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Jason Goes To Hell Is Better Than You Remember

I’m sure the title of this article gave you a strong feeling, one way or another. Jason Goes To Hell is a divisive film. There’s a group of people who really enjoy it, and there’s a group of people who rank it towards the bottom of the series. There’s not much of a middle ground when it comes to the ninth film in this iconic franchise. It’s not like Jason Goes To Hell is the only polarizing film in the franchise—the films both before and after it are, as is the remake. In recent years, there’s been this public shift in opinion in regard to Jason X, with fans younger and newer to the franchise really taking to the film. While that’s all well and good, if we’re going to reevaluate that film, we need to do the same for its predecessor. Jason Goes To Hell is better than you remember.

As horror fans, many of us have an attachment to nostalgia. We like things the way we remember them, the way we came to know them. That’s part of why horror franchises are so popular. Many sequels in these franchises don’t differ that much from what came before them. A tweak here, a development there, and keep the formula largely the same. We, as fans, get to take a new adventure with an antagonist we know and love in a setup we’re familiar with. We want Michael in Haddonfield, Freddy on Elm Street, and Jason at Crystal Lake. Don’t tweak the formula, just change the supporting faces. We say we want change, but what we really want is comfort and familiarity.

Jason Goes To Hell challenged all of that. We were forced way out of our comfort zones. Jason wasn’t even Jason! I’m sure some Roy-related PTSD was triggered there. The layout of the film was different. The fundamental premise of this film was the polar opposite of the rest. For eight films, we watched Jason (or his mom, or Roy) stalk teenagers. Here in Jason Goes To Hell, Jason was the one being stalked. We were being asked to go on a completely different journey with this film and to think about Jason Voorhees in different ways. There was no sense of nostalgia, besides in the opening scene. We might still be in Crystal Lake, but it damn sure didn’t feel like it.

I think to get a better appreciation of this film, we need to understand its history more. After Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan, there wasn’t supposed to be another Jason film. Paramount let the rights go and New Line bought the rights to the character, for the purpose to finally make the dream match film between Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees happen. That was the plan, and it was the plan for a long, long time. The project couldn’t get the script right and wound up in development hell, as it’s known. Producer Sean Cunningham’s hand was forced, not wanting the character of Jason Voorhees to “cool off” or be forgotten about. A new film would need to be made, and it would need to be made to exist before the dream match of horror icons.

Showdown of the icons: Freddy vs Jason

That wasn’t the only factor at play here. The eighth film in the series, which attempted to take Jason out of Crystal Lake and to the Big Apple, was the biggest box office bomb the series had. The formula, even with the added gimmick of Jason traveling to the most famous city in the world, didn’t connect with fans. There was a need to do something new here to keep the character relevant prior to the big matchup and the title of the film offered finality. Still a gimmick in a sense, but one that would inevitably draw more interest than a traveling killer, perhaps?

This is where filmmaker Adam Marcus felt liberated. If you’re going to have a film that is promising an end to the series, even with a showdown with Freddy Kruger looming, what do you do? Jason has been killed, returned as a zombie more or less, killed hundreds of teenagers, and even been imitated by a crazy medic. The one thing the series hadn’t done is close the loop and bring the franchise back to its roots—family.

This series started off as a revenge story. A grieving mother has gone mad, wanting to avenge the death of her child. To truly “end” Jason, it needed to circle back to the family element of the story, and it needed to provide some kind of story as to who Jason was and why he kept coming back. We needed a sense of closure. We needed answers, and that’s exactly what Jason Goes To Hell set out to do.

jason being pulled into sand by odd creatures

A lot of people didn’t enjoy the fact that in this film Jason took the physical form of several other people. It’s jarring. We identify this series with Jason and his trademark look. We forgave the series for not telling us before why a child could drown in a lake and then come back as the physically menacing, supernatural entity. We were ok with saying that things are scarier when they aren’t explained—a stance I typically share, myself. But if you call a film “The Final Friday,” it’s time to close that loop and offer some explanations, even if the plan was still to have Jason face off with the equally as iconic Freddy Kruger at some point. So that’s exactly what Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday set out to do.

The film opens up in a familiar setting. We have an attractive woman traveling alone. She gets to a deserted cabin in Camp Crystal Lake and prepares to take a shower. As she gets undressed, familiar music hits, the lights cut out, and the chase is on. Only this wasn’t a damsel in distress. This woman was an FBI agent, and a trap had been set to eliminate Jason. She lures him outside and a swarm of agents emerges, firing away at the hockey-masked killer, unable to take him out until they finally use explosives.

While the opening to Friday the 13th: Part 2 will always be my favorite, this opening scene is up there for me in my list of favorites. Of course, the federal law enforcement should want to take out Jason. He’s killed countless people and just recently took his act on the road to NYC. The Feds should’ve wanted Jason long ago, and this bit of realism does wonders for the story, but perhaps most importantly, tells us instantly that this isn’t going to be just another Jason sequel. This film will be different. We are immediately taken out of our comfort zone as slasher fans.

In this opening scene, we’re also introduced to Creighton Duke, one of the best characters in the entirety of this franchise. Not only is Duke just a well-written, intriguing character, played masterfully by Steven Williams, but he also makes the film so much more realistic. Just like with the Feds, a bounty hunter chasing Jason Voorhees just makes sense. After all that he’s done over the years, of course people should be after him, and that person should be someone as credible as Duke. We’d seen other attempts at having characters pursue Jason, namely in Part 4: The Final Chapter, but Duke was different. You believed him as a bounty hunter, a potential threat to Jason. This dynamic did wonders for both the realism aspect as well as the story as a whole.

Creighton Duke holds a knife

The film establishes that Jason has a sister, who has a daughter of her own, who also has a baby. The film tells us that Jason can only be truly killed by a particular dagger, which Creighton Duke has, and that despite being blown up, Jason’s heart still continues to beat. Duke and the family are racing to destroy him once in for all. Jason is racing to be reborn by a female member of his family. The concept is simple yet so effective. In a few simple plot points, the fact that Jason can’t die, his family, and the fact that people are actively pursuing him are all established. It’s mostly common sense plot points, but it’s needed in a franchise like this which often opted for the easy way out the plot- and explanation-wise.

That’s not to say that this is a perfect film by any means. It has its flaws. Every slasher sequel does. Sure, the eating of the heart is over the top, but I think that often becomes a scapegoat for what people didn’t realize they were taking issue with, and that was the fact that the formula for this franchise was thrown out the window. Subconsciously, that didn’t sit well with our desires and expectations for a slasher sequel. Jason Goes To Hell had a different purpose. The film needed to set Jason up for what’s next, an icon vs icon showdown, while also putting the character on a hiatus of sorts, and that’s exactly what it did.

Jason Goes To Hell did a lot in living up to its “Final Friday” moniker, which isn’t easy to do. It filled in gaps. It told an ambitious story that connected the franchise’s past to its present. It did things to apply logic to the series, in an attempt to stop insulting the audience’s intelligence. This would be something that Wes Craven did to great success both in New Nightmare and in Scream, to much praise. Then, of course, this film left us with the greatest cliffhanger of all, an image that would play over and over in our minds for years: the globe of Freddy Kruger dragging the mask of Jason Voorhees to hell. It’s time to give Jason Goes To Hell another look. It’s better than you remember.

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Written by Andrew Grevas

25YL Media Founder

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