Tagline: Evil Has Finally Found a Home.
Director: Adam Marcus
Writers: Jay Huguely (story/screenplay), Adam Marcus (story) Dean Lorey (screenplay)
Starring: Kane Hodder, Steven Williams, Erin Gray, John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Culp, Rusty Schwimmer, Richard Gant, Leslie Jordan, Billy Green Bush, Kipp Marcus, Andrew Bloch, Adam Cranner, Allison Smith
18 | 1h 27min | Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
Budget: $3,000,000 (estimated)
It’s difficult to criticise someone for trying something new.
It is even more difficult to criticise director Adam Marcus for Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. After all, this was a franchise that was well past its sell-by-date, one that should have been laid to rest following 1989‘s censorship debacle Jason Takes Manhattan, which was not only disfigured beyond recognition by the all-censoring powers that be, but was even forced to renege on its gimmicky promise of exploring New York City, most of the movie actually being shot in Vancouver, Canada.
The original screenplay nixed scene after scene thanks to the unmanageable expense of filming in The Big Apple. This transformed a movie that was supposed to have moments involving iconic monuments such as the Brooklyn Bridge and The Empire State Building into a long, laborious boat ride that all but killed the franchise, in spite of the genius idea of having a Jason who could teleport, and doesn’t want that?
Still, something new was needed if producer Sean Cunningham and New Line Cinema, who had bought the rights to the Friday the 13th series for the long-mooted Freddy vs Jason crossover, were to dredge the irrepressible Mr. Voorhees from franchise ignominy. New Line wanted a precursor to Freddy vs Jason, a movie that would not see the light of day until a decade later, and it was up to first time writer-director Marcus to provide that platform.
Unsurprisingly, Jason Goes to Hell didn’t go down too well with critics, but that in itself was nothing new. What really killed the movie was the way in which it polarised the character’s loyal fan base, who were pretty pissed to find that Jason hardly featured in the movie at all in the physical form we are all accustomed to. This was even more offensive than the impostor Jason from 1985‘s A New Beginning, which had also been sacrilegious in the minds of many. At least that instalment gave fans the illusion of Jason for most of the movie’s running time.
Naturally, the blame for The Final Friday would fall in the lap of the man at the creative helm. But Marcus was a lifelong fan of the series. This wasn’t a case of some clueless film school grad using the franchise for the sole purpose of breaking into the business. He understood the character as much as the most ardent diehard and had a real love for horror, a fact made apparent by a series of genre nods involving other staple franchises, including the obvious tie-in with the A Nightmare on Elm Street series.
Another tie-in sees Jason tied to the Evil Dead franchise and the infamous Necronomicon. The plot of Jason Goes to Hell sees our irrepressible killer destroyed in the opening sequence, his spirit then transferred from body to body via ‘Hellbaby’, a physical manifestation of Jason’s demonic soul. That soul takes the form of a worm-like parasite, one which holds more than a passing resemblance to that featured in Jack Sholder’s comical sci-fi thriller The Hidden, a fact that was quickly shrugged off as coincidental by the director.
In a 2017 interview with Horror Geek Life, Marcus explained, “[Pamela Voorhees] makes a deal with the devil by reading from the Necronomicon to bring back her son. This is why Jason isn’t Jason. He’s Jason plus The Evil Dead, and now I can believe that he can go from a little boy that lives in a lake, to a full grown man in a couple of months, to Zombie Jason, to never being able to kill this guy.” According to Marcus, Sam Raimi loved the idea, but due to obvious legal reasons he couldn’t develop the concept as much as he wanted to, and the Necronomicon was slipped in as an Easter egg of the more implied variety.
It seems that Marcus’s heart was in the right place, so how does the movie fare? The answer is not too well. The basic plot is that Jason needs to possess the body of one of his three remaining relatives in order to resurrect his physical form, an increasingly convoluted idea that quickly becomes incoherent as the screenplay struggles to explain Jason’s newfound mythology. It is also completely lacking in suspense, which is nothing new for a franchise that has relied on gimmicks for years, but without Jason at the helm it is nigh on unbearable at times.
On the plus side for Voorhees fans — if you can look past the fact that he is barely in the movie — Jason Goes to Hell features a record-equalling body count of 22, sharing that title with franchise oddity counterpart A New Beginning. It also features perhaps the best special effects in the entire series thanks to Al Magliochetti and the wonderful maestros at KNB EFX, who were also responsible for such visual banquets as Scott Spiegel’s supermarket splatterfest Intruder.
It also gives us the wonderfully hammy Creighton Duke, a bad ass bounty hunter with a very personal vendetta, at least according to his intended backstory, which had Duke lose a girlfriend to a boat that was capsized by Voorhees back at Camp Crystal Lake, turning him into the kind of obsessive student who feels confident he can finally defeat Jason.
Good luck, is all I’ll say.
After Jason’s spirit enters the body of a coroner possessed into eating his still beating heart, his none the wiser assistant makes the fatal mistake of ridiculing the monster’s corpse. Unsurprisingly, the man (who is actually played by the movie’s screenwriter) is then pinned to a grate with a particularly sharp implement, pieces of his face sluicing through like mincemeat.
Most Absurd Moment
Luring Jason to a cabin where a sultry undercover officer gets naked, the FBI, finally convinced of the infamous monster’s existence, unload with the kind of heavy artillery usually reserved for John Matrix, a barrage of grenades reducing Jason to a still beating heart.
The legendary Kane Hodder has three roles in this movie: the rarely seen Jason, a cop guarding the autopsy room who quickly succumbs to Jason’s initial human incubator, and, best of all, Freddy himself, which means that Mr Hodder has now played Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers and Leatherface.
A legend indeed!
Most Absurd Dialogue
Partaking in a game of name association with a sleazy reporter, the infinitely watchable Duke gives a typically enigmatic response.
Reporter: “And I want you to say the first thing that comes to your mind: Jason Voorhees.”
Creighton Duke: “Well that makes me think of…a little girl in a pink dress…sticking a hot dog through a doughnut.”
When a 23-year-old debut director is given free reign over a much-loved franchise there are bound to be critics, and the movie is far more miss than hit, with an end product that barely feels like a Friday the 13th entry. Still, Jason Goes to Hell does set up the long-anticipated Freddy vs Jason, and some Voorhees is still better than none. At least in my opinion.