Standup comedian and writer for Collider Evan Valentine returns with another review for Horror Month. This time, he covers Freddy vs Jason.
When I was really young, around six years old, my family would rent a townhouse in Duck, North Carolina with my best friend’s family at the time. We would walk around this small ocean town, walk to the beach, and generally just be kids. I can still remember exploring the countryside, walking past a tennis court or two as the sun set and the world was still this big, mysterious place. “Ok”, you’re probably asking yourself, “What the hell does this have to do with a giant zombie hillbilly fighting a dream pedophile?” Well I’m getting to that. Anyway, this time was also when I watched my first Friday the 13th movie. I was sitting in the kitchen and my friend was flipping through the channels and came across the scene in Friday the 13th Part 7: New Blood wherein Jason is ascending some stairs to fight a girl with telekinesis.
Listen, this isn’t exactly high art, people. Anyway, said scene has Jason shot through the stair case, lifted by the throat by an electric cord in the ceiling, and have his mask ripped off to reveal the horrible zombie he had become at the time. This, by the way, still remains my favorite Friday the 13th movie and my favorite design for Jason as the guy just looked plain scary. The water damage, the black tattered clothes he wore, the broken hockey mask, all top notch and scary as all get out. I was hooked to these cheesy slasher films from there on. Enter Nightmare on Elm Street. A year or so down the road, I watched Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and was introduced to Freddy Krueger. Unlike Jason, Freddy was a talker and would taunt his victims as he created these elaborate dream traps to ironically dispatch his victims. It was a somewhat stark contrast to the blunt force that was Jason ultimately resulting in the same thing. I thought to myself at the time what a cool idea it would have been for these two juggernauts to collide and it would be a time later until I actually saw it come to pass.
Before delving into the movie proper, you have to understand that this was a film that had been tried an UNBELIEVABLE number of times. The back and forth between New Line (which had always been titled “The House that Freddy Built” as the original popularity of the Nightmare movies made the studio what it is before Lord of the Rings was made) and Paramount is well recorded and there were snags in getting it off the ground. Once the studios came to an agreement however, and the hint was placed at the end of Jason Goes To Hell where Freddy’s glove pops out of the ground to swipe Jason’s mask, the long process began of finding the right script to push forward as the one to use for Freddy vs Jason. Man, let me tell you, there were a LOT of SCRIPTS.
If you want more background information on all the goings on when it comes to Freddy vs Jason, I would suggest watching the extras on the DVD/Blu-Ray and the segment on it in the fantastic documentary, Never Sleep Again, a four hour doc about every Nightmare on Elm Street movie ever made, minus the reboot thankfully. 18 different scripts were commissioned from 12 different screenwriters for the tune of around $6 million. One script had the movie revolve around a trial, where Jason was held accountable for his crimes and Freddy was involved…somehow? Another had Jason being brought to life by a group of kids to fight Freddy while another had a cult of Freddy worshippers fighting it out with Jason, who was brought to life by a girlfriend putting her dead boyfriend’s heart in him….Shit was weird. The original ending of the movie actually had a post credit scene where Freddy and Jason find themselves in hell, only to be greeted by Pinhead from the Hellraiser series inquiring, “Gentlemen, what seems to be the problem?” Oh what could have been.
Anyway, a script was found, production began and Freddy vs Jason was that much closer to becoming a reality. Robert Englund, who had been the only one to play Freddy Krueger in all the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, returned to play his role one last time (which will probably be the case as I don’t see New Line making another Nightmare movie for quite a while and the reboot already cast Jackie Earl-Haley as the new Freddy) but Kane Hodder was passed over to play the role of Jason. Hodder had really encapsulated Jason in his time with the character through Part 7 to Jason X, the movie where Jason is in space…sigh… but honestly, you really don’t need the same guy to play a character who doesn’t talk and main attribute is hitting people with a machete. They hired Ken Kirzinger, a 6’5 stuntman, to play Jason under the idea that Jason should really tower over Freddy which I totally understand as Hodder was 6’2 and Robert Englund was 5’9.
