Monday, October 31, 2011

Freddy Vs. Jason

What better way to finish my month of horror reviews than with the culmination of the two biggest horror franchises ever?  I have already reviewed most of the Nightmare on Elm Street films and the majority of the Friday the 13th franchise, so it should come as no surprise that I was intently looking forward to Freddy vs. Jason when it initially hit theaters.  Neither series had been genuinely scary in over a decade at that point, and it had been even longer since either series had made a quality film, but I went in with ridiculously high expectations.  After all, it's called "Freddy vs. Jason;" how can you screw that up?!?  The plot is in the title, ferchrissake!!!  Then again, Alien vs. Predator sucked, so it is possible to fumble a touchdown.

Freddy vs. Jason takes place after Jason Goes to Hell and Freddy's Dead.  In case you were wondering, the current status quo for both characters is deceased; of course, that's normal for both characters, so it should be no surprise that they can come back.  Now, if you are unfamiliar with either Jason Voorhies and/or Freddy Kreuger, I'll give you a quick series catch-up.  Jason, a mass murderer in the Crystal Lake area, has been dead and buried several times over the years; for his last five films, he has been a nigh-unstoppable murder-zombie with skin of varying Naugahyde-type textures.  He kills in a variety of ways, but he loves stabbing best of all, especially when he can do it to naughty teens.  Freddy was a child murderer in life, but he became a dream demon in death; he loves to kill teens --- it's never explained why he graduated from children to teens --- but needs them to fear him to gain access to their dreams, where he makes his attacks.  Clearly, these two could probably bond over coffee and murder tales, but the title requires a fight, so let's find out how they get there.
Stabbing a dude with his own weapon is always awesome

This opus begins in Hell, which apparently isn't as full of flames as you may have been led to believe.  Freddy Kreuger (Robert Englund) gives the camera a quick recap of his history, concluding that the parents on Elm Street (his old haunt) have found a way to keep him forgotten in the minds of their children.  That means Freddy is stuck in Hell, which gives Freddy a frowny face emoticon.  I'm not exactly sure why he's upset, since he's a freaking dream demon, but maybe he just wants some more sweet, sweet dream murdering.  How will Freddy remind the kids of his evil-osity?  Obviously, he won't infest the dreams of the dozens of adults who remember him.  That just wouldn't make any sense.  Instead, he tracks down the soul of Jason Voorhies in Hell and (disguised as his Momma Voorhies) convinces Jason to return to life and do some killing on Elm Street.  Interestingly, Jason's Hell consists of him murdering promiscuous teens.  Is this film taking the daring stance that murderers go to Hell and get their own twisted eternal reward?  Of course not; the director and screenwriters are just hacks.  Another interesting point: apparently, Elm Street and Crystal Lake must be located fairly close together, because Jason seems to walk there rather quickly.  Unless, of course, he hitchhiked in-between scenes; if so, I wish that was included in the extras, because it could have been fabulous.  Anyways, Jason starts stalking Elm Street, finds some naughty kids, and starts a-stabbin'.  The local cops try to keep mum on their suspicions, but word gets to the kids that some dude named Freddy is the suspect.  And so it begins...!
"Heeeeere's Freddy!"

As always, it appears that a small group of teens is the center for all the trouble.  As always, the "teens" are actually twentysomethings, but that's an issue for another day.  This time around, it happens to be Lori (Monica Keena) and her friends, Kia (Kelly Rowland) and Big Dumb Tits (Katharine Isabelle).
What the Hell is going on behind her?
Why them?  It's hard to tell.  If Freddy was in the driving wheel, I would argue that he picked them because Lori lives in the same house that his foes from the first three Nightmares lived in.  However, it was Jason doing the choosing this time; I think it was because the house was filled with naughty teens, drinking the booze and having the premarital sex.  Being a stealthy predator, Jason sneaks into the house, gets upstairs unnoticed, waits for Big Dumb Tits to take a post-sex shower, and then neatly stabs and folds her boyfriend.
Impressive.  That's not a hide-a-way bed, either.
This is just the first of many murders (at least fourteen confirmed kills, with another half-dozen presumed dead at the cornfield rave).  Freddy enjoys his resurgent reputation at first, but Jason doesn't stop killing.  What's the problem with that?  Good question, one that is not directly answered by the filmmakers.  It appears that Jason killed someone Freddy was toying with, which set Freddy off to kill Jason, so he could have the kids to himself.  Is that convoluted enough for you?  It gets better.  Lori and her friends figure out exactly what is going on in this movie in a scene that would make Velma from Scooby-Doo proud.
"It makes sense, in a way" - actual hilarious quote from this scene
So what does the Scooby gang do next?  They have an unstoppable zombie-ish killer on their hands, and if they sleep, a dream demon will get them.  The plan is to somehow (with the help of the anti-dream drug Hypnocil) stay awake long enough to get Jason to fight Freddy, and not get killed in the process.  In classic slasher movie style, that turns out to be a tall order for most of the cast.

How's the acting?  **pause for several minutes of uncontrollable laughter**  It's "special."  Robert Englund is Freddy once again, and he is obviously loving every minute on camera.  He hams it up quite a bit --- this is definitely Vegas Freddy at his best --- but is still the main attraction, as far as acting goes.  Jason was played in this film by stuntman Ken Kirzinger, and he stabbed things in a satisfactory manner.  The rest of the cast is pretty wretched.  Monica Keena, while pretty and busty, has trouble conveying sadness, anger, fright, frustration, and happiness; she does do a pretty good Grover impression during the last few minutes of the film.
"Pooping face!"
Kelly Rowland made her film debut here, and it's full of one-liner put-downs that wouldn't intimidate fourth graders.
Actual line: "Got yer nose!"
I did love her death scene, though.  Katharine Isabelle is also pretty and busty (although that's a body double in the shower), but her character is really goddamned stupid.  Jason Ritter, while whiny, is probably the best supporting actor in the cast.  Chris Marquette plays the resident nerd character, like he always does in movies.  Lochlyn Munroe plays the police officer who, against all reason, opts to team up with a group of idiot teenagers.  Tom Butler is suitably untrustworthy as Lori's father/the anti-Freddy plot mastermind.   Also, the dead guy in the bathtub is Zack Ward, who was the yellow-eyed bastard bully, Scott Farkus, in A Christmas Story.

