In the last “Friday the 13th” film, “Part 9--Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday,” (F13 historians don’t recognize “Jason X”), we see the only remains of Jason Voorhees; his mask. As it sits in the autumn leaves, we hear the sinister laugh of Freddy Krueger as his trademark finger blades grab the mask and pull it down below the earth, taking it to Hell with him for what we wrongly assumed would be forever. Ten years later, “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” merge to give us “Freddy Vs. Jason.”
What we get is a stylish production that looks really good. The special effects are crisp and the atmosphere is solid; dark and gloomy. That’s all fine but what’s the point of having a grand arena if there’s nobody there to play in it? What’s the point of having the horror-like atmosphere without any attempt to make the movie scary as it is in this case? That is why I am ultimately dissatisfied with “Freddy Vs. Jason.”
Written by first-time rookies Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, the opening story introduction--as do many horror films--starts off strong with promise. As we begin, we get an insightful narration by Freddy Krueger himself, as he rests dormant in the depths of Hell with nothing to do besides rot. Krueger, since the first nightmare has always been played by Robert Englund, now 54 years old and is the only thing authentic about this particular gore-fest.
He is angry because the residents of Elm Street and its town have figured out how to beat him, by forgetting about Freddy Krueger completely, thus keeping the children from fearing him and having nightmares. How an entire city can forget such a legend is hard to believe, and it is explained in a poorly contrived plot supplement that only works if you don’t think about it too much.
To get people to remember him, Krueger invades the nightmares of Jason Voorhees, successfully luring him back to Elm Street so he too can be resurrected. This time, Jason is played by stuntsman Ken Kirzinger, whose resume includes recent work in “X2” and some minor work in a few earlier “F13” installments. His mother is played by Paula Shaw, a very not-scary mother who doesn’t come close to touching the performance of Betsy Palmer from the first “Friday the 13th,” and the first killer before Jason takes over after her death. In “Freddy Vs. Jason,” the important mother role is reduced to hideous dialogue that will evoke undeserving laughter when the original mother made you cringe.
Now that both Krueger and Voorhees are back, it’s time to find some victims, and they clearly don’t have any trouble in that department. Maybe the MPAA slept through this one because better films have had to sacrifice scenes much less intense than the ones in this film just to receive an “R” rating. Gorehounds will be delighted to know that the blood runs rampant and some of the killings are as gruesome as ever. I am now convinced that the MPAA is starting to loosen up and is beginning to allow more graphic material to make the final cut. No complaints here. After seeing “Freddy Vs. Jason” you will never look at a retractable bed the same way again.
But I do have complains with other aspects of the film. The opening was strong, but even such openers can lead to declining endings when the film is nearly two hours long. When the film comes near its final minutes, we witness a hand-to-hand battle between Voorhees and Krueger that is extremely bloody. The stabbing and gouging get so repetitive though, that is starts to get boring, even as the body parts fly, eyes get punctured, and limbs get torn.
But even before the conclusion, the momentum sadly dissipates after a great effort to build interest through detailed character histories and past-plot explanations (Remember: Jason’s 2001 Space Odyssey never really happened.) It dies off when we meet the waiting victims who bring the film from potential shocks and scares down to attempted laughs.
The main character is Lori (Monica Keena), a young good looking girl who lives with her shady father at 1428 Elm St. We learn Lori’s mom died several years back, but the cause remains unknown. Her boyfriend Will (Jason Ritter) eventually shows up after escaping incarceration from a mental institution for young adults who must never leave. When he and his friend whose brother was a victim of Freddy finally escape, they must warn the people who have forgotten.
And of course there are the horny friends with only one purpose, to die a gruesome death for us to ohh and ahh at. I could go into detail about each victim and tell you which ones perish, but this is a film that makes that task easy even for the amateur moviegoer. However if you don’t know that pot-smokers and stoners never survive in horror movies and you want a little spoiler info, then check out my members-only review.
Some characters survive long enough to make it to the point where they figure out who is responsible for the brutal killings. Then they instantly figure out that Freddy brought Jason back from the dead and the two are quickly wiping out the residents of Elm Street and will eventually make their way to Camp Crystal Lake. Furthermore, the kids come up with ways to kill them all in a matter of minutes without even a rough draft or one failed hypothesis. But that’s not so bad, after all we wouldn’t want a 2 and 1/2 hour movie, or a three hour movie. So be it, let them figure it out and watch them try as some will undoubtedly be picked off while others get the chance to send Freddy and Jason back to hell, permanently--again.
When the characters need help with some details, they get the obligatory and now hilarious walk-ins by characters who appear out of nowhere; as if they just hide in the corner or inside the locker until someone questions, “But how does that explain...?”
And get this, the unintelligent bunch easily figure out everything from who is doing all the killing to how to stop them, yet they must take a time-out to use the Internet in order to find out what a drug called “Hypno-cil” could possibly be used for. Ohh, so that’s how the people of Elm Street have miraculously stopped dreaming!
The film comes very close to being satisfactory, but awful dialogue ruins any chance of redemption for two series that have clearly run out of steam and ideas. The story here is good but it’s executed poorly. Damian Shannon and Mark Swift have correctly remolded Krueger from a one-line jokester (though not completely: “This girl is dead on her feet!”) to a more business-like villain with less to say. The one-liners have been passed to the mortal characters, mainly Lori who twice in the conclusion yells out something like: “Hey Freddy, go back to Hell!”
Another problem with “Freddy Vs. Jason” is that it subscribes to the recent trend that calls for the use of pop-stars and models in horror films. You may remember Brandy from “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer” and Busta Rhymes with Tyra Banks from “Halloween: Resurrection.” Now it’s Destiny Child’s Kelly Rowland who has made her film debut in a slasher flick. We’re not supposed to recognize brand-name faces in horror films, not like this one makes any attempt to be scary, but it’s still an unwritten rule that has been broken. It is only a matter of time before we expect Rowland to break out in either song or rap, and let me say she comes very close to doing so.
Director Ronny Yu has done everything he could with the weak script and pathetic dialogue, and has made something decent out of a potential disaster. While it’s not a good movie, it’s entertaining enough for the weekend crowds who want nonstop blood and gore. The art is there; the scene where Freddy jumps out of Crystal Lake in slow-motion is right-on, but the events that follow are disappointing. That’s how the entire movie plays out; a great set-up followed by horrible execution.
One thing I am surprised to report is that there were some characters I actually cared about. Normally we’re rooting for the guy in the hockey mask, but some actors make a good effort and give some good performances. It’s too bad they don’t last long and we’re stuck with the whinny no-brained disposables. In fact I can’t even recall the name of the single most important character. He’s the first one to figure out the puzzle, he’s the best actor, and unfortunately one of the first to die.
I give the film a ‘C’ because while the entire second-half of the movie is one big reeling mess, it lives up to reputation of both the “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” series as America’s favorite slash-em-ups. I am truly torn because I wanted a horror movie--which it is--but second to failed comedy. I am disappointed because it looks beautiful. “Freddy Vs. Jason” is a recipe for the finest meal without a cook to make it.