After dominating the 1980’s, Friday the 13th closed out the decade with a whimper. Jason Takes Manhattan, which hit theaters in 1989, remains the lowest earning movie in the series. And its ending didn’t seem to leave much direction for future sequels. Toxic waste that first regresses you to childhood and then melts you tends to have that effect. But Jason Voorhees eventually returned in what’s arguably the worst movie in the franchise. While it took four years New Line Cinemas – the franchise’s new owner – unleashed Jason Goes to Hell in 1993. In spite of a subtitle promising it was ‘The Final Friday‘, the studio clearly had ambitions of a crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street. That crossover would languish for a decade. What we were left with was a sequel that’s either ‘so bad, it’s good’ or just a ‘bad movie’.
For years, Jason Voorhees has haunted Crystal Lake. But this time an FBI tactical squad was waiting – and the infamous killer is dead. Though is physical body is destroyed, Jason’s evil spirit lives on. Now a demonic entity, Jason possesses and kills one hapless victim after another. To resurrect himself, Jason’s spirit stalks the last remaining relative in his bloodline.
Jason Goes to Hell Begs One Question – What The Hell Were They Thinking?
Over the lifespan of a horror series, it’s not uncommon for proposed sequels to become a completely different movie. Case in point, The Collector was originally intended to be be a Saw sequel. Or sometimes a series adopts an unrelated screenplay (see the Hellraiser franchise). Yet somehow Jason Goes to Hell was an idea completely intended as a Friday the 13th sequel. Yes, writers Jay Huguely and Dean Lorey drafted a screenplay where Jason Voorhees dies in the opening minutes. For the rest of the movie, Jason’s spirit possesses helpless victim’s to continue the bloodshed. For those keeping count, this would make Jason Goes to Hell the second Friday the 13th sequel where Jason doesn’t technically show up.
In contrast, Jason Goes to Hell exhausts audiences with ridiculous demonic mumbo jumbo.
While later sequels inevitably retcon their source material, Jason Goes to Hell doubles down on the stupid. Though Jason Lives technically turned the goalie mask-wearing killing into a supernatural killer it didn’t waste time explaining it. In contrast, Jason Goes to Hell exhausts audiences with ridiculous demonic mumbo jumbo. And director Adam Marcus drops visual references to Evil Dead with a Necronomicon Easter egg. Though it’s probably the sequel’s best moment, Marcus does nothing with it. Instead, the sequel gives Jason Voorhees an extended family and a demonic parasite.
Jason Goes to Hell Doesn’t Completely Forget It’s a Friday the 13th Sequel
Two years earlier, Freddy’s Dead set the template for franchise killers. Not to be outdone, Jason Goes to Hell repeats many of that sequel’s mistakes. But the fact that the sequel ignores Jason Goes to Manhattan’s ending is probably its smartest decision. Moreover, Marcus does score points for some decent kills. As far as some of the later sequels go, Jason Goes to Hell bookends itself with impressive visuals. If the sight of demons literally dragging Jason to Hell is silly, Marcus at least makes it look good. In between, Jason impales and splits one victim in half and crushes another victim’s head with his bare hands. In what’s a terrible movie, a scene where a victim melts stands out as a highlight.
If the sight of demons literally dragging Jason to Hell is silly, Marcus at least makes it look good.
Like most of the sequel, Jason Goes to Hell mixes its cast with unknowns and a few familiar character actors. Neither John D LeMay nor Kari Keegan do much to hurt or help the movie. Both actors are passable in their roles. Poor Steven Williams (21 Jump Street, The X-Files) continues a franchise tradition. As bounty hunter Creighton Duke, Jason Goes to Hell builds him up only to do nothing with him. We see you Rick and Rob Dier. Still Richard Gant suffers the sequel’s ultimate low point as the coroner who inexplicably eats Jason’s heart. Fans of the Buck Rogers television series will recognize Erin Gray.
Jason Goes to Hell is The Franchise Low Point
Let’s face it. Even if you love it, the Friday the 13th franchise has seen some low points. Jason Voorhees has been to outer space, battled a telekinetic teen, melted in toxic waste under the streets of Manhattan, and not even shown up for one sequel. But Jason Goes to Hell is the nadir of the series. Arguably, Jason Goes to Hell barely qualifies as a Friday the 13th movie. A few decent kills can’t compensate for the insulting retcon and supernatural tease to Evil Dead that never pays off. The sequel’s only highlight is the final tease of a crossover with A Nightmare on Elm Street. And fans waited ten years for that one.