“Vs” movies are nothing new; ever since Frankenstein met the Wolf Man Hollywood has been finding ways to sling two opposing characters from different movies into a Thunderdome style situation and letting them fight it out for our privilege. Whether it’s Batman Vs. Superman, Godzilla Vs. Kong or Alien Vs. Predator, as long as we all don’t get along there will always be massive scraps at the box office ready to take our hard earned money.
One that took suprisingly longer than most to materialize was Freddy Vs. Jason; a “killer takes all” confrontation between the poster boys of the Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th franchises that had been set up as far back as 1993 when Krueger’s trademark glove popped up for a hand-cameo at the end of Jason’s ninth big screen outing. Writhing aimlessly in development Hell nearly as long as it’s combatants had spent in actual Hell, Freddy Vs. Jason finally made it’s bow after going through more drafts than a broken window and fans eagerly awaited to see who would emerge triumphant after what promised to be an epic slice and dice smackdown.
So… was it worth the wait?
Set (I’m guessing) after the fifth Nighmare and the ninth Friday, we find Freddy a shadow of his former self. Weakened and forgotten by the teenage population, Krueger desperately needs to be feared in order to regain his former strength and so to beef up those all-important kill numbers he desides to resurrect the body of undead murder-hulk Jason Voorhees. Jump starting his brain by appearing to him as his dead mother (if only everything thing in life was that easy), Freddy instructs Jason to go to Springwood to rack up some carnage so the subsequent pant-soiling that is spread throughout town will be attributed to Krueger’s flagging legend, therefore reinvigorating him like Popeye’s spinach – or dream demon viagra – whichever you prefer.
However, Jason isn’t exactly known for his restraint or following orders correctly and Freddy soon finds out that he can’t claim the souls of of dead teenagers if some lunatic in a mask has killed the shit out of them already.
Meanwhile, Lori, a teen who’s social circle witnessed Jason’s initial rampage starts to have nightmares while Will, her childhood sweetheart, languishes in a mental hospital as he and his friend are the last two teens left who have any memory of Krueger’s past murders. Soon these two lovers reunite and pool their respective groups together in order to try and figure out what the Hell is going on by panicking a lot and by ending almost very sentence with “Okay?”. Uncovering Sringwood’s conspiracy of quarantining and comatosing any teen who has any recollection of Freddy (which, to be honest, doesn’t actually help their cause in the slightest), the group struggle to stay awake to survive one monster while trying avoiding the indiscriminate killing swing of Jason’s machete; but Krueger has plans of his own and it involves stopping the hockey masked one’s rampage in it’s tracks while taking care of some unfinished family business with Lori.
So the stage is set for a knockdown, drag-out battle of the horror titans which will rage both in the dream realm and in the real world where razor glove will be pitted against machete and stocks in stage blood will go through the roof.
Who will win and what will be left of them in this bout of winner rakes all..?
So to make things totally clear, Freddy Vs. Jason is not Tolstoy. Not that anyone thought it would be, but even I was taken aback by how single-mindedly dumb this movie is – and I’m a huge fan of both characters from way back.
The problem is that the small army of writers who scribbled away into the wee small hours, seemed to have just been desperate to make the damn story work on ANY level, characterization and common sense be damned. The film is content to play up the lowest common denominators from both franchises (we get our first pair of boobies barely five minutes into the movie) and literally every single one of the young characters display inpressive idiocy from the second we meet them which makes you openly wonder how the manage to cross THE STREET in one piece, let alone avoid the death lunges of not one, but TWO supernatural serial killers. The group is split into the average stereotypes (nerd, stoner, hero, weirdo) and the film Carrie’s on that 90’s/00’s trend of plonking an R n’ B singer in to attract the kids – in this case Destiny’s Child singer Kelly Rowland who seems to have signed on just so she could berate Krueger on his dick size and yell homophobic slurs at him…
Monica Keener does a nice job as “final girl” Lori, trying to convince as a virginal sweetie while wearing a push up bra that looks strong enough to stop a bullet but everyone is poorly served by a script that is childish desperate to focus on the TRUE stars of the show…
It’s here where Freddy Vs. Jason starts earning it’s much needed plus points and to be fair, pretty much everything that concerns the twin towers of terror is a tongue in cheek hoot. The kills are impressively overdone with Jason practicing some of the finer points of chiropractic spine manipulation by snapping someone in half in a folding bed and turning up fashionably late for a cornfield race completely on fire, slashing at anything that moves – talk about your party fouls…
Director Ronny Yu – who also rebooted Chucky with stylish panache in Bride Of Chucky – goes all out on the visuals (as you’d expect from the maker of Hong Kong fantasy flick Bride With The White Hair) even if some of his executive decisions left hardcore horror fans fuming by NOT casting four time Voorhees performer Kane Hodder as Jason (something that’s a legitimate sore point to this day). Making Jason a taller, slower, more Frankenstein-esque neutral evil makes sense compared to Freddy’s more verbal, sadistic villainy make tonal sense and Ken Kerzinger does a fine job with this version but Hodder hyped this movie for the best part of a decade and it still feels like a missed opportunity.
Neanwhile Englund, in what has proved to be his final Freddy outing so far, shows that he’s still got it, cackling, joking and being the most sneerable camp version of Krueger he can possibly be (not too sure about the “wanker” gesture at one point but never mind) and to quote Max from that 80’s show, Heart To Heart, “when these two met, it was MURDER.”
It’s during the final jaw dropping, gore splattered, slug fest – where arms are ripped of and Camp Crystal Lake ultimately gets nuked into orbit by the most powerful gas tanks in history – when Freddy Vs. Jason finally makes sense. You finally realise that the whole film has been made as if it’s a main event grudge match at Caesar’s Palace or even at Wrestlemania, with the first two thirds of the story playing like a catch up video that the WWE uses to keep you up to speed on all the twists and turns that has gone down that has brought these two lunatics together to slice each other to ribbons.
When these guys fight, and fight they do, it’s a glorious, ridiculous dollop of grand guignol as the two opposites of evil spectacularly hack lumps from each other. One’s fast and smart, the other’s slow and powerful – one’s hard to catch, the other’s impossible to keep down – and Freddy’s use of gas canisters as torpedoes is nothing short of mental genius. In short, you get what you paid for… eventually – and while it’s a shame that more brains wasn’t used on the script that there are splattered on the floor, as beer and pizza movies go, it’s pretty damn fun while simultaneously feeling like huge missed opportunity.
While the human cast is continuously as irritating as finger knives down a blackboard and it’s obvious that the filmmakers care even less about them then you do, this gore epic is still a nice diversion if you’re still ready for Freddy and still chasin’ Jason.