FX Workshop: Jason’s Final Chapter

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When Paramount Pictures announced that they would be bringing their lucrative Friday the 13th franchise to an end with The Final Chapter, the filmmakers were under pressure to deliver a climax that would not disappoint the fans. Throughout the two previous films Jason had impaled two lovers during sex and, perhaps most bizarrely, had crushed a man’s head so hard that his eyeballs had literally burst out of the skull. So if director Joseph Zito was to provide a show-stopping moment that would lay the series to rest with style there was only one man he could call, Tom Savini. Replacing the studio’s first choice, Greg Cannom, Savini was eager to not only return to the franchise that he had started but collaborate once again with Zito, whom he had previously worked with on the 1981 slasher The Prowler. Together, Zito and Savini began to devise ways to elaborate on the kills as they were dictated in the screenplay, but when Savini reached the end of the script and discovered that Jason (Ted White) was to be killed with a machete he felt the death would be too generic and wanted something more exciting and unique.

Savini would suggest an alternative to the executives; in which the film’s child hero, budding special effects artist and technical wizard Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman), had taken apart his mother’s microwave and transformed it into a weapon, which he would demonstrate by melting one of his toy soldiers. During the climax, Tommy reveals his new gadget and turns the setting to high, melting the inside of Jason’s head and causing it to explode. Despite its originality, the producers were nervous that it would divert too far from the standard slasher formula and instead requested a death that would be more suited to Friday the 13th. It would be whilst watching one of his artists, John Vulich, playing with a machete that Savini had used several years earlier on George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, that he would finally settle on suitably gruesome demise for Jason; he would be hit in the head with the machete, drop to his knees and then his face would slide down the blade as he fell to the floor.

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Initially, Savini had also considered slicing Jason’s head in half down the middle but this would not prove to be practical and so a slight modification was made in how the death blow would be given. During the sequence, Tommy’s older sister, Trish (Kimberly Beck), tries to fend off Jason and swings the machete, digging the blade deep between his fingers. Using a prosthetic hand, this effect was achieved by the blade already being inserted into the hand and then pulled out of the slit, with the footage then played back in reverse to create the illusion of contact. The ‘money shot,’ so to speak, would come when Tommy, fearful that Jason will kill his sister, picks up the machete from off the floor and swings it into the side of his face. This would prove to be the most ambitious moment in the movie and would require the assistance of Savini’s entire effects crew. The death sequence would be achieved in several stages. The first would see Jason with the blade already attached to the side of his face, with both Feldman and stuntman White giving the appropriate reactions. As with the hand effect, this shot would then be run back in reverse, whilst White creates the impression that he has actually been hit by the blade.

The most impressive aspect of the gag, however, would be the elaborate replica of Jason that was a recreation of White from the waist-up and featured extensive facial movements that were operated by a series of cables that ran out of the bottom of the dummy. To add an extra effect, one of Savini’s team placed his hand inside Jason’s prosthetic head with a tongue attached to his finger that he would move out through the mouth. The blade itself, which would slide down the side of his face, ran on a track that was placed in the head, whilst portions of the top of the skull would also move where it had been sliced open. There were several different takes shot of these sequences, which varied from bloodless to X-rated. Although much of it would be omitted for the theatrical release, there was copious amounts of blood throughout the filming of the scene, most of which was pumped from out of Jason’s head. Despite the fact that The Final Chapter would prove not to be Jason’s farewell, as the title had promised, it would have been a fitting end to the character, who would be resurrected as an indestructible zombie in the subsequent sequels.

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Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (Deluxe Edition) (DVD)

Director: Joseph Zito, Joe Hoffman
Starring: Erich Anderson, Judie Aronson, Kirsten Baker, Anthony Barrile, Peter Barton
Rating: R (Restricted)

List Price: $14.98 USD
New From: $22.49 In Stock
Used from: $2.21 In Stock
Release date June 16, 2009.
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