They're so bloody awful you can only appreciate them if you're a horror fan, especially if you'd lived through the succession of Friday the 13th films that appeared faithfully each year during the eighties. To watch them on the tube is brainless fun, but really, the Friday films' purest viewing element was, naturally, the movie theaters.
I was too young to get in to the first three Friday the 13th films, and I was still too young to see Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter. Yet I come from an era where frivolent lawsuits were seldom filed and we lived in a less-hyper society, so much that I was able to pass my 14-year-old self and all of my neighborhood buddies into the theater when the laughably titled Final Chapter came out in 1984.
Our parents knew where we were and since I was the unspoken leader of our development tribe, the parents automatically trusted me. One of my friend's dads hauled the whole lot of us to the theater and on the way took us down a creepy dirt road just to mess with us since he knew we were off to the horror show. I love Mr. Steve for that, he was a righteous dad.
I'll never forget stepping up to the box office and getting my own ticket for the first time to a rated R flick and then answering the lady in the booth that yes, all those other kids who apparently looked their ages in her eyes were all with me. It was a moment of triumph probably best savored if you're a young boy already anticipating the gore, the cussing and best of all, the T&A scattered (or splattered, if you like) throughout Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter. I felt like I'd pulled of the scam of a lifetime.
While hardly the stuff of Oscar worthiness, I tend to favor The Final Chapter over most of the other films, as do most Friday freaks. Even though the original Friday has future star Kevin Bacon in it, this one came to play with Corey Feldman, who was well on his way to fame as a child star of the eighties, plus Crispin Glover. If soap operas are your thing, Peter Barton (who'd also been in Hell Night previously) would go on to enjoy notoriety on The Young and the Restless. I'm not saying the script and the acting of The Final Chapter is stellar stuff, but it does take the time to build our sympathies for Feldman's family of Jarvises before the clothes fly off at the adjacent party pad and Jason Voorhees comes to crash the festivities.
Really, the biggest star of The Final Chapter--and he doesn't physically appear in a single frame--is Tom Savini. While his special effects and makeup work in the first Friday is brilliant, consider The Final Chapter one of his masterpieces. Today I'm more fascinated by the monster masks Savini created for Corey Feldman's bedroom of bedlam, but the kill scenes in The Final Chapter are one of the reasons for the film's enduring popularity. For me, I still appreciate the film's setting and attention to detail. Just the opening segment of all the chaos involved in cleaning up the aftermath of Friday the 13th Part III then sudden silence of the farm as everyone hauls out is a rather nifty bit of storytelling that didn't appear in these films too often.
You can imagine my underage self, my undererage friends and a sold-out theater screaming with revulsion and then applauding like mutants during the blood-drenched scene where Jason saws and twists the head of Bruce Mahler. We groaned like we were half sick when we finally see Jason's full hockey mask by the time he smashes through the partition in the shower and crushes Peter Barton's face to a pulp. What I remember most was everyone in the theater going out of their minds during Crispin Glover's one-two punch kill with the corkscrew and meat cleaver. He'd played his character to such a dorky lilt no one could believe he'd scored with Camilla More, thus his brutal dispatching was actually celebrated by the crowd with shrieks and hysterical laughing. Ditto for watching Corey Feldman shave his head to look like Jason then whacking the butcher upside the face with that machete. The way Jason slides down that blade through his eye is something horror fans still marvel at today.
I remember being quite a showoff at the theater, making "boingy boingy" noises during the skinny dip scenes and cracking the audience up. Everyone got into the act from there and the entire experience became as much a riot from the audience participation. The only thing that was missing was the flying toilet paper and spinning popcorn buckets.
Really, you had to have been there.