Movie Review: Freddy vs. Jason

While watching wadE and Michelle duke it out last weekend in Iron Chef Deux: Battle Potato, my mind started to drift to battles. I'm willing to bet that each of us can think of a number of head-to-head matchups that we'd like to see but never will. Two people who are at or near the top of their field, battling it out to determine who's the king of the hill. Off the top of my head, I can think of...

  • Stevie Ray Vaughn vs. Eric Clapton: Battle Guitar Solo
  • John Steinbeck vs. John Irving: Battle Prose
  • Roger Clemens vs. Ted Williams: Battle Single Down the Right Field Line
  • Bill Clinton vs. John F. Kennedy: Battle Use Power to Influence Women
You get the idea.

The folks at New Line Cinema were apparently asked this question in 2003, and came up with Freddy vs. Jason. What could be better than taking two horror "icons," whose popularity peaked in 1986, and pitting them against each other? Well, after watching, there are a lot of things that could be better. But, it was better than Sister Act 2, which is saying something.

First, a little background. Friday the Thirteenth, Part VI was my virgin experience in the horror film genre and was solely responsible for me getting approximately 4 hours' worth of sleep (total) between 1986 and 1988. That movie scared the crap out of me, and probably still has a lot to do with why I'm not a huge fan of being alone in the dark. One would think that I'd swear of movies like this entirely at that point. One would be wrong. I became a bit of a slasher movie junkie, renting all of the Friday the Thirteenth series, all of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, and a couple about a crazy man dressed up as Santa Claus killing people. Fun.

There are some other results besides pre-teen insomnia. First, Sophie won't be allowed to watch these movies. Ever. Second, I find very few scary movies.. very scary anymore. I can actually only think of one (The Ring) that I've seen in recent memory that made me wake up in an agitated state at 2 a.m. So, when I saw Freddy vs. Jason at the local Hollywood Video, I needed to give it a try.

Before getting too far into the movie, let's take a quick glance at the tale of the tape...

Mobility Able to transport Slow Freddy
Weapon Knife-fingered glove Saber Pick 'em
Affectation Fedora Hockey mask Jason
Location Nightmares Crystal Lake Freddy
Music Creepy Piano (chh chh chh chh) Jason
Intangibles Able to transform Larger number of sequels Pick 'em

I was prepared to be freaked out, so much so that I popped the movie in at 11:30 a.m. Because it gets dark at approximately 2:30 now, I needed to start early. I got scared about one second into the movie, before I saw a character or a credit-- when the New Line logo flashed on the screen, the first four notes of the Freddy theme were overlaid with the Jason "sound." At that moment I realized how Jason must feel when seeing a shark.

Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there.

We started with Freddy giving us a history lesson, seeing that for a majority of the audience this may be their first exposure to these two. If you need a bit of a refresher, Fred Krueger was a maintenance man at a local school who had a slight problem with pedophilia. Parents caught wind of this and had him prosecuted, but he got off. Not to be denied, said parents visited Fred at his boiler room one night and burned him alive. But he still exists (and can kill you) in your nightmares. He started out haunting the children of the parents who killed him. I'm not sure who he was going after by the sixth sequel.

Jason's story was relayed by his mother, since he's not much of a talker. Jason Voorhees drowned at Camp Crystal Lake in the 1960s while the counselors weren't paying attention. Somehow he grew up underwater and came back to take his revenge out on counselors in the 1980s. (Again, not sure who he was going after when he "took Manhattan" in 1989 or when he visited a spaceship in 2001.) Jason doesn't mess around with the tomfoolery of going after people in their dreams-- he mauls and murders during the day. Until he gets killed.

Which brings us to today-- after Freddy's last revival, parents locked up everyone who knew about him so that his legend could no longer be spread. Since Freddy (apparently) lives on fear, he was powerless since nobody knew about him. He needed people to start thinking about him again, so he brokered a deal with Jason's dead mother to have Jason start killing people on Elm Street. Residents would believe it was Freddy, leading to more fear, leading to Freddy's return to power and slashing.

Make sense?

All starts out well and good with Jason murdering the appropriate co-eds using appropriate methods, and Freddy begins to regain his power to kill. Just like Felix and Oscar, though, the relationship begins to go awry when Jason starts killing people that Freddy wanted to kill. Crazy kids. Things start to go downhill until the final scene, when the two have a 30 minute orgy of slashing and stabbing but (of course) not dying. The violence got to be a bit gratuitous, even for a slasher flick.

I won't ruin the ending (you can probably figure it out), but want to give you some observations on this movie, in relation to its mid-80s predecessors...

  • I'm not sure if they were trying to make this into a chick-flick slasher movie or what, but this one spent ten times as much in character development than the older movies. Back then someone's head would be chopped off less than five minutes after you saw him/her for the first time. Now we have to hear about how a girl's relationship with her father changed after her mother died. Please.
  • Less than fifteen minutes into this movie we have our first shower scene. Wa-hoo, thinks me. Except.. we don't see anything. In fact, only one boob made an appearance the entire time. I care less about cheap skin now than I did when I was eleven, but it seems like a strange departure for the genre.

    (By the way, I'm wagering that my wife doesn't make it this far into the review. I'll let you know.)

  • Freddy looked more creepy, I'm guessing the advances in special effects over the past two decades have led to a better look in burned flesh. Jason looked pretty much the same but... with more hair? Hair Club for Men, maybe?
  • Freddy's dream sequences are as cool as I remember: someone nods off, looks up, and is in the same room but now it's empty, the colors are muted, and Freddy is nearby. Brrr...
  • Oddest moment of the movie: during one of the dream sequences, Freddy's appearance is preceded by a goat. A goat? Is that some sort of ancient Greek harbinger of death or something? Funniest moment of the movie: after Jason slices off someone's head, one character says to the other: "Dude, that goalie was pissed about something." Fun fact of the movie #1: Crystal Lake is apparently a short drive away from Elm Street. Fun fact of the movie #2: Jason apparently stores all of his victims in a closet filled with water in a cabin on Crystal Lake. Puts a whole new spin on going to the W.C.

That's about all I can tell you. I don't watch enough movies to have my own rating system, but let's say that if you want to be scared, choose another flick. Any of the seven prior Nightmare movies, or the ten prior Friday movies are probably better than this. Well, the one about Jason in the spaceship probably sucked, too. But I haven't seen that one.

Just more evidence that some things are better off left where they started: in the 80s.


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