Whilst the Friday the 13th franchise has never been a favourite amongst critics, over the years the fanbase had remained loyal. But New Line‘s first foray into the series, 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, had been the worst received since A New Beginning eight years earlier. Both had been reviled by fans for the same reason – no Jason! After the disappointment of Paramount‘s last effort, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, a decision was made to steer the formula in a fresh direction. Stealing heavily from New Line‘s 1988 sci-fi thriller The Hidden, the ninth Voorhees venture saw the infamous killer absent from the screen for the majority of its running time. Dispensing with the tradition formula and summer camp setting, Jason Goes to Hell instead fashioned itself as a monster movie, ignoring most of the elements of the previous films and running with a new set of ideas.
A car makes its way into Camp Crystal Lake and a beautiful young woman (Julie Michaels) climbs out. After kick-starting the generator, she wastes no time in stripping off and taking a shower. As she walks back out onto the landing, Jason suddenly appears and attacks her with his machete, sending her falling backwards over the bannister. Moments later, she manages to climb to her feet and runs out into the woods with Jason in hot pursuit. As she enters a clearing, she jumps out of the way as FBI agents emerge, blowing Jason’s body to pieces with a missile. From the nearby bushes, a bounty hunter by the name of Creighton Duke (Steven Williams) watches on unconvinced. The woman is revealed to be Elizabeth Marcus, a trained government agent who had been involved in a sting operation designed to destroy Jason Voorhees once and for all.
His remains are shipped off to the mortuary, where the coroner (Richard Gant) and his cocky assistant (Dean Lorey) are left with the task of counting the bullet holes. For some inexplicable reason, the coroner sinks his teeth into the still beating heart and immediately becomes possessed by the spirit of Jason. After dispatching of his assistant and two security guards (one played by Jason himself, Kane Hodder), he sets out on a rampage back to Crystal Lake. Seduced by Duke’s promise of killing Jason for good, slimy TV presenter Robert Campbell (Steven Culp) hires him to finish the job, in an effort to boost the ratings for his true crime series, American Casefile. But Duke succeeds in angering the local sheriff (Billy Green Bush) and soon finds himself in jail, leaving Jason free to continue on his mission to seek and destroy.
Duke reveals that Jason is not really dead, and can jump from one host to another in the form of a giant, demonic slug. Only by possessing the body of a blood relative can he be reborn, making his estranged sister, Diana Kimble (Erin Gray), and her daughter, Jessica (Kari Keegan), his next target. The latter’s former lover, Steven (John D LeMay), joins forces with Duke in an effort to stop him, but with Jason having the ability to pass between bodies, they are unable to know who to trust. Duke also states that only a Voorhees can destroy him, meaning with her mother dispatched Jessica is the only one with the power to bring the evil to an end. After being sent back to Hell, the final shot of the movie sees Jason’s hockey mask lying in the sand, when suddenly Freddy’s infamous gloved hand reaches out and drags the mask back down, hinting that the long awaited crossover Freddy vs. Jason would finally become a reality.
Those expecting another straightforward slasher with Jason stalking nubile teenagers in a summer camp setting will no doubt be disappointed, but Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday proves to be one of the more interesting of the sequels. Whilst fan favourite Hodder spends little time on screen, there are enough inventive kills ideas to keep the material interesting. Released three years before the self referential hit Scream, the movie successfully pokes fun at the slasher genre and the conventions of the Friday the 13th franchise in particular, with the hero asking a group of doomed campers if they were ‘Planning on smoking a little dope, having a little premarital sex, and getting slaughtered?,’ something which they soon achieve. The concept of a parasite moving from one body to another may lack originality, but this allows for plenty of creature effects, as well as excessive gore (courtesy of KNB) and nudity.
Jason Goes to Hell‘s main flaw are the inconsistencies and ignorance towards the franchise’s mythology. In the original film, Mrs. Voorhees had stated that Jason had been her only child, whilst in the sixth movie Crystal Lake had been renamed Forest Green in an effort to forget its bloody past. Thankfully, though, the filmmakers were able to gather together a selection of charismatic and talented B-movie actors, such as Gray (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), LeMay (Friday the 13th: The Series), Williams (21 Jump Street) and Bush (Critters). Those able to forgive its shortcomings will find plenty to enjoy here, particularly when viewing the unrated cut (the naked girl being split in two is a stand-out moment). As uneven and dumb as it may be, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is still an entertaining ride.