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New Line Home Cinema presents
"For over twenty years, the mere mention of the name Jason Voorhees has been enough to send a shudder of fear through an entire nation."
DVD ReviewI will admit to being a real fan of the first two Friday the 13th films, but that was long before it became a cookie-cutter franchise featuring predictable, uninspired wholesale slaughter, courtesy of that hockey mask wearing killer Jason Voorhees. It's true that Jason became an identifiable horror icon, but in the meantime the subsequent sequels lost their edge, or perhaps more importantly their shock value, and pretty much ended up becoming nothing more than laughable self-parody.
This ninth chapter in the Friday the 13th series, released theatrically in 1993, really split the diehards down the middle (not unlike a machete to the torso, eh?), as it really shook up the whole Jason mythos, and actually relegated the lumbering killer to only a relatively few minutes of screen time. It was a pretty daring move, messing with a franchise like that, and it was even more daring when the film was put in the creative hands of a couple of fresh-faced 23-year-olds, director Adam Marcus and screenwriter Dean Lorey. Lorey and Marcus, in my estimation, came through big time with a bloody, inventive spin that actually tried to develop characters (as one dimensional as they are, that is), and instill the film with a kind of raw, fanboy fervor that was sadly lacking in most of the sequels.
You know the rules are going to be bent a little when Jason himself, that previously unstoppable supernatural killing machine from the previous eight films, is literally blown to bits during the first ten minutes. It's pretty much a given fact that logic and continuity were never strong suits in the series, and it should come as no surprise that even when Jason is in a million pieces he can still cause trouble, and that he does.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday borrows the old evil-entity-body-jumping-from-person-to-person theme from the vastly underrated The Hidden and certainly The Thing (hands down one of the finest horror films of the 1980s) as it's revealed that the "essence" of Jason can actually be passed from human host to human host in the form of some gooey, snake-like being, via a bloody face-to-face transfer. It's a damn silly premise, and amazingly, one that works remarkably well within the shaky ground rules set up by Dean Lorey.
I'd talk more about the plot, but it's so razor thin that it doesn't really matter. Jason is passed from unsuspecting body to unsuspecting body, and nasty, bloody mayhem ensues. Lovable Erin (Buck Rogers) Gray pops up a waitress with a deep, dark secret, and Steven (The X-Files) Williams steals the film as bounty hunter Creighton Duke, a man obsessed with hunting down Jason Voorhees. Duke's the guy with all the answers, and when he starts babbling about magic daggers and birthrights, you know it's just time to sit back and watch Williams chew things with a glorious, over-the-top B-movie performance.
New Line has opted to give viewers a choice, and this release sports both the R-rated and unrated versions of the film. I'm not sure what self-respecting fan of Jason Voorhees would ever select the R-rated cut, but it's here if you want it. The unrated version runs roughly three minutes longer, and features an extended sex scene and a few more moments of gory goodness.
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday really revitalized my faith in the series, and this is an undeniably goofy, fun horror film full of a few well-played gambles, a handful of clichés, and one of the best out-of-left-field endings since the first Sleepaway Camp.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: New Line has come through with a beautiful looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for this release (for both the R and unrated versions), and it seems even more impressive when one considers how modest the budget was. This is a dark, dark looking film, and large chunks of it are bathed in shadows, usually under cold blue lighting, and the reproduction of these looks quite good. Colors are generally well-saturated, though fleshtones run toward being slightly too red at times. Edge enhancement and compression issues are minor, and only stand out during scenes in the diner, for the most part.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Woo-hoo, who knew a Friday the 13th DVD could ever sound this good? New Line has absolutely nailed this release perfectly with a pair of ear-popping mixes in 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS. While there isn't much noticeable difference between the two (a trait not entirely uncommon) aside from the DTS track's slightly more beefy bottom end, both tracks are aggressively mixed and feature highly active rear channels. I really loved the subtle "cha-cha-chi-chi" elements of the soundtrack sprinkled across the rears, as well as the faint swirling "Jaaaaason"s. Be warned, this one packs a whopping low-end punch (especially clean on the DTS track) that has the power to rattle the pictures off your walls. Wow!
A 2.0 surround track, dramatically less full than the 5.1 or DTS, is also provided.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Adam Marcus, Dean Lorey
Extras Review: Many of the Friday the 13th discs have been remarkably spartan when it comes to supplementals, and while this one isn't overflowing, what is here is quite good. Director Adam Marcus and screenwriter Dean Lorey contribute a full-length commentary that has to rank up there with one of the most enjoyable ones I've ever heard. The two long-time friends talk nonstop about how they became involved with the franchise, and what it was like to make this film while they were both in their early twenties. Levity is the watchword here, and Marcus and Leary are not shy about poking fun at the plot inconsistencies, and discussing the alleged Friday the 13th formula of "breasts every 7 minutes," and then "a violent death 7 minutes later." This is one of the few commentaries where I have actually laughed out loud a number of times, and Marcus and Leary are a real treat to listen to. Aside from pointing out their cameo roles, we learn of their rampant fanboy adoration of the lovely Erin Gray. Eagle-eyed viewers who noticed the somehow familiar looking demonic book in the Voorhees house sequence will learn that it is the actual Book of the Dead from Army of Darkness, which was loaned to Marcus from Sam Raimi.
The TV Version Alternate Scenes consists of nine full-frame sequences that were apparently created to pad the runtime in place of the edited violence. Some of the scenes play almost like deleted scenes, where as others simply consist of newly dubbed dialogue that is cleaner, and more TV-friendly. The nine scenes, available with the Play All option, are:
Diner Scene (03m:30s)
Prank Phone Call (02m:35s)
Cuffing Steven (:15s)
Introduction Scene (:35s)
Giving Vicki The Baby (:50s)
Vicki + David (01m:05s)
Vicki Gets to Work (:35s)
Alone In Jessica's House (01m:45s)
Steve + Randy's Fight (01m:20s)
Also featured is the handy Jump to a Death extra, which presents 10 of the film's key deaths no more than a remote click away. This segment allows you to Play All, or select the self-explanatory Random Kill option.
DVD-ROM extras are tame, bordering on the useless, and consist of nothing more than the traditional weblinks.
The disc is divided into 20 chapters, and includes a theatrical trailer as well as optional English subtitles.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsDirector Adam Marcus managed to breathe fresh life into the tired Friday the 13th franchise with Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, even if it ultimately proved to not actually be the final installment in the saga. This is easily as good as the first film, and without a doubt substantially more entertaining. While this one split the loyal Jason camp right down the middle, this sharp looking release from New Line (coupled with a knockout audio transfer) is a winner all the way. I only wish Parts 3 through 8 could have been this much fun...
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