Freddy Vs. Jason Reviewby Michael Dequina (mrbrown AT iname DOT com)
August 20th, 2003
_Freddy_vs._Jason_ (R) ** 1/2 (out of ****)
I wasn't exactly looking forward to seeing _Freddy_vs._Jason_, but when the familiar strains of the _Nightmare_on_Elm_Street_ theme music played as the New Line Cinema logo assembled, then followed moments later by the unmistakable sound of _Friday_the_13th_ slasher Jason Voorhees's breathing, there was no use resisting: I was geeked.
Thank goodness (or thank the devil?) for the fanboy novelty of this long-anticipated sequel/crossover of the two most popular icons of '80s-era horror movies, for that's about all Ronny Yu's film has to coast on. The script is overplotted to a fault (does anyone *really* care about the convoluted personal dramas of its non-slasher characters?) and filled with howlers delivered with maximum melodrama by pretty, glassy-eyed young things. But does it really matter? Horror fans have been waiting years for dream stalking Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) and machete-wielding summer camp killer Jason (Ken Kirzinger, supplanting fan favorite Kane Hodder) to face off in a knock-down, drag-out fight, and the two-round bout (one in the dream world, one in the real world, natch) cooked up by Yu and screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift delivers and then some. This is no wimpy, rushed fizzle; roughly an entire third of the running time is devoted to the showdown, and there's all manner of grisly gore, glib Freddy one-liners and Jason slice-'n-dice one would expect.
Sadly, though, the basic design of the story also tilts the story in a direction that renders the proceedings fairly suspenseless. Powerless to haunt the dreams of Springwood teens, thanks to dream-suppressing drugs and the natural memory-fading that comes with the passage of time, Freddy comes up with a plan to reintroduce himself into the collective consciousness: revive infamous Camp Crystal Lake killer Jason to strike fear back into the citizens of Springwood--and, hence, bring Freddy back into their dreams. While Yu, Shannon and Swift pile on various would-be diversions, whether they be subplots--most prominent being the mystery involving the death of central heroine Lori's (Monica Keena) mother--or annoying characters (such as a shameless and completely unfunny rip of Jason Mewes's Jay character in Kevin Smith's movies), the deck is stacked in such an organic way that the outcome of the main event can be easily foreseen.
That said, the movie is a rollicking ride in that cheesy, nostalgic guilty pleasure sort of way. Yu is acutely, wisely aware that these guys really aren't scary at all anymore, so he has fun playing with and shamelessly wallowing in general circa-1980s slasher conventions, from the gratuitous nudity and sex (all taken care of within the first 15 minutes) to the ridiculously grotesque murders *and* equally overwrought exposition; and he also gets some good digs at the big guys themselves (mostly spouted by Kia, played by Kelly Rowland). Considering the obviously intentional throwback vibe, it's often difficult to tell whether you're laughing with or at the film, but either way much no-brainer enjoyment is to be had.
But _Freddy_vs._Jason_'s fun is of the completely disposable variety; the moment the end credits start, a certain feeling of "what now?" arises. In a sense, the same is felt about the slumming American career of the wildly talented Yu, whose gift for operatic romance--as seen in the masterpiece _The_Bride_with_White_Hair_--has gone untapped since making the move from Hong Kong to the States. But such questions fall by the wayside when, at long last, one can see Freddy terrorize the twisted nightmares of Jason and Mr. Voorhees chase Mr. Krueger around with a machete at Camp Crystal Lake.
©2003 Michael Dequina
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