Freddy vs. Jason (New Line, 2003)

I never thought Iíd admit to anyone that I miss the 80s. I never thought Iíd miss the 80s, to be more precise. But watching Freddy vs. Jason brought it all back. No, not the fluorescent clothes, not the huge cans of Aqua Net everybody needed to maintain the piles of hair that was just so fashionable back then. No, what sent me back down Memory Lane was a movie that reminded me just how much fun a good old-fashioned slasher flick could be.

I had been waiting for this match-up since the early 90s, when Jason Goes to Hell (a.k.a. Friday the 13th, Part 9) showed Freddyís gloved hand rising up out of the ground to pull Jasonís hockey mask down to Hell with him. Supposedly. One script after another came along, and various studios opted (and opted out) of the project. Finally, Mark Swift and Damian Shannon came up with a concept that New Line accepted. Director Ronny Yu (best known in America for Bride of Chucky and Formula 51) came on board, and the project finally got off the ground.

The plot is, of course, a simple one. Itís been four years since Freddy Kruegerís last showdown on Elm Street (which would actually be 1994's Wes Cravenís New Nightmare/Nightmare on Elm Street 7, for those of you keeping count). The children of Elm Street have forgotten about Freddy, which is a pretty good trick to pull off in four years. Actually, the children who do remember are in a mental institution, where they are given drugs to prevent their dreams. Since Freddy needs children to fear him in order to have power, he decides to have Jason come back from the dead (again). Jason begins his usual brand of machete mayhem, which worries the adults of Elm Street, who start to look shifty and begin to speak in hushed tones whenever teenagers are present. But when Freddy gets the power he needs, he finds that Jason isnít one to back down from a good old-fashioned slash-and-tear. The question on everyoneís mind is, who will win the contest for the young bodies of America?

Freddy vs. Jason has all the requisite character cliches: The Slut, The Drunk, The Virgin, The Jock, The Ex-Boyfriend and The Poor Unlucky Bastard, to name a few. They even toss in a character that could be a dead ringer (oops!) for Jay from Kevin Smithís oeuvre. And really, the names of these characters arenít important. Itís how they will die that got most folks into the theater to see this show. And die they do; I havenít seen this much blood in a big studio horror flick in quite some time. This movie relies heavily on camera-ready special effects and uses CGI in just a few well-deserved instances. Blood pumps, drips, and sheets down like rain. Bathtubs are filled with it, and it spreads over the floors like Karo Syrup (which it probably is). Bodies are torn asunder in various ugly ways. And speaking of special effects, just when you thought Iíd forget to mention it, several sets of plastic chests are flashed for the boys out there who have tired of their National Geographic collection.

The performances of Kelly Rowland and Katharine Isabelle stand out. Kelly Rowland, best known for being a member of the group Destinyís Child, shows a surprising depth of character; in fact, she steals the scene from the leading actress several times. She is definitely one to watch. Katharine Isabelle, most widely known for her work in Ginger Snaps, isnít given a lot to work with in this movie, but in her big scene, she sends out fear that is almost palpable. Iíd love to see her get a role she can really do something with (and Iím afraid that Ginger Snaps 2 wonít be the one). Iíd hate to see her reduced to flashing her boobs in C-rated genre fests. Jason Ritter (Swimfan) plays the ex-boyfriend that comes back into town just in time to help out when things get tough, and Monica Keena (Dawsonís Creek) plays the Girl With A Past. Both do passable jobs with what they are given to work with. However, a few poorly angled shots of Monicaís terrifically overinflated chest made them look so completely unreal that I collapsed into giggles. Considering my age when the first slasher flicks opened, I felt my outbreaks of immaturity fit in well with the overall mood.

Iím not going to spoil the ending and tell you who wins, but I will say that both boys get to really open up on each other. Very few genre fans will be unhappy with the final fight. Ronny Yuís previous work in the Hong Kong martial arts movie industry has given him a good sense of choreography and timing (although outside of the final showdown there are a few instances of sloppy editing). Freddy vs. Jason fits in well with almost all of the other offerings in both series, with the exception of Jason X which takes place on a space ship in the 25th century.

Yes, this is another slasher film that fits nicely into the "Modern Horror Movie as Medieval Morality Play" niche, but that is what I loved about these movies in the first place. You have sex, you die. You do drugs, you die. Youíre a jerk . . . well. You get the idea. Films like Halloween, Prom Night, and My Bloody Valentine all fall into this category, and the fact that you can predict who will die (and how, and when) only adds to the enjoyment. Why let the stress of wondering what will happen next hamper your movie going experience? Just sit back and enjoy the show.

With the outpouring of horror movies this fall -- Jeepers Creepers 2, Cabin Fever, Underworld, Cold Creek Manor and the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre -- this new entry in both the Freddy and Jason franchises may signal a new interest in the old-fashioned slasher flick. If so, Iíll be in the front row for each one of them. Youíll recognize me by my knee-high striped toe socks, tight T-shirt and tiny blue shorts with white piping. If holding on to the 80's is what it takes to keep movies like this in circulation, bring on the Aqua Net.

 

[Denise Dutton]

The official Freddy vs. Jason Web site is chock full of goodies, including interviews, a "killer quiz", chat boards, and more downloads than you can shake a machete at.