As I mentioned in a previous post, Friday the 13th Part III (1982) was the first Friday the 13th film I ever saw. And I had the good fortune of seeing it in the threatre in 3D! It was quite a mind-blowing experience, and as is the case with many first time experiences, it would prove very difficult to top. The next one I saw was the original Friday the 13th (1980), and that movie blew my mind for very different reason, which I wrote about in another blog post. I think that the next Friday the 13th film I saw was Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984).
I was so excited when I heard that this movie was coming out – and, of course, I wanted to see it in the theatre. Sadly, it was not to be. I don’t remember if it was because my Dad had hated Part III so much that there was no way I could convince him to take me to Part 4 (which would have undoubtedly been true) or, if it was because Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was rated ‘R’ in Manitoba. I have a vague memory that the film was indeed Restricted, which meant that no one under the age of 18 would be admitted.
This was, on the one hand, disappointing. I had really enjoyed seeing Part III on the big screen and I would have loved seeing Part 4 on the big screen, too. But on the other hand, this kind of made me more excited. The movie was rated ‘R’ which meant that it had to be even more violent, more gory – and more scary – than the already extreme (to my inexperienced eyes) Part III!
I rented the movie on Beta as soon as it came out.
And isn’t that weird? The rules were very strict about not letting anyone under the age of 18 into the movie theatre to see a film like Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. But my friends and I would routinely take ‘R’ rated films up to the counter at our local video store and no one would bat an eye. Not once did a clerk ever question us, or ask for I.D., or say “Hey, you’re too young to be renting that!”
Those were good times.
So, I watched Part 4 with bated breath. This was The Final Chapter after all. Somehow they were going to do the impossible: they were going to kill Jason. And I thought that this was pretty darn cool. After all, Jason had already been “killed” numerous times, and he just kept getting back up. How were they going to finally finish him off?
As the movie unfolded in front of me, I found myself feeling anxious, and excited, and scared… and disappointed.
Huh? Disappointed?! How could I be disappointed by a movie that is now considered to be one of the (if not the) very best film(s) in the entire series?
I think it was a lot of factors coming together to create that feeling of disappointment:
First of all, I saw Part III on the big screen and in 3D. It was a huge, spectacular experience. I watched Part 4 on an old 19″ TV screen – and it wasn’t in 3D.
Secondly, Part III had been my first time seeing anything so violent and gory. It had seemed to me, at the time, that an endless number of people were killed in that movie. Somehow, Part 4 seemed more restrained to me, and I actually thought it had a lower body count. I was wrong, but that was the impression I got the first time I saw it.
Expectations can be a bitch. Part III had raised my expectations through the roof. It probably wouldn’t have mattered what Part 4 was actually like, my expectations would have led me to expect MORE from it.
I suspect that if I had watched Part III again, I would have thought that it was more restrained and had a lower body count.
It should be noted that I did like Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter the first time I saw it. I just didn’t like it as much as I had expected to.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the movie was directed by Joseph Zito, who had previously made one of my all time favourite slasher films, The Prowler (1981), which I wrote about in an unrelated blog post. Of course, I hadn’t even seen that movie yet, but it’s a high quality production and I believe that Zito brought some of that sensibility to the Friday the 13th series. – which, oddly enough, may have been one of things that threw me off the first time I saw it.
Over the years, people would tell me that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was their favourite film in the entire series. Eventually, I decided that I needed watch it again – and this is when I realized what a great film it was. Joseph Zito put more emphasis on character development and storytelling. The characters in this movie feel more real and are more sympathetic, than any of the characters in the previous three movies. There are more killings in The Final Chapter than there were in Part III, but I didn’t experience it that way the first time. This may have been because I was too busy watching the story, and the killings somehow weren’t as front and centre. In Part III, there had hardly been enough story to get in the way, and some of the characters seemed like they were just there to get killed, so the killings and the gore really became the main focus (at least for me at that time).
So, it may have been the high quality nature of The Final Chapter that caused me to be disappointed in it all those years ago. Now I recognize it as possibly the best made film in the series, and I love it.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984). is not the last movie in the series. Not even close. And that made me angry for a few years, too. I had actually thought that this film would have been a fairly perfect ending for Jason Voorhees. But then again, we would have missed out on a lot of other entertaining #NotQuiteClassicCinema if the series had ended here – and I would have much fewer choices of what to watch on a #FridayThe13thAtTheHomeDriveIn. So, I guess things worked out for the best in the long run.