Crystal Lake Countdown Looking Back on ‘Freddy vs Jason’

And then finally, in the year of our Lord two thousand three, it happened.  In the works in one form or another since before The New Blood (1988), eventually culminating in the sale of the franchise to New Line Cinema (who already owned the Nightmare on Elm Street rights), the series’ creators finally got together and made Freddy vs Jason (2003): perhaps the highest-profile cinematic crossover until The Avengers (2012) recreated the entire blockbuster landscape in its image.

Starting off where Jason Goes to Hell (1993) left off, we find Jason stalking his way through Hell, cutting through any teenagers he happens to find along the way (and given the kinds of licentious activities teenage slasher victims tend to get up to, we can only assume that he’s been a busy guy in the decade since he was sent here).  But fellow hellion Freddy Krueger has a problem.  Unlike Jason, he’s not satisfied with his lot in death.  He wants to be back on Earth, serving up flesh-and-blood teens for the slaughter.

Unfortunately, Freddy can only stalk the living if people are afraid of them (because, contrary to previously established Freddy lore, it’s people’s fear of him that gives him his power).  Fortunately for him, though, Jason is not beholden to similar rules.  Jason’s a survivor.  Jason never stays dead for long.

Disguised as Pamela Vorhees, Freddy orders Jason to return to the world of the living and wreak havoc on the world once more (only this time in Springwood, where the citizens would naturally credit the killings to Freddy and allow for him to return to life).  What he wasn’t counting on, however, was just how insatiable Jason would become once he got back into the swing of things, nor how dedicated the kids of Springwood would be in putting both serial killers down for good.

Despite languishing in developmental Hell for two full decades — incidentally, never a good sign for any project of any stripe, since too many non-starter ideas get mixed up with the ones that have genuine potential to be good — the movies gets most everything right from the get-go.  While it’s certainly neither of the title characters’ best outing, the monster-mash premise and over-the-top kills that each was known for were strong enough to ensure that it would at least be a good Friday night romp at the movies.

Without question, though, the best decision made along the way was the studio’s inspired selection of filmmaker Ronny Yu to direct the project.  Best known at the time for directing the criminally overlooked Bride of Chucky (1998) a few years prior, he was the perfect man for the job.  His blend of gruesome horror set pieces and grotesque humor meant that his Freddy Krueger was much more serious than the killer’s last several movies and his Jason Vorhees was funnier than he had been for most of his.  He struck a tone somewhere between Dream Warriors (1987) and Jason Lives (1986): incidentally, both of those franchise’s best films.

Alternating between over-the-top gore and raucous humor, similar to what he accomplished in Bride of Chucky, he leaned in heavily on the ridiculousness of the premise and never let the action up long enough for anybody to begin to question the absurdity of what was transpiring on-screen.  Veering from gruesome death scene into light-hearted slapstick meant that we laughed more at the jokes.  And going from relatively light-hearted comic scenes into bloody, assembly-line murders meant that we cringed more at the carnage unfolding on screen.  It’s a time-honored tactic that dates all the way back to Paris’ Grand Guignol theater in the late 1800s and holds true-to-form a full century later.

Other than that, there really isn’t a whole lot to say about the movie.  The kills come fast and furiously, the plot is only ever as developed as it needs to be at a given moment and the final showdown between Freddy and Jason is as ridiculously fun as the title suggests.  It’s a messy, nonsensical film — as one critic elsewhere opined, “filmed with a shotgun and edited in a blender” — but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to liking it more than most movies that come out in a given year (and even more than most movies in either franchise).

Love it for what it is and never look back.  I certainly have.

Rating:  3/5

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