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Freddy Vs. Jason
Reviewed by Jason Myers, Sneezy the Squid, © 2003

Format: Movie
By:   Ronny Yu (Director)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   August 15, 2003
Review Date:   August 22, 2003
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

Jason Myers says: Okay, we're going to do something a little bit different this time. Part of this review is brought to you by Sneezy the Squid. And I'll add some of my own comments and observations as we go along. Now, keep in mind, Sneezy is not some character I made up. He's a real person . . . err . . . squid. How do I know? Because he's written letters to Subspace a few times, so he must be real.

So, in honor of Freddy vs. Jason, the movie, we proudly present Jason vs. Sneezy the Squid, the review.

Okay, so technically it's not much of a battle, since Sneezy and I are in relatively close agreement about this movie, but if I told you that, it would ruin the epic aura surrounding the big throw-down between me and Sneezy. Oops, too late.

Sneezy the Squid says: To start: If you aren't a fan in some way of monster/splatter/slasher films, bail now. This is not your movie.

Jason: Here's another thing: If you're going to go to this movie and try to take it seriously, you're going to be VERY VERY disappointed. I mean, just from the title, you should be able to tell that this is the horror equivalent of a bunch of pasty teenagers sitting around with cheesy poof dust on their fingers, arguing about who would win if the original Enterprise took on the Millennium Falcon.

Sneezy: I usually try stick with the "suspense is better than gore" horror crowd, watching The Others and Alfred Hitchcock films. Rampant gore/slasher flicks, such as the innumerable Friday the 13th knock-offs don't usually do anything for me, but some characters and monsters always bring me back to the splatter fold. Freddy, Jason, Myers, and a really good monster film like Dog Soldiers or Aliens will get me every time.

Jason: Thanks, Sneezy, I really appreciate the compliment . . . . Oh, there's a comma in between "Jason" and "Myers", isn't there? Um . . . yeah . . . right . . . . What I meant to say was "Dog Soldiers totally rocks the casbah, dude!"

Sneezy [After a long blank stare]: I saw the first films of both franchises when they first came out on cable, at the tender ages of 11 (Friday the 13th) and 15 (Nightmare). I was just the right age to be warped for life. Old enough to know I liked horror films, young enough that they scared the crap out of me for years. I'm still uncomfortable alone in the woods.

Now, for those who have been living in a cave since the 80s, here's an overview of the characters.

Jason Voorhees was a poor deformed boy who drowned when the camp councilors were too busy fornicating, drinking or doing drugs to keep him from drowning. To confess, I like the first Friday, but after that they take a nose dive for me until part six: Jason Lives. This is the first one where the producers and writers seemed to realize "Hey, this is a bit silly. We know it. You know it. And we know that you know. So let's go nuts." This is where Jason is brought back from the dead and transformed into an unstoppable meat train of death. If you're a teenager in the woods fornicating, drinking or doing drugs, you're gonna die, as Jason is drawn to you like a moth to a flame. With each film, Jason got a little more decomposed, and found even more power tools and pointy objects to kill people with in interesting ways. You're not there for plot, you're there for mayhem.

Freddy Krueger was a serial killer of children who got off on a technicality. The vengeful parents of the victims locked him in his boiler room, set it on fire and watched as he burned to death. This pissed him off, and as a vengeful ghost he invaded the dreams of the remaining children of the vigilantes and killed them in their sleep. Freddy was fun because of how he tended to use his victim's weaknesses against them. He also had a streak of black humor and inventiveness in his kills that kept the movies interesting. Like Jason, many ways were devised for killing him for good, but he kept coming back.

The new movie, which was inevitable once New Line bought the Jason franchise . . .

Jason: All the way back in 1992 . . .

Sneezy: . . . answers what many horror fan boys have debated for years. What happens when you have two unstoppable killers attack each other? Who would win? How much carnage would there be? Will there be nudity now that the 80s are over and studios go for the PG-13 rating to earn more dollars?

As it has been said before by horror fans, these movies are like a roller coaster. You're hanging on with white knuckles as you're plunged into an adrenaline rush. Like most coasters, you know where it's going and how it's going to end. You just want this one to have a new drop, twist or tunnel plunge to spice it up, surprise you and just give you a good ride. This film is a great ride.

