After three successful, if somewhat critically mauled, feature films, Paramount finally decided to lay their lucrative Friday the 13th franchise to rest with what promised to be The Final Chapter. Marking the reunion of director Joseph Zito and special effects artist Tom Savini, who had previously collaborated on the underrated 1981 slasher The Prowler, the filmmakers’ intentions were to lay Jason Voorhees to rest for good. The studio had since struck gold with the Star Trek movies and so something as despised as Friday the 13th had become a thorn in their side. But, if nothing else, the series had become notorious for its graphic violence and so it was agreed that it should go out in style. Having been responsible in part for the creation of the character, Savini had finally been tempted back to the franchise to finish what he had started. And, with public interest in the slasher genre seeming to dry up, the studio felt it was time to quit while they were ahead.
The bloody aftermath of the massacre at Higgins Haven has been discovered and each of the mutilated corpses are being sent away to the Wessex County morgue as the police investigate what had happened. The maniac in question, Jason Voorhees (Ted White), has been found in the barn with an axe buried deep in his forehead. Two medics (Robert Perault and Arnie Moore) collect his body and take it to morgue where sleazy doctor Axel (Bruce Mahler) makes an inappropriate comment about one of the girls still being cute. He then tries to seduce one of his colleagues, Nurse Morgan (Lisa Freeman), into remaining behind with him but her only interest is to watch the news. Eventually he manages to charm her but as they begin to make out, Jason’s lifeless arm slips out from under the sheet and rests on her leg, causing her to freak out and leave. Soon afterwards, as Axel continues to watch TV, a newly awoken Jason appears behind him with a surgical saw and slits his throat, before violently twisting his head around. He then follows Nurse Morgan and, lifting her up against a wall, plunges a scalpel into her stomach.
Some time later, a group of friends make their way towards Crystal Lake where they have rented a summerhouse. Having passed an old tombstone by the road that read Pamela Voorhees, they finally arrive by the lake. In a nearby house lives the Jarvis family, a single mother and her teenage daughter, Trish (Kimberly Beck) and young son Tommy (Corey Feldman), a makeup fanatic who had created various monster masks. After dispatching of a hitchhiker (Bonnie Hellman), Jason makes his way back towards Crystal Lake. The following day, the group of friends head out into the woods to search for the lake, where they come across twins Tina and Terri (Camilla and Carey Moore), who join them skinny-dipping.
Heading into town, Trish’s car breaks down but as Tommy tries to fix the engine, he is startled by a hiker, Rob (Erich Anderson). Bringing him back to their house, Tommy shows him his creations whilst Trish takes a liking to him. But he soon says that he has to leave and enquires if any other kids have arrived recently. Later, after their mother disappears, she stumbles across Rob’s camp in the woods and he tells her that his sister, Sandra (who had been slaughtered in the second movie), had disappeared and that he was hunting the man responsible. Meanwhile, Jason has begun killing off the kids one by one, before turning his attention to Tommy, but Trish and Rob arrive just in time. Influenced by Rob’s various newspaper cuttings, Tommy shaves his head to resemble Jason as a child and finally confronts him, where he brutally attacks him with a machete.
Over the years, The Final Chapter has become a fan favourite and with good reason. Zito is certainly one of the more talented directors to work on the series and Savini made a welcome return with his trademark gore. Whilst the script was as generic as the previous three, at least some of the characters were memorable and recited humorous dialogue (Ted’s habit of referring to his friend Jimmy as a ‘dead fuck’). Ted White, whose name was removed from the credits due to his protests against the treatment of the young actors, makes for a brutal Jason, easily the best in the series at that point. Some of the deaths are particularly effective, such as the medical-saw-neck-twist of Axel and, in a show-stopping climax, Jason’s own head sliding down his blade.
The movie also boasts the best selection of acting talent of the entire franchise, with Feldman providing a likeable turn as the child protagonist. But by far the most memorable performance comes courtesy of Glover, whose oddball charisma would later shine in the likes of Back to the Future and River’s Edge. His eccentric mannerisms, delivery of dialogue and bizarre dance (a series highlight) make Jimmy one of the most interesting and sympathetic characters of the series. Beck also proves adequate as the final girl, surpassing Part III‘s Dana Kimmell as Jason’s worthy advisory. The film is not without its flaws, of course. The reason how Jason manages to wake up on the mortuary slab and once again continue his killing spree is never touched upon and several characters are introduced just to be killed moments later, making their deaths irrelevant (most notably the hitchhiker). But, on a whole, The Final Chapter is one of the best offerings of the Friday the 13th franchise and stands out as an effective mid-eighties slasher.