By Kim Hollis
August 14, 2003
Two men enter. One man leaves.
Ideally, that is.
In the long standing Hollywood tradition of milking franchises for all they’re worth, someone at New Line finally came up with a fantastic idea that languished almost eternally in the depths of hell alongside its potential main features. Someone brilliantly deduced that pitting infamous serial slashers Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger in a battle to the death -- or at least a skirmish for supremacy amongst soulless sadists -- would make for fantastic cinema. The only thing missing is WWE president Vince McMahon walking in mid-match to interrupt the proceedings by usurping the glory.
Wisely, the creators chose to primarily follow the mythology of the Nightmare on Elm Street story. Both of our anti-heroes are confined to their appropriate place in the underworld when Freddy angrily decides that it’s time to make his return to the world of the living. Unfortunately, because of events that have taken place in previous films, Freddy has been all but forgotten by the residents of the town he used to terrorize, and without their fear and their memories to feed on, he simply cannot come back. Jason is his means to a very specific end, and the knife-fingered villain resurrects the man in the hockey mask to journey to Elm Street and make it his playground. With Jason machete-chopping his way through the teenage residents of the neighborhood, people begin to suspect Freddy has somehow returned, and as such, memories of the child murderer begin to surface.
From there, the movie takes a bit too long to get to the metaphorical fireworks factory, but once it does, Freddy’s anger at glory hog Jason gets the best of him, forcing an epic clash to determine who will be the king of the killers. That’s the real reason people are going to see this film, and while the actual war itself is fun in a WWE sort of way, ultimately most folks will probably be disappointed that the big brawl doesn’t last long enough.
Part of this is because as with any Jason/Freddy film, an extended body count is a requirement. As such, we’re treated to some of the worst acting this side of 2 Fast 2 Furious while our assorted cast of characters stumbles through the film, trying to stay alive and move the plot along. Primary amongst these characters is Monica Keena, who was wonderful in last year’s underrated television series Undeclared but is present in Freddy vs. Jason simply to bring the monsters together. Other supporting players include Destiny’s Child’s Kelly Rowland (don’t quit your day job), Jason Ritter, Lochlyn Munro, Christopher George Marquette, Katharine Isabelle and a guy who is ripping off Jason Mewes in any of the Kevin Smith films (he does get the movie’s best line, though).
To director Ronny Yu’s credit, he does camp as well as anyone in the business. After breaking into the genre in North America with Bride of Chucky, this humor-laden pairing of cultural icons is really a natural follow up. Though the slasher format has definitely become passé and overdone, Yu manages to find the best elements that made the early films in the two series successful, combining Friday the 13th’s gory thrills with a Nightmare on Elm Street’s over-the-top dark comedy and outrageous splatter. The entire affair is handled with a wink and a nod to the fans that have enjoyed the highs and suffered through the extreme lows over the years. While it occasionally degenerates into the cringe-worthy, for the most part, Freddy vs. Jason delivers exactly what it promises, and should leave fans drooling over a rumored three-way rematch including The Evil Dead’s Ash.
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