Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Directed by Ronny Yu
Starring Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Chris Marquette
1/2 (out of 4)
It's A Monster Slash!
Ever since Freddy’s gloved hand reached up out of the earth to pull Jason’s mask under in Jason Goes to Hell – The Final Friday, people have been speculating about when the horror matchup was going to happen. That was back in 1993, and we’ve had 10 years of attempted screenplays, director searches, and false starts. Finally, in the tradition of Dracula vs. Frankenstein and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, it happened. Ronny Yu, director of The Bride With White Hair and Bride of Chucky is brought in to direct, Robert Englund is brought back as Freddy Krueger, and Ken Kirzinger replaces Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees. The result is a mixed bag, but there’s enough camp to make it worth the viewing.
None for Silent Bob?
The problem with bringing two 80s horror icons together into a post-90s horror milieu is that the environment is tainted with the Hollywood 90s horror formula – that of delivering a movie with fast edits, horrible dialogue, and horrible actors reciting it. The main problem with Freddy Vs Jason, however, is that the creators do not have enough faith in the audience to let them figure out what is happening, so they have characters in the movie recite exposition time and time again. Even Freddy is forced into a laughably over-dramatic monologue at the film’s opening explaining his plans – plans that are obvious as the movie progresses and do not require any exposition. Finally, the movie suffers from a silly subplot involving our main heroine and her mother’s death (who may or may not have died by her father’s hand). This is padding which only serves to take time away from what everybody came to the movie for – to see Freddy and Jason go at one another.
Hey! Trade Ya!
One thing I realized after seeing the movie again recently was that Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees don’t really belong in the same movie. I always found A Nightmare on Elm Street to be a more sophisticated slasher film and Friday the 13th to be a mere camp item. Freddy is an interesting monster, and the Nightmare movies offer a lot to chew on – untrustworthy adults, sins of the fathers, the power of fear, etc., making the Jason stuff akin to sugary candy. Sure, Jason movies are fun but not particularly intelligent. So whenever the film shifts from Freddy to Jason you notice the change in tone and it’s a bit distracting – there’s more than enough Freddy material here to stand on its on.
With all the problems (Monica Keena’s laughable performance and repetitive exposition being the worst), the film still manages to be good popcorn fare – namely, for the remarkable level of gore. It has been a long time since I have seen an R-rated film this sanguine. People are slashed, stabbed, burned, beheaded, and speared in beautifully bloody fashion, and I am left with hope that perhaps the Hollywood horror movie still has life left in it. Hell, there’s even a helping of nudity that seems to have been removed from today’s horror cinema. The final half hour which give us the promised battle between the two main baddies is action packed and fun to witness, as Jason and Freddy literally tear each other apart.
Mama, I'm coming home
Looking beyond the bad acting and dialogue (Monica Keena is actually forced to say “Freddy died by fire, Jason by water.. how can we use that?”), you can still find some interesting concepts – the movie portrays Freddy not only as the skeleton in the closet of Springwood parents coming back to haunt them, but as a spreading contagion (teens are prescribed Hypnocil, a dream prohibitor, all references to Freddy are removed from library microfilm archives) and portrays Jason as the anti-hero – a tortured mamma’s boy duped into doing bad things (Freddy calls him a “bad dog that doesn’t know when to stop eating”). An amusing scene where Kelly Rowland teases Freddy for overcompensating for a small member, while Jason has this huge machete, actually lends credibility to the theory about Jason being a manifestation of unchecked masculinity – all hormones and little brain. There are a number of entertaining sequences, one involving a Jason Mewes lookalike being possessed by Freddy (in disguise as a pot-smoking caterpillar), and another where Jason goes to work on ravers in a cornfield (sort of a flipside to Freddy crashing the pool party in Elm Street 2) – the shot of Jason on fire, a flaming demon moving through the corn, and another nice shot of Freddy flying out of Crystal Lake through the air and landing on the dock, show Yu’s talent for visuals. Jason’s mother even makes an appearance – I’m disappointed that Betsy Palmer couldn’t return, but Paula Shaw does a decent job of approximating her.
Freddy vs Jason certainly won’t win any Oscars but it does have its fun moments, especially when looked at as a creature feature. The creators would do well to speak to a smarter audience next time, and look for a cast of teens who can actually act (and perhaps not look like a bunch of twenty-somethings).
- Bill Gordon
Outtake from Signs
The New Line DVD delivers some good candy – notably an audio commentary by Ronny Yu, Robert England, and Ken Kirzinger (England taking control of the commentary and being quite entertaining). The movie is in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround. Special features include the deleted scenes (one amusing reference to One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, another sporting an amusing line by Freddy directed at Jason – “You’re slow, you’re stupid, and you got no style!”) and the alternate ending, which doesn’t work and isn’t even the one I heard about.
Horror icon matchups are not new (indeed, England mentions that they’ve been going on since the 30s), but I hope the New Line guys (Robert Shaye, Sean Cunningham – I’m talking to you) don’t get carried away and decide to throw Evil Dead’s Ash and Michael Meyers into the ring of the inevitable next movie. By the way, where the hell is Crystal Lake anyway and why is it so close to Springwood?