It’s no secret that fans of the Friday the 13th series are highly critical of the ninth installment of the franchise, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. I freely admit that I have shared the same sentiments as the rest of the horror community. The reasons are not difficult to understand. It is just so different than the other entries in the series. The formula is completely changed, and something new is erected in its place. After Jason Takes Manhattan, fans had no reason to expect such a dramatic change. Because of this, it seems that fans have been biased against this movie from the get go. This is especially true of newer fans who have basically heard nothing but bad things about this flick. I decided it was time for me to watch the movie again with a more open mind to see if the criticisms still hold up. I did something similar a few years ago for Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, and that has since become one of my favorite entries in the series.
Jason Goes to Hell opens up with our favorite killer (being played once again by Kane Hodder) being blown to smithereens after being trapped by the FBI. After his remains are scooped up and sent to the morgue, his spirit (for lack of a better term) is imparted into the coroner after (inexplicably) taking a huge bite of Jason’s heart. The coroner, now possessed by Voorhees, sets off to kill. What follows is a narrative where we see Jason’s spirit being passed off to people, who become possessed and commit grisly murders. Bounty hunter Creighton Duke discovers that Jason can only truly be killed by a member of his bloodline, and that he can be back to his normal unstoppable state if he possesses one of his family. The only known surviving members of Voorhees’ family are a half sister and her daughter. Creighton intends to stop Jason before he gets to them and once again restores his immortality.
I will get into the details, but at the outset I wanted to say that I really did enjoy this film with this viewing. First of all, I really opened up to the new narrative. Obviously over the course of the franchise Jason has evolved from a timid mongoloid to an unstoppable, supernatural juggernaut. The films portrayal of the supernatural aspect of Jason is actually a lot of fun. Sure, it doesn’t feel like a Friday the 13th movie, but the idea that Jason can continue his killing spree after his earthly body has been completely decimated. It adds to the mystique of the unstoppable monstrosity. Along with that, the kills were really fun (some of the best in the whole series). There was some great gore effects reminiscent of the efforts of the 1980’s. There’s a fantastically nasty scene of a man melting. The movie is shot beautifully in my opinion and the score is fantastic. I am of the opinion that if the movie got rid of the references to the Friday the 13th series, fans would by enlarge love it.
That being said, the criticisms are not completely unwarranted. The film does NOT feel like a Friday film. The traditional elements that fans came to know and love were missing. Camp Crystal Lake was barely mentioned, and we didn’t get to see 90 minutes of Kane Hodder in a hockey mask murdering people. It’s hard to imagine a Friday the 13th film with other people doing the majority of the killing. Learning more about living relatives of Jason, and that mutant worm parasite thing are completely knew to that cinematic universe. That being said, I think it’s high time people start watching this movie with an open mind and enjoying it for what it is.
To sum it up, this viewing greatly increased my view of this film. I went from giving it probably 3/10 to probably 7/10. As difficult as it may be, horror fans need to stifle their expectations a bit when watching Jason Goes to Hell. If you go into this movie expecting it to be like the other films in the franchise, you will surely be disappointed. If, however, you go into the film ready to receive some freshness injected into the Jason Voorhees mythos, you can enjoy the film for what it is: a beautifully made, gory, paranormal slasher. And who doesn’t like that?