Jason Goes to Hell, and Stole My Heart
A look back at Jason Goes to Hell and why it's actually great.
By M.T. Bates
When you think of Adam Marcus’ 1993 film, Jason goes To Hell, you probably cringe in fear or shrug in indifference at best. Come on, you can admit it. The movie was pretty far out there with magic daggers, the randomly new introduced Voorhees mythos, hell babies, and body-swapping. But what if I could highlight the key areas that made the film special, unique, and enjoyable to the point where you will respect the film more, and maybe even love it? This film ranks very high for me in the Friday series, and since we just passed the 24th anniversary of this movie, I think it deserves a few minutes of spotlight.
I mentioned above what made this movie different, and in turn, kind of the black sheep of the franchise. Not to mention that Jason was only Jason in the film for about 12-15 minutes of actual screen time, and I am probably being generous there. However, he wasn’t in Part 5 at all, sans some flashbacks and hallucinations, and fans have come around to praise that film quite a bit when compared to 30 years ago.
Before I get into the aspects of the movie that fans hate, and explain why they are actually good, I am going to get into the aspects of the movie that are great because they are simply great.
The characters: yeah, the final girl was nothing special, but Kari Keegan did a great job nonetheless and gave us a strong female lead almost from the beginning. Actually, the film had a few strong female characters. Yeah, they died, but they went down fighting hard. Got to respect that in a genre that never empowers more than 1 female at a time. This movie made the females kick more ass than the males. They were shotgun toting, spear hurling badass girls and they were some of the best scenes to watch.
John D. LeMay was a breath of fresh air in a series that lacked awesome male characters. Feldman and Matthews gave us some cool renditions of Tommy Jarvis, but name me another male lead who wasn’t almost instantly forgettable, or who didn’t die (Shelly is the exception)? You most likely can’t, until LeMay’s character. He lived and we cared about him. That is pretty rare in this franchise when every other male character who lived, aside from Tommy, is instantly forgettable. Even more rare is caring about 2 male characters in the same F13 movie. Jason Goes To Hell did it.
Creighton Duke, played by the undeniably awesome Steven Williams. Ask anyone who their favorite Friday the 13th male character is and most will say Tommy Jarvis, but mention Creighton Duke and I bet they rethink their answer. This guy was mean, kind of a dick, and had no regard for the well-being of children as seen when he throws Jessica the magic dagger while she is holding the baby. Also, any man who doesn’t accept cash, but would rather you pay him by allowing him to break your fingers is just awesome in the most dick way possible. I could write an entire article on what makes Duke the best character not named Jason in the Friday the 13th series, but I think I have already made my point in this short paragraph. Let’s see you have the balls to handcuff yourself to Jason and smile about it! His character should have been explored more, and while there was a deleted scene that gave his character some purpose, it definitely wasn’t enough for a character as deserving as Duke was.
We can get into how he knows how to kill Jason and where that whole mythos came from, but when you start to question certain things, everything unravels.
The setting: so we didn’t see much of Crystal Lake, but for a film like this, that’s okay. Most of the movie took place at night and the shots and lighting were always perfect. Scenes where you know nothing is going to happen still stick out because of how well they were shot and how they were angled. All of the night scenes were down-right creepy and managed to capture the essence of the night shots from previous movies without actually being in the camp or at the lake. They really reminded me of a lot of those perfectly captured forest and lake shots from Jason Lives. The atmosphere was completely present in this movie, which was a beautiful thing when compared to how bad Jason Takes Manhattan butchered the atmosphere.
It could be argued that after Part 8, people wanted Jason back at Camp Crystal Lake because Jason on a Boat really left a bad taste in their mouths. I can sympathize, but Part 8 had no story. Jason got on a boat and killed. We saw that movie pretty much 6 times before, minus the boat. In Jason Goes to Hell, we got a reason why Jason wasn’t in the camp - well, he was kind of removed in pieces but it is still a reason - but there was an actual story and driving point behind this movie. Most slasher fans do prefer a film where some stupid teens get dispatched in horrific ways, and we got that to a degree, but we also got some depth and story this time around.
The kills and gore: can’t deny it. Never has a road sign pole been used in such an effective and horrific manner. Never has so much fruit cocktail dyed black been spilled in a wonderfully disgusting and cheap effect. Tell me you didn’t gag a little bit the first time the medical examiner ate the heart (and laughed at the noises he made. I can’t defend those). The deaths at the diner were brutal and we typically don’t get to see little demon monsters using a woman’s hoo-ha as a means to enter her body and become Jason. That’s just wrong, but oh so right. This movie pushed the boundaries a bit, can’t deny that. We really deserve the extended cut of this film but I don’t know if that will ever happen.
Easter Eggs: we live in a world now where Easter Eggs are everywhere! Fans love them. I know I do. Finding them in new Marvel movies is the best. This movie had quite a few Easter eggs, be it the appearance of the Necronomicon (man, did that create some wild fan theories) to the jungle gym from The Birds making an appearance, The Crate from Creepshow in the Voorhees’ basement, and most famously, Freddy’s glove snatching Jason’s mask at the end. You got goosebumps when you first saw that scene in 1993. Everyone did. It was then that we finally got an ending that even came close to matching the legendary ending of the original Friday the 13th.
