Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles online lately about an unreleased director’s cut of 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell suggesting that the already gruesome ninth installment was meant to be more violent and terrifying than what was originally released. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular episode in the franchise, this was one of a few films in the series intended to be the “Final Friday” and featured some of the more campy and strange elements of horror that have added to the legend of Jason Voorhees. I fell out with slasher movies sometime in the last decade or so. I used to be a devout fan of films like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre but I lost interest somewhere down the road. It wasn’t until recently, between doing some review work for the tenth anniversary of Hatchet and interviewing writers and producers of a few Friday the 13th inspired productions that I started to fall in love with the whole slasher genre again.
Let’s take a moment and get really honest with ourselves about the entire slasher genre. Stories of masked psychopaths murdering horny teenagers in gruesome ways can only go so far on their own. It’s the classic campfire tale retold again and again about not venturing outside of the established order of society –be it going off into the dark and forbidden forest or partaking in drugs, sex, and other shenanigans- while putting something unique and memorable to the tale. In the case of Jason Voorhees, you have a mentally and physically deformed boy who is tormented and murdered by “normal” folks returning to seek revenge against them and the society that accepts them. Despite some truly amazing and unique ideas on how to mutilate and horrify, as well as the incredible special effects and stunt work you’ll see in these types of movies, as far as plot goes there will never be anything new. Freddy, Jason, Michael, Leatherface, Victor Crowley, no matter who the deformed killer may be, after their initial appearance, it all becomes variations on a theme.
And that’s completely fine by me.
In the last couple of years I’ve begun to fall in love with the whole concept of slasher movies again. Maybe it has something to do with writing more reviews on the topic or maybe I’ve just come full circle back to the place I started when I first became a fan? Whatever it is, I’m excited because I’m reconnecting with some of my favorite old flicks like Jason Goes to Hell. I decided to pop it in last night, in fact, and give it another pass. It’s been at least fifteen years since the last time I watched it and, while it may not be the favorite of devout fans and critics, it has a sort of campy, goofy charm that can’t be beat. No other slasher movie maniac has had the same impact on pop culture that Jason Voorhees has made. Any parody of a slasher movie almost always has some hockey masked machete wielding lunatic at its center and that is in no small part thanks to the series. Even so it feels surprising that when Jason Goes to Hell starts, it feels more like a low budget, B horror flick than it does the work of a large studio capitalizing on such a huge media sensation. But it’s that schlocky charm that makes all the Fridays so wonderful.
Jason Goes to Hell opens with a young woman escaping to a cabin on the shores of Crystal Lake. From the first moment you see her you say to yourself “Yeah, she’s fucking dead.” because, if this series has taught us nothing, it’s that young, beautiful people are going to suffer unimaginably at the hands of at the hands of mama Voorhees’ pride and joy. And it’s not like she’s making it hard for him. She leaves doors open, wanders off into sheds looking for things, and almost immediately gets naked for a shower scene as soon as she arrives. And the shots are painful. The camera follows her as she stands in front of the mirror and then bends down to pick up something she’s dropped. Every time you expect to see her stand up and immediately take a machete to the face you’re greeted with absolutely nothing. Three or four times we expect to see our beautiful young female “victim” diced up but nothing ever happens. I mean, it’s almost like she’s trying to lure him into the cabin, trying to get him to show up. When Jason finally appears, our towel clad model victim doesn’t panic but instead takes off into the woods in an almost deliberate invitation for the seemingly unstoppable killer to give chase.
And this, my fellow fiends, is where the movie goes off the rails. The FBI is waiting and, as our towel draped special agent does an impressive gymnastic flip out of the line of fire, dozens of heavily armed men begin to riddle Jason with bullets from everything from revolvers to machine guns to a freaking missile that utterly obliterates him. Yep. Game over man. Jason is most definitely dead. Movie’s over in fifteen minutes. The body is taken back to an FBI facility where an autopsy is being performed. But things only go from strange to stranger when Jason’s heart possesses the M.E. who devours it and becomes the host to the murderous spirit of Jason Voorhees. Cutting a bloody swath across the landscape towards his home town of Crystal Lake and his only living family, a younger sister named Diana and her daughter and granddaughter, he intends to possess one of the three women to resurrect his physical form. There are some phenomenal Easter Eggs in this picture, including a scene in the abandoned Voorhees home in which our protagonists find a familiar looking tome bound in human flesh and inked in human blood lying on an old bureau in a bedroom. There’s also a scene in the very end where a familiar, knife fingered hand reaches up from the spot where Jason has died, leaving only his hockey mask behind as a reminder of his legacy, and pulls the mask into the earth. The appearance of the Necronomicon and Freddy’s glove dragging Jason into Hell not only help us to accept the fact that the butcher of Camp Crystal Lake is a demonically possessed monster but allows for the set up for Freddy vs Jason ten years later while simultaneously connecting A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Evil Dead with the same cinematic universe as Friday the 13th.
As a fanboy, nothing would please me more than to see what was left out of the original release of Jason Goes to Hell. It also makes me wonder, given the two fairly substantial nods to other extremely popular, and bloody franchises from the time, if there might have been more connections to be made in a director’s cut. I’d love to see my favorite chainsaw wielding demon killer Ash fighting Freddy and Jason in a cabin in the woods. But, until a director’s cut hits (and until I become an independently wealthy filmmaker able to produce Freddy vs Jason vs Ash) I’ll just have to be content to sit here and dream of what could be.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.