Freddy Vs. Jason Reviewby John Ulmer (johnulmer2003 AT msn DOT com)
December 22nd, 2003
FREDDY VS. JASON
REVIEW BY JOHN ULMER
Hollywood is fascinated with dueling monsters. They've been around since the 40s, when Universal used to release those Frankenstein vs. Dracula vs. The Wolf Man-type B-budget motion pictures, meant to attract audiences. It worked because instead of small amounts of Frankenstein fans, or Dracula fans, or Wolf Man fans, all the fans turned up to see how their favorite semi-villains made out on the big screen.
And so it was inevitable that Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees would someday have their universes entwined together. The earliest hint was at the end of "Jason Goes to Hell," when Freddy Krueger's hand reached out of the depths of hell and clasped Jason's famed hockey mask (introduced in "Friday the 13th, Part III") and took it down with him.
The concept has been around since 1987, in fact, but due to copyright infringement, the film was never made. Now, after an uncountable number of script drafts, they're finally here. And the result, I think, will please any die-hard horror fans -- but regular cinemagoers beware!
Quick recap: Jason Voorhees (played by various actors throughout the years, primarily Kane Hodder) drowned as a small boy at Camp Crystal Lake due to the fact that the camp counselors were busy having *adult* fun. (Like all good horror fodder teens do.) His mother came back some number of years afterwards and murdered a bunch of new recruits at the camp, but they managed to unveil her and murder her, too. Then, in the many sequels that followed, Jason himself really did come back to life and stalk and murder countless innocent people, primarily teens having some more fun. (Psychologists might say it is an ingrown hatred of sexual behavior since it was the cause of his death, but I prefer to think that it's just a movie and it doesn't matter worth a darn.)
Freddy Krueger was a child molester and murderer burned by the parents of his victims and resurrected in the dreams of scared children, where his power grew so strong that he could sneak back into the real world. He is the stuff nightmares are made of (literally) -- except you don't wake up after he's done with you.
At the start of "Freddy vs. Jason," we are informed by Krueger (Robert Englund) that his power has diminished -- no one fears him anymore. Unable to grow stronger, the only way of doing so is by enlisting someone to spark fear in the townspeople of his old killing ground -- Elm Street.
So he searches "the bowels of hell" and finds a worthy killer: Jason Voorhees. He enters Jason's dreams, appearing as Jason's own dead mother, and commands him to start killing people on Elm Street. (Do people dream when they die? Apparently so.) Jason follows Freddy's commands (let's face it, he's a pretty shallow fellow), thinking it's his mother's bidding, and once people start turning up dead, the teenagers of Elm Street immediately suspect Freddy has returned -- leaving room for Freddy to grow strong once again and enter the real world.
There is a problem, though. Jason won't stop killing people. Freddy isn't getting his chance to scare and kill people because Jason is doing it all for him -- so he tries to kill Jason in a dream. Jason is, needless to say, quite strong, and things don't quite go as planned. Soon the two are battling amidst the efforts of a band of teenagers trying to kill them both and send them back to where they belong: the bowels of hell.
If I told you who wins, I'd be doing a terrible thing, so I won't. The screening I attended had a fellow who jumped up in the back row and yelled, "Jason wins!", then fled the theater, with an echoing "Just kidding everybody!", but I won't tell you if he was or not.
I will tell you, however, that this is every fan boy's wet dream -- at least the last thirty minutes. The rest of the film is a dull attempt to setup a universe of Freddy, Jason, and sex-craved teenagers, without any real scares and NOT ENOUGH FREDDY OR JASON.
Okay, I'm exaggerating. The film is pathetic in terms of actual film grading, yes, with extremely weak scriptwriting and an unbelievable premise. Will, played by Jason Ritter, escapes from a mental institute to warn an old flame of Freddy's return. No local authorities seem to care too much that they're on the run, and either does Will, who walks around town and goes to his old high school in broad daylight!
But all horror films are like this, and unlike a lot of the other "Friday the 13th" and "Nightmare on Elm Street" sequels, this film actually held my interest, despite lack of Freddy and Jason until the last thirty minutes.
Major kudos go to Ronny Yu, the Hong Kong director responsible for reviving three horror characters, including Chucky, Jason (not counting "Jason X") and Freddy. Here he brings back the fundamental elements lacking in recent horror films: lots of blood, lots of guts, lots of underage sex, lots of pointless nudity. I'm sad to say there was a 7-year-old in the theater with me when I saw this -- the nerve of some people.
There are not only buckets of blood and limbs and dead bodies in this film, but truckloads -- the amount of blood and guts that restricted Paul Verhoeven from releasing "RoboCop" without major editing. Yu has not only revived the old silly horror stuff, but actually improved upon it -- I was surprised and extremely pleased with the amount of gore and blood in this film. Finally, I get to see people chopped in half from the waist without just seeing the expressions of witnesses.
Don't get me wrong. "Freddy vs. Jason" is not a significant achievement, and it could have been much better. But after I left the theater, I asked myself, Did I enjoy that? You bet. It may have taken a while getting to the point, it might have been weak in storytelling, and it might have taken the IQ of horror teens back a generation or two, to the point in time right after 1978's "Halloween" (where teens were actually somewhat realistic despite being dumb); but I never checked my watch, I never felt pressured to do anything other than what I was doing: having a good time.
Will fans enjoy this? I'm sure. Die hard fans may be disappointed in the lack of Freddy and Jason, but the climatic showdown between the two Kings of Horror is sure to tickle any fan boy's blood lust. There are severed limbs and decapitated heads and lots of sliced flesh in this movie, and Ronny Yu did the right thing by not trying to upstage the other entries. He's just made a good compilation of two of the most famous villains of all time, fun enough to keep one's interest, bloody enough to satisfy the most die hard horror fans (this is one of the bloodiest films I've ever seen, folks!), and dumb enough to let the audience know it's not trying to be anything it isn't. All in all, it's a fun summer treat, and while it may offend some geeky fans who expected it to be treated with some sort of "Godfather"-esque grandness, I think it'll please most stoned audiences for the most part.
Oh, and there was one other thing I left the theater asking myself. Why'd they skip on Michael, the granddaddy of horror flicks, and choose his knockoff grandson, Jason, instead? Just wondering.
(Trivia note: The late John Ritter appeared in "Bride of Chucky," which was directed by Ronny Yu, who directed "FvJ," which stars Ritter's own son, Jason.)
- John Ulmer
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