Convinced yet? Still harping on some of supernatural elements of the movie that were newly introduced out of nowhere? Let’s examine them for a bit.
First of all, at this point we accepted that Jason was a zombie and could not be stopped. Fans didn’t know what to make of the Part 8 ending, and I know there is a tie-in comic that explains the events between 8 and 9, but it was still weird. So at this point, we already have a supernatural element to the series, so why not expand on it?
The mythos is only a Voorhees can kill Jason, and they can only do it with a magic dagger that must pierce Jason’s heart. On top of that, Jason can now possess people if they happen to eat his heart. The host bodies will not last long which means he has to swap bodies. He does this by ejecting a hellbaby (there is no real name for the creature, but fans dubbed it a hellbaby so we will run with that) out from the host, which is a creepy little demon that will scurry around until it finds a new host. The end goal is to find another living/dead Voorhees for the hellbaby to enter so Jason can be returned to his true form. Got all that? Defending this out of left field plot point is hard, nearly down-right impossible, but I am going to try.
Jason killing teens in camp had been done before, a few times actually. They went a different route before and had Jason on a boat killing teens. Different, but still more of the same. So how about something different that is way different? It was a major risk, to the point where this movie could have been a complete standalone flick from the rest of the series because of these newly introduced elements. In fact, if you look at this film as a “what if” sequel, it works 100%. After 8 films, you could just accept that Jason was an undead killing machine that didn’t need any depth, but then we just get stuck in an endless loop of throwaway sequels. This new mythos brought something new to the table to talk about and explore. Ever growing lore is a key aspect to keeping a tired franchise fresh.
Fans had a hard time accepting all of this new nonsense after 8 films of the same thing and I don’t blame them. The silver lining was when a hellbaby left a host, they died, but they just didn’t die. They slowly melted into a puddle of mush. Well, that’s a silver lining for a horror fan anyway, but time can make fans appreciate the unappreciated. Halloween 3 and Friday the 13th Part 5 are prime examples.
Let’s talk about that mask, the most important prop in any Friday film, and the fans didn’t like it. We can see it wasn’t the same mask from Part 8 which makes sense since he ripped that sucker off toward the end (in probably the single worst scene in F13 history). The “original” mask was broken into multiple pieces in Part 7. So they had to make a new mask. This mask looked smaller (as it looked like it was wearing away around all the edges) and had become Jason’s face as it was more or less fused to his face, although we have recently seen what Jason’s face from Part 9 looked like, thanks to some new photos and the new Friday game. It had a ton of damage, just as much if not more than the Part 7 mask. Oddly enough the axe wound from Part 3 and the bullet hole from Part 6 came back. The right eye area was missing a ton of material and the entire mask was weathered harder than any previous mask. One red triangle remained in the middle, a smaller one when compared to previous masks.
This mask in my opinion symbolized that Jason and it were now one. He was known for wearing it before, but in 3-4 and 6-8 (even in 10 and kind of in Freddy vs. Jason along with the remake), you see Jason’s face at some point in each movie. That mask is Jason’s face in JGTH. That mask is literally the face of fear. We never once see it removed, even when he was nothing more than just a head on the ME table, and even when he is reborn, he is reborn with the mask (and clothes but we are suspending disbelief quite a bit at this point). I have always loved the design and can remember as a kid seeing the entire head and hockey mask combined as a mask in Halloween stores, but I digress, the mask in this movie is more symbolic of who Jason is. How did he get another mask after 8? How did it become so beat-up so fast? These are questions that honestly do not need to be answered. It’s hard to compare this beat-up mask to the iconic clean look of the original, and while the mask in Part 9 is far removed from the original, it still showcases how far the character has come. The mask was a statement rather than a trademark in this entry.
It’s no secret that this film is not liked, but it needs to be appreciated. It took chances and managed to be so off-the-wall crazy, it’s hard not to enjoy it now. Back in 1993, however, fans revolted. The movie only cleared 15+ million at the box office, enough to land it in the top 100 films of 1993, but in the lower half of that list. Way lower, but it also didn’t help that a week prior, “The Fugitive” opened which would go on to be the #3 movie of 1993 pulling in over 150 million. It was obvious this was not the right time for a sequel like this, but age can make things better. Wine, cheese, scotch, and movies we once hated but now love. Watch Jason Goes To Hell again after reading this, and maybe you will see it how I see it. Watch it with audio commentary for an even more enjoyable viewing experience.
And just for the record, I am not a huge fan of Zombie Jason. Human Jason (2-4) will always be scarier and truer in my opinion, but I respect what Adam Marcus accomplished with this film. Hopefully one day we will get that director’s cut. So, thank you Mr. Marcus, for giving us a fresh take on a tired franchise.