Film Review: Freddy Vs. Jason (dir. by Ronny Yu)


(This review probably contains what some people would consider to be spoilers.)

Today, as part of my continuing series reviewing the films of the Friday the 13th franchise, I take a look at Freddy Vs. Jason.

After spending 15 years in development Hell, the film Freddy Vs. Jason was finally released in 2003.  With this film, New Line Cinema brought together the stars of their two best-known horror franchises, Jason Voorhees (played here not by Kane Hodder but by Ken Kirzinger) and Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund.) 

During the time that Freddy Vs. Jason was languishing in development Hell, a huge number of potential storylines were pursued and a lot of scripts were written.  Some of those scripts are surprisingly good and one of them (the one with the enviromental message) is hilariously self-important.  Most of them are just terrible and can be found online via a google search.  The main problem was how to convincingly bring both Jason and Freddy together when the two of them essentially epitomized two radically different subsets of the slasher genre.  Especially when compared to some of the other ideas that were considered, the concept behind FreddyVs. Jason is actually pretty clever.

As the film starts, Freddy is trapped in Hell because he’s been forgotten by the teenagers of the world.  They’re no longer scared of him and, as such, they’re not having nightmares about him.  Freddy’s solution?  He tracks down Jason (also hanging out in Hell and having dreams that neatly parody his whole image of being a murderous defender of purity) and, by disguising himself as Pamela Voorhees, he convinces Jason to resurrect himself in Freddy’s old hometown.  Jason promptly starts killing teenagers and Freddy is blamed.  Soon, people are having nightmares and Freddy has his gateway back into the real world.  Unfortunately for Freddy, Jason keeps killing everyone before Freddy can get to them.  Freddy sets out to kill Jason and it all leads to one “final” battle between the two of them.

I have to admit that when I first saw Freddy Vs. Jason, I didn’t care much for it.  Of course, at that point in my life, my view of whether or not a film was good or bad was largely based on the type of night I was having when I saw it.  I saw Freddy Vs. Jason with a guy who 1) thought proper date attire was shorts, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap and 2) who apparently thought my right breast was just an armrest there for him to lean on whenever he got bored.  Bleh.  Beyond the company that I saw the film with, I was also upset that the character I most related to, Katharine Isabelle’s Gibb, was rather brutally killed off while boring old Monica Keena was allowed to survive.  My initial response to Freddy Vs. Jason was that it had to be bad film because I had a bad time while I was watching it.

However, I recently rewatched it again with my BFF Evelyn (who always dresses up and is pretty good about not feeling me up every three minutes) and I actually enjoyed Freddy Vs. Jason a bit more the second time around.  I think it also helped that, in between the two viewings, I got a chance to see all the other Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street films along with a lot of other horror films and was now able to see how scenes that seemed pointless the first time around were actually meant to comment on the history and the conventions of both the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises.  The 2nd time around, I could better appreciate the perverse parody at the center of Robert Englund’s performance as Freddy Krueger.  While the human characters are never all that interesting, the “final” battle between Jason and Freddy is genuinely exciting.  When I first saw it, I thought that the film’s final scene (with Freddy’s decapitated head winking at the camera before laughing) was incredibly stupid but now I appreciate it for what it is — a deliberately campy homage to the over the top exploitation films of the 70s and 80s. 

As opposed to the previous few films in the Friday the 13th franchise, Freddy vs. Jason was a huge box office success.  It was the first (and, come to think of it, only Friday the 13th film) that I saw in an actual theater and it actually did give me nightmares (mostly because I foolishly chose to relate to the obviously doomed Katharine Isabelle).  With that type of success, it was inevitable that there would be another film in both the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises.  Those two films, however, would not be sequels.  Instead, they would be (bleh) reboots.  We’ll take a look at the reboot of Friday 13th (and finish off this series of reviews) tomorrow.

9 responses to “Film Review: Freddy Vs. Jason (dir. by Ronny Yu)

  1. What’s wrong with wearing a baseball cap, t-shirt and shorts on a date? For the love of Stanley Kubrick, you were going on a date with a guy to see “Freddy Vs. Jason”, not Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet”. Even if you were seeing “Hamlet”, would you expect your date to wear a tuxedo? One of the reasons why movies are great is because you can wear what you like. I usually break out the kimono when I see Akira Kurosawa’s “Shichinin no samurai” and “Sanjuro”.

