the scenes are badly choreographed and edited, making for zero impact or suspense. By the time that the big reveal of Jason‘s bloodline comes around, the twist should have a lot of punch, but it falls flat.
So far, we’ve been bombarded with a cast of characters that have no development or any sort of chemistry between them. It’s difficult to know who the main protagonist is. Like the plot, the focus seems to be all over the place though in act three, we are treated to some unexpected creature effects by K.N.B Effects Group. What we see on screen is not necessarily bad, but puzzling. Over the years, there have been various photos and stills of creature designs for Jason Goes to Hell that were eventually cut and not used. All of them are infinitely better than those that made it into the final product.
Jason Goes to Hell is one of those films that continues to divide fans. Even with all of the jumbled pieces and forced world building concepts (I haven’t even mentioned the Necronomicon scene or the magical dagger, and I’ve only hinted at the finale featuring Freddy Krueger), I still think there were some good ideas underneath it all. But even with that all in mind, for me at least, it doesn’t work as a whole. I get the sense that there were too many people that wanted the film to be too many different things. My opinion aside, the film has plenty of fans. Even after 25 years, a “making of” documentary is expected later this year and there have been recent rumors of a Creighton Duke spin-off.