Say Something Nice: JASON GOES TO HELL

The perverted poetry of Creighton Duke.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (it wasn’t) premiered in 1993, and by then, the franchise was already far past its prime. There was the faint possibility that a new installment, one with a new director (Adam Marcus), could get things back on track after 1989’s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. But that’s not exactly what happened.

Co-written by Marcus and produced by series creator Sean S. Cunningham, Jason Goes to Hell reads as a confused attempt to spice up the titular villain’s backstory. What we learn in this—the ninth film in the franchise—is that Jason Voorhees is a body-hopping supernatural entity and can only be slain by a member of the Voorhees bloodline. If that’s not baffling enough, the film’s final twist features a knife-adorned glove popping out from under the earth to grab the now-dead Jason’s mask. Did that mean we’d finally get that Friday the 13th/Nightmare on Elm Street crossover we’d been longing for? Yes, but not for ten more years, and to no one’s surprise, it wasn’t exactly worth the wait.

Those canon-disrupting factors—along with mostly uninspired casting and gratuitous-even-for-this-series gore, plus bizarre set pieces like a dinner with Jason Fingers on the menu—make the movie 88 minutes of utter nonsense. And yet, there is a light in the darkness: an innuendo-spewing bounty hunter with a haunted past and, sometimes, a really cool hat. His name is Creighton Duke, he’s got an axe to grind with Jason Voorhees, and his introduction is nothing short of perfect.

To be clear: Creighton Duke, who’s played flawlessly by Steven Williams of 21 Jump Street and X-Files fame, hadn’t appeared in any of the first eight movies, nor did he ever appear again. Still, it feels like Marcus wants to convince his audience that Duke’s been around since the beginning, hiding among the shadows before stepping into the spotlight.

Before our man even appears onscreen, American Case File host Robert Campbell (Steven Culp) segues from Jason-related coverage to the show’s exclusive interview with Duke by explaining that “You’ll remember [him] as the bounty hunter previously responsible for the capture of six of this country’s most reviled serial killers.” He also uses the phrase “in typical Creighton Duke fashion.” Who is this man we’re supposed to remember? What could that fashion possibly be? I’ll let him speak for himself:

This line—the little girl/hot dog/doughnut imagery—is certainly evocative, albeit out of place in an American Case File segment (I assume). And it could’ve been a throwaway in a different movie, but it’s what Duke is best remembered for. It’s an excellent delivery of an undeniably terrible line. I’ve exhaustively researched Jason Goes to Hell, and nothing else about it—not even its extraneous connections to the Necronomicon and The Evil Dead—pops up as often as this line. My favorite recent example is how often the hosts of Kill by Kill seem taken aback by Duke’s colorful vocabulary; even people who produce a Friday the 13th-themed podcast are flummoxed by the whole situation.

Williams—who deserves so much better than this—commits to the Creighton Duke, Bounty-Hunting Badass bit so hard that every time he swaggers into a scene, he elevates the material. Is it trashy? Sure. (There’s much more innuendo where that came from, though it’s never quite as disquieting.) But it’s the fun kind of trash, and all credit is due to Williams for that. Even the worst dialogue is delightful when it comes from Duke. And this scene contains both the first and best instance.

On its face, Jason Goes to Hell hasn’t earned any kind of legacy. But if it’s going to have one, it may as well be how the film’s unsung hero delivers a line I refuse to say out loud or even type ever again.