Jason: Here's my take. Most movies are like roller coaster rides. But the ideal horror movie isn't like a roller coaster at all. Horror movies should be more like stumbling blind and lost through one of those pitch-black fright-mazes that pop up around Halloween, where you tease your girlfriend into walking ahead of you, ostensibly because she's a "fraidy cat", even though, on some level, you have to admit that it's also because, when the monsters come, it's better her than you.

Freddy Vs. Jason, though, is more like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World. It's a lot of fun, entertaining to be sure, and even occasionally has the power to startle, but it's ultimately too silly and too cartoonish to offer much in the way of genuine scares.

Sneezy: Like the previously mentioned roller coaster metaphor, once the film starts, the bar comes down, locking you in place, and the ride takes right off. It goes on the premise that the last films of each series, Jason X and New Nightmare didn't happen. It picks up after Jason Goes to Hell and Freddy's Dead.

Jason: Since Jason X takes place in the future, it's pretty easy to square its continuity with Freddy Vs. Jason. Wes Craven's New Nightmare presents problems though, since it essentially turns the whole series inside out. I think that's why a lot of fans were grumpy about it, even though it's one of the troika of Nightmare movies (along with the original and Dream Warriors) that stands up to repeated viewings.

Sneezy: Both characters have been re-designed a bit, more of a refinement of their looks, making them much more intense. Freddy's still got the hat and Christmas sweater, but his burns have been touched up, eyes bloodshot, and his teeth are of various sharpness and lengths during the film. Jason is now taller, leaner, much stronger, and just looks much more intimidating.

The first question most people would ask is "how do you make two killers in two different areas with different MOs contact each other?" The film goes about answering that in the first five minutes. We get Freddy telling us his basic back story accompanied by a "greatest hits" montage of his kills.

Jason: Freddy basically talks directly to the audience. From the beginning, it's pretty obvious that this is a hokey slap-dash cash-in. The movie is clever, and sly, and funny, but not nearly as clever and sly and funny as it thinks it is. Nor do the moments of horror have much power to shock or frighten. In this movie, Freddy is cruel as hell, but he's not really scary. Coming from someone who can get still goosebumps from listening to Fresh Prince's Nightmare on My Street rap, that's saying a lot. Even declawed, though, the character of Freddy is what holds Freddy Vs. Jason together. How does he hold it together? With style, bitch, with style.

Anyway, right-said-Freddy has his sweater all up in a bunch because the kids on the street of Elm have stopped believing in him.

Sneezy: If they don't fear him, he has no power. He needs the kids to be afraid, to prime them for his return. So he searches for something or someone to use. Enter Jason, driven by his memory of his mother and his need to punish the bad teens. The first scene shows us Jason in his prime element, killing a helpless victim in the woods. A female victim who is skinny dipping, thus falling into the "fornicator teen" category. It also gives us our first glimpse of old-school nudity, which used to be a hallmark of 80s slasher films. In them, the bare breasts were as common as the blood. This film does not fail us on this . . . er, front as we have more gratuitous nudie shots before the film is over.

One theme song later, we're on Elm St, where we meet the new cast of teen victims. We have good girl and heroine Lori. Her friend Kia, the sassy black girl with self-image issues, is there with her along with a few other teens partying, drinking beer and fornicating upstairs while Lori's dad is out of town for the night. You know how well Jason takes this kind of thing by now.

Jason: Hey, I'm all for partying, drinking and fornicating. You ask some random person on the street, "Who likes to drink and fornicate?", and they'll say, "That Jason, he fornicates with the best of ëem." Yes, sir, my middle name is . . . . You were talking about Jason Vorhees, weren't you? [Hangs head in shame] Sorry.

Sneezy: Carnage ensues, opening the door for Mr. Krueger to start his path back to power. Then Jason kills a few more, making people very nervous. The teens, being movie teens, decide that all this is unusual, but no need to cancel their already planned rave in the middle of a corn field that night. On the way to the party, we are introduced to the remainder of the teen cast, the stoner-teen and nerd-who-loves-the-lead.