The film was released and made $36 million on its opening weekend. Not too shabby all things considered! Personally, I love the movie. I think it’s everything we could ask for with this kind of thing having two teen slasher icons coming to blows with one another. It was always odd to me when I heard people say they didn’t like this movie because it wasn’t scary or the story wasn’t up to par. Its Freddy Krueger fighting Jason Voorhees, what did you expect. I really just wanted to see the two of these guys beat the living hell out of each other on screen and boy does it deliver on that one. The final fight between the two is glorious, with Jason wrenching Freddy into the real world and tossing him around Camp Crystal Lake as the much smaller Freddy tries to outthink him, while also doing karate flips for God knows what reason.
The basic story of the movie is that Freddy is resurrecting Jason in order to bring him to Elm Street to make people afraid of Freddy once again so he can use that fear to resurrect himself. This is displayed in the opening scene in perhaps my favorite “exposition dump” of all time where Freddy is sitting in hell, recollecting all of the past Nightmare on Elm Street movies (“I can’t come back if nobody remembers! I CAN’T COME BACK if nobody’s AFRAAIIDDD! But I’ve found someone…someone who’ll MAKE ‘EM remember!” Glorious.) We get shown our various teenage protagonists and are introduced to their boring storylines that no one cares about, but honestly this is par for the course on all slasher movies. Freddy keeps trying to manipulate Jason, Jason stops wanting to be manipulated, the two fight in the dream world and then the real world and that’s a wrap.
This movie has some really cool scenes in it, aside from the aforementioned final fight that lasts something like 25 minutes with Freddy stabbing Jason’s eyes out, Jason ripping off Freddy’s arm and impaling him with it, etc etc. The cornfield scene with a flaming Jason killing everyone at the kegger is appropriately ridiculous and fantastic. The dream sequence where Freddy starts bouncing Jason around like a pinball in the boiler room while dropping one liners works so well. Jason “machete-ing” Kelly Rowland so hard she flies into a tree (I’ll get to her in a little bit). The real strength of the movie is that it was able to take the back stories, settings, and personalities of Freddy and Jason and merge them together in this really seamless way. It’s not rocket science, it didn’t win any Oscars, but it was never supposed to. Just turn your brain off and enjoy the ride.
This isn’t to say there aren’t some low points of the movie. Kelly Rowland having a “showdown” with Freddy where she calls him a faggot has got to be one of the strangest decisions in movie history. As I mentioned, the main protagonists are pretty cringe worthy all around and basically just are there to move the plot along. There’s a particular scene that’s just really hard to watch where Monica Keena’s character enters into the conversation on how to fight back with, “Wait a minute! Freddy died by fire, Jason by water, HOW DO WE USE THAT?” How indeed? Also, they came up with this odd idea that Jason is scared of water when Jason is CONSTANTLY in the water, even in this film! He’s constantly popping out of it in the opening and closing of the movie. Maybe it was just meant to be in the dream world? Who knows, it’s a minor quibble.
Since Freddy vs Jason, there has been a remake for both franchises. The Friday the 13th remake actually wasn’t too bad and was almost creating a film that encapsulated 1 through 4 in a nice package. The Nightmare on Elm Street remake? The less said about that one the better as it just really missed the mark, and I’m not even complaining about Jackie Earl Haley as Freddy, as he did a decent job with what he was given. If we ever see the two of them fight head to head again, it will be with new actors and probably wouldn’t be for a while. The most disappointing thing was the movie that ALMOST came to be from this, and that’s Freddy vs Jason vs Ash. “Ash?” you may ask. Yes, Ash of the Evil Dead franchise himself, Bruce Campbell, was really REALLY close to being a part of this sequel. I waited with bated breath when the news started to drop that this movie was very close to happening and it would have, if not for Sam Raimi pulling out of the deal near its completion. Honestly, I can’t blame him, as clearly he had plans for the Evil Dead franchise with the remake, upcoming television series, and eventual Army of Darkness sequel, but it would have been a thrill to see all the franchises come to a close with this movie. If you want to see what could have been with this, pick up the Freddy vs Jason vs Ash comic they released a few years back as it takes the story directly from the script that was going to be used to make it.
This Halloween, if you feel like watching a good old slobberknocker between two 80s horror icons, give this one a watch.