Let's start out by addressing the most notable thing about Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter: it isn't a "final" anything. Sure, it's easy to point that out now, with a good half-dozen more entries in place (plus assorted outliers). But in point of fact the producers knew going in that this wouldn't be the end, since they clearly left the door open for more sequels in the commercially profitable yet creatively bankrupt horror series. The "Final" in the title was just another hustle to put a few more bums on seats. Considering that very little about this entry differs from any of the other entries, that at least provides a little distinction. When dealing with product this lazy, you take whatever victories you can find.
The remainder of the film offer a second, albeit rather strange benefit. If you discount the 2009 reboot, Part IV is the only entry in the series in which all of the pieces come together as they should. The franchise attained its signature elements in fits and starts, adding little bits here and there to make individual entries more interesting. Very little of what we know about Jason Voorhees was in place in the first film. It took the sequel to really get him into the action, and his infamous hockey mask waited until Part III to arrive. With The Final Chapter, everything is finally in place: the killer's look, his modus operandi, his seeming invulnerability, and the huge litany of youthful sins he seems put upon this earth to punish.
It also adds a final wrinkle: Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman), a young boy destined to become either Jason's nemesis or his heir apparent, depending upon the whims of the sequel in question. Tommy and his family live on the shores of Crystal Lake, right next to a vacation home full of unruly young people (including a pre-star Crispin Glover for that extra touch of weird). Said young people quickly engage in gratuitous drug use, unprotected sex, and other assorted dalliances that basically act like chuck steak in front of a wolf when it comes to Jason. So up he pops from the coroner's slab where we left him at the end of Part III, and pretty soon he's hacking through America' youth like there's no tomorrow. Tommy and his sister Trish (Kimberly Beck) are the only ones left to mount a credible opposition.
As one can expect, most of the creative energy goes into the various kill shots, as Jason does people in with surgical tools, axes, harpoon guns and kitchen knives, as well as his own bare hands. The format grows incredibly repetitive, as the survivors go through their routines completely oblivious to the threat until it literally hurls bladed weapons through the front door. As with so much of this series, it feels like any worthwhile developments get deferred for a later picture (which will inevitably let us down as well). By the time this edition rolled around, the fans knew what to expect, and everyone else had pretty much tuned out.
That actually serves as its primary selling point. I maintain that if you want a Friday the 13th film, go with the reboot because at least it delivers everything you expect from Jason Voorhees. The Final Chapter does much the same thing, avoiding the jokiness of later entries while finally settling on an iconic look for Jason to do what he does best. As for quality, there's none to be found, but you probably expected that. The Final Chapter does no worse than any of its brethren in that regard, and it hits the brief point where everyone has figured out what this series was without turning it into a joke.
Add a few familiar faces and you have… okay, you still have an incredibly crappy movie. But rightly or wrongly, a movie that catalyzed an entire franchise and gave us exactly precisely what we expected from it all. Considering how long these movies kept going and how many of them there were, it’s strange that only this one had everything in its proper place. Again, that’s not saying much, but with movies like this, you take your pleasures where you can find them.