Jason: Ah, yes, the stoner teen. I'd wager the entire ad revenue of moviepoopshoot.com (a small wager, I admit) that the screenwriters' description of the stoner teen was: "He's just like Jay from those Kevin Smith movies, only smaller."

Sneezy: They do well with their roles, and the actors make the characters as real as they can. Their relationships grow with some good character development amongst the supporting teens. However, this being a teen slasher film with two killers, they are basically thumbnails who are there to be killed.

Jason: As is often the case, the supporting characters -- in this case the stoner-teen, the girl-with-image-problems, the nerd-who-loves-the-lead, and the (not previously mentioned) unbalanced-guy-who-actually-knows-more-than-everyone-else) -- are appealing enough that we might actually form attachments to them, but only if they were given a little more screen time. Meanwhile the male and female lead characters are so dull that you keep hoping they'll get a machete enema.

Sneezy: One new cop believes that the hocky-mask killer is a copy-cat of some killings at a place called Crystal Lake. When he's rebuffed by the sheriff, he goes off to save the teens on his own. Thus he falls into the role of the one adult who "knows what's going on and can help the kids." He locates said remaining kids, and they all share information about what's really going on, and make a plan. This is the only part of the movie that fails and feels forced to me. The kids and the cop make some wild, yet accurate leaps of logic with knowledge gained from unknown sources to deduce not only what's going on, but what to do.

I know, I know, I buy Freddy and Jason, but this gets me. It does so because until now the film has been internally consistent, with the characters gaining all their knowledge and hints on screen in logical ways. But it's a minor quibble by this point.

What follows are two battle royals where these unkillable titans face off with the teens caught in the middle. They're long, messy and violent with lots and lots of spraying blood and body parts being hacked and mutilated. Small lakes of blood pool from both monsters and their victims, which is just like back in the day.

Jason: I enjoyed the fights, but it was hard to really really get into them. Here's why. It felt over-hyped and a little staged, like a wrestling match in a steel cage complete with convenient weapons like metal folding chairs and two-by-fours. The director, Ronny Yu, is a veteran of Hong Kong action movies, and you can tell. One particular location, a construction site, is such a blatant and obvious action set piece, with Freddy using every random object at his disposal like an overly-microwaved Jackie Chan.

Sneezy: Freddy Vs. Jason is a very satisfying film if you are a fan of either the characters or the genre. Thrills, scares, jumps, naughty teens, death, dismemberment and excitement in the old school 80s horror fashion. The characters are true to how they've been done in the past. Jason is the master of violent mayhem and Freddy terrorizes his victims with their own hang-ups and black humor. Now the only question remaining is, "Will we get a sequel?"

Jason: As the credits began to roll, my girlfriend looked at me and said, "That was cute." Her tone was pretty much the same as if we'd just finished watching a romantic comedy with Meg Ryan or John Cusack. "That was cute." This is what we've come to, folks. I got a kick out of Freddy Vs. Jason, and I didn't go in with any illusions that it would be anything more than nostalgic fun. Still. "That was cute."

I think that we probably will get a sequel. The tremendous box office performance of Freddy Vs. Jason has proven that people still love the characters. The question is, what will movie-makers do with this new-found cache? Yeah, we could get some more lowbrow fun with Jason vs. Predator, Freddy vs. Pinhead, and Mom of Jason Vs. Bride of Chucky. It could even go so far as (and I'm sure I'm the bazillionth movie reviewer to riff on the Abbott and Costello Vs. Frankenstein parallels) Charlie's Angels vs. Jason or Austin Powers in You Only Live Twice, But Freddy Lives Forever.

But, what if, instead of that, they used the profits from this film to attract some genuine talent to handle their star players? What if Sam Raimi directed Jason Vs. Ash and His Boomstick. Or, even better, go for true horror with Krueger. Get Stephen King to script the next Nightmare movie. Imagine what David Cronenberg (eXistenZ) or Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children or the Pang brothers (The Eye) could do with the dream sequences.

You wouldn't sleep for weeks.

Jason's Rating: 6 out of 10
Sneezy the Squid's Rating: 7 out of 10


Tune in next time, when you'll see RevSF Film/DVD Editor Jason Myers and Contributing Mollusk Sneezy the Squid Vs. Roger Ebert and Undead Siskel.

 
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