    As for using your front verandah as an armrest–well, I guess he’s only human.

    I was confused by the final battle in “Freddy Vs. Jason”. A monster who kills children versus a monster who kills young adults–really nobody to cheer there.

    I wonder if Ronny Yu is any relation to Johnny Yu, the Chinese exchange student who played quarterback on Mr. Drummond’s school football team in “Diff’rent Strokes”.

    Good gosh, another “Diff’rent Strokes” reference. I do apologise.

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    • Hey, we’ve got another thing in common! I’m always looking for an excuse to wear a kimono to the movies as well. 🙂

      You actually hit the nail on the head regarding one the stranger aspects of Freddy Vs. Jason — i.e., Jason is, in an odd sort of way, set up as being the “good” serial killer in this particular film.

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      • Freddy is an odd sort of character. In the “Elm Street” films, he always had these clever one-liners, and in a strange way, he came across as being pretty cool because of them. We tend to forget that he was a child killer when he’s reeling off another one of his snappy quips, just before assisting another troubled teen to a novelty death. It’s analogous to Tony Curtis as sinister press agent Sidney Falco in “Sweet Smell of Success”. I know he’s a sycophantic scumbag, but I can’t help laughing out loud when employs a series of razor-sharp insults to chop Steve Dallas to pieces (Steve is a real pushover).

        There was a really enjoyable television programmes from the late 1980s-early 1990s, “Freddy’s Nightmares”, where Freddy (again played by Robert Englund) assumed the role of host for a series of parables set in the nightmare world. Basically, it was the same concept as “The Twilight Zone” and “Tales from the Crypt”. Freddy was basically a storyteller looking over foolhardy characters who would fall prey to the less virtuous aspects of their nature. One of my favourites was the radio shock jock who goes on a hateful tirade about mimes, then finds himself repeatedly confronted by a mime whose talent for charades take on an alarming realism. Then there was the anti-drugs episode with Freddy’s cautionary post-script: “Drugs: now there’s a REAL nightmare”. For about five seconds, Freddy was extremely noble. It was about as effective as any PSA about drugs that I’ve ever seen.

        Apart from the fact that he wears a really cool hockey mask, Jason is a pretty ordinary serial killer. It’s hard to imagne why a story pitting Freddy against Jason languished in developmental limbo for so many years–probably politics more than anything else. At least the film seemed to have some sort of effort behind it. When you think about it, the film might have been more intriguing if Freddy and Jason had been working together throughout the entire film, but one of the big selling points of the film, as I recall, was in its title. But did anybody really believe that this would spell curtains for either character? As we can see from “Freddy Vs. Jason”, Hollywood always finds a way to resurrect a franchise.

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        • Mark, one of the reasons that I enjoy discussing film with you is because you’re probably the only person I can think of (outside of me, on a good day) who would compare Freddy Krueger to Sidney Falco but it’s a spot on comparion, to be honest. 🙂

          At the same time, it’s always struck me as interesting that Freddy Krueger has alway been presented as being a pedaophile and yet, because he’s so “witty”, he’s become this sort of iconic antihero. Of course, having recently seen the original Nightmare films, I also now understand that the whole Freddy as child killer aspect was really only played up in the first few films. As Freddy became a popular character, they played down that fact considerably and Robert Englund changed up his performance as well. He is sincerely frightening in the first three films, less so in the films after that.

          (Have you ever read Englund’s autobiography? He comes across as such a likable, easy-going, and dare I say norma person.)

          Over on Chiller (which is a cable station that shows only horror programming), they often show reruns of shows like The Outer Limits and the Twilight Zone and, for the longest time, I would see something called Freddy’s Nightmares in the listings. I never watched it but I’m pretty sure that’s the Freddy-hosted anthology film that you’re talking about.

          If you have some spart time, do a google search on “Freddy Vs. Jason scripts” and you’ll come across a few of the unproduced screenplays that were written while Freddy Vs. Jason languished in “development Hell.” 🙂

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