Released a whole 4 years after Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is yet another misleading title since a) he doesn’t and b) it isn’t.
From the opening scene in which Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) is nuked by SEALs (as in soldiers, unfortunately), this 1993 instalment is refreshingly mental for a franchise that has spent more time treading water than Jason himself. What could have been another pallid placeholder in the lead up to Freddy vs. Jason (New Line now had the Voorhees rights) ends up being a surprisingly entertaining entry, by virtue of switching up the format and having Jason jump from body to body in a grizzly ripoff of Wes Craven’s Shocker.
Jason achieves this by spitting his heart into people’s mouths, one of many icky effects alongside a mid-orgasmic kill that distills the series’ sex-and-stabbing combo into one perfect moment. Unusually for the franchise we are given a reason to root for the protagonist (John D. LeMay), who turns down the offer of sex in a tent to honour an appointment with his ex’s mother (Erin Gray). Nine films in and the series has finally achieved the bare minimum requirements of storytelling.
Sadly this is undermined by aping the worst aspects of the Halloween sequels, including pointless retcons (Jason has a sister now) and convoluted lore (magic dagger anyone?). Jason even copies Michael Myers’ M.O. in trying to kill his sister and niece, because apparently his love for family extends only as far as his mother. The acting and sound mixing are also sub-par, doing a disservice to the proto-Scream journalistic satire and intertextual references to A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Thing and The Evil Dead.
The movie also marks the return of original producer Sean S. Cunningham and composer Harry Manfredini, and features one oddly homoerotic moment and a sequence where Jason shaves a guy. This makes for a pleasingly fun and gory change of pace, and although it’s still not great at least it’s bonkers rather than boring. The final showdown is let down by laughable special effects but salvaged by a parting shot that seeds Freddy vs. Jason, even though it wouldn’t arrive for another decade. Which turned out to be a decade too soon.