Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 30 October 2006
Source New Line Home Video VHS
Features: 31 Days of Horror
There is nudity, a chase sequence, and some machete-wielding in Jason Goes to Hell — the ninth installment in the Friday the 13th franchise — before there is a single word of dialogue. We have essentially, in these opening minutes, the entire concept of the series distilled to its very essence, so it is notable how little dialogue or exposition figure into its weary formula.
This comes to be a sleight-of-hand, however: Jason chases a vulnerable female (clad in only a bath towel) through the woods, and comes upon an FBI sting. Lights suddenly flare and signal his position, in the middle of a circle of agents who begin firing from every direction. As his body is pelted, a bomb is dropped from above, blowing his limbs and internals in every direction. As the special agents (of whom the vulnerable woman is one) congratulate each other, the composition encloses Jason’s heart—still beating with a pulse that overwhelms any other sound.
Of the body parts strewn about (collected and arranged in semi-anatomic order at a resultant autopsy), the beating heart is noteworthy as an icon of longevity. This is a genre in which severed hands are capable of killing, but the heart is implicative of an innate and justified motive to kill. It implies — as well as if not better than any singular image in the entire franchise — durability, and efficiently sustains Jason’s menace. So it is to the viewer’s immense joy that at said autopsy, the overseeing doctor grabs the beating heart with absolutely no foreseen reason and chomps hard into it, Jason’s spirit transferred to a new host.
So on, and so forth. The familiar slasher killer is resurrected, only now he is rendered a force behind an anonymous face, capable of transferring himself to any other body at will. However, it takes some time before the surviving parties are made aware of this. A local and unwarrantedly hostile bounty hunter knows this, but is so unwarrantedly hostile he gets jailed for bullying a diner waitress before he can finger the latest host. In an adjacent cell is a man who shares an interest in destroying Jason. (He has fathered a child with a Voorhees descendeant, so he fears for her safety.) At the price of three broken fingers, he is given the bounty hunter’s information, and escapes.
Jason will be reborn if he, in a host’s body, comes in contact with a person of Voorhees heritage, and so the finale finds the man with three broken fingers, three Voorhees descendents (one dead, one an infant) and the bounty hunter in the same house. (Incidentally, the name ‘Voorhees’ is misspelled on the mailbox, registering what priority this film has in details.) In order to vanquish Jason forever, a Voorhees descendant must penetrate his heart with a blade. After some tussling, this finally happens, and the venerable slasher killer is dragged into the ground by a choir of undead arms and hands, his hockey mask left on the soil as a makeshift grave.
Jason Goes to Hell was the first film in the Friday the 13th franchise financed by New Line Cinema, which enjoyed great success nearly a decade prior with Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. In a celebratory final shot — and one that announces New Line’s intention to finally intertwine the two series — Freddy Krueger’s bladed glove erupts from the ground and drags Jason’s mask into the soil.