How's the direction?  Well, Ronny Yu had success revitalizing the Child's Play series, so it makes sense that he was hired to make Freddy vs. Jason.  Yu is a terrible director, but he knows how to make bad movies enjoyable.  Freddy vs. Jason, while not campy or terribly self-aware, is not too serious.  Instead, it is a fun slasher romp that does its best to give the audience what it wants, the stuff that was promised by the title.  Yu's talents are not of the technical variety, though.  There is a lot of bad editing and Yu clearly doesn't have a solid grasp on how to use POV camera shots, much less the imagination and talent to provide subtle hints when characters have started to dream.  If you pretend that Yu is a master director, the film is even more entertaining.  I was a Teacher's Aide for a film studies class that I had never taken, so I was asked to write a paper on a scene of my choice, explaining the meaning through the cinematography and direction.  It was the funniest thing I have ever written.
I seriously wrote a 13-page paper on this three-minute scene
For instance, in the above scene, Jason beheaded a guy while his son slept next to him on the bench.  Jason must have then cleaned up the mess, carefully balanced the severed head back on the neck (so it could fall into the son's hands), and snuck away to wait for junior to wake from dream land.  Jason is quite the prankster, especially if you pretend that Ronny Yu meant for the scene to be interpreted like that.

Since this is a slasher flick, I should probably mention the special effects.  The practical effects are all pretty solid.  Limbs are lost, arterial blood mist covers many a scene, and the kills are almost all pretty awesome-looking.  Since this is a Nightmare on Elm Street movie, that also means that there are many opportunities to use effects to get surreal and creepy.  Some of these are handled very well, like the faces on the missing child posters or the eyeless child.
When the filmmakers get too reliant on CGI, though, things take a quick turn toward the ridiculous.  Kia's nose removal looks pretty bad, but the "winner" in this area has to be the hookah-smoking Freddy-caterpillar.  It looks like a cartoon, which is bad enough, but it is intended to intrigue a stoner enough to follow it into another room --- and it works!  Stupid writing + stupid CGI creature = worst scene in the movie.
Thank goodness it has facial burns.  I wouldn't know it was evil without them.

So the plot is incomprehensible, the acting sucks, and the directing is inept.  How good is Freddy vs Jason?  It is, quite possibly, the most perfect movie ever made.In his book, Mike Nelson's Movie Megacheese, the co-creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000 argues that Road House is the best film of all time, because it knew exactly what it was.  Similarly, Freddy vs. Jason has no misconceptions; this is a stupid slasher movie designed to entertain through a collection of on-screen murders that are stitched together with a flimsy excuse for a plot.
Bottom left: my personal favorite "death face" in the movie
No one will ever debate that fact.  As such, the ridiculous ease with which the clueless teens manage to decipher Freddy's evil plan is absolutely perfect; it would have taken an imaginative screenwriter six months to connect the dots of this bullshit plot.  Does the audience want to see the characters struggle to figure out the plot, which would draw attention to its ludicrousness?  Of course not!  We want to see Freddy fighting Jason, dammit!

The plot point that I have the most fun with is definitely Lori's comment: "Freddy died by fire and Jason died by water.  How can we use that?"  The quick answer should be "Um, you can't," but the film likes the idea and decides that Jason is afraid of water --- even though he spends a hell of a lot of time in Camp Crystal Lake --- and Freddy is afraid of fire apparently left unaffected by whatever killed him.
So afraid of water that it makes him kill?
How stupid is that concept?  I get it, I get it, they need something for Jason to fear to let Freddy into his dreams, but...water?  Really?  I would have gone with mommy dearest.
Shouldn't this protect Jason from Freddy, then?

On the other hand, this movie gets a lot of things legitimately right.  I absolutely love Robert Englund's facial expressions when he realizes that he has been brought into the real world and is going to fight Jason.  That mix of confusion and fear was perfect.  I also liked that Freddy combats Jason with his cleverness, which is well within his normal character range.  I'm okay with Freddy taking advantage of his smaller size and speed against the lumbering giant that is Jason, but he was almost ninja-like in this movie.  It makes sense, even if it isn't based on his established character at all.  Being a Jason fan, I was also pleased that he had nineteen kills to Freddy's one in this movie.  

Of course, you can argue that Freddy and Jason have no real reason to fight.  If Jason keeps killing, it's not going to prevent people from talking about Freddy, right?  Quiet, you.  The excuse for this premise is necessarily stupid, but that was never in question.  Freddy vs. Jason works so well because it lives up to its premise without sweating the details.  I thought this was a lot of fun the first time I saw it, but in the last thirty or forty times I have viewed it, I have noticed more and more "idiosyncrasies" in the plot.  That might devalue it for some --- and I totally understand that --- but it just adds to the charm for me.  I can't possibly be objective when reviewing this piece of art, but I will concede that it is a piece of Lefty Gold.  Does it deserve the love I give it?  Absolutely not, but love isn't always rational.

I came very close to not watching this movie in time for my month of horror reviews.  I consolidated my DVD collection into binders a few years ago, and when I turned to the "F" section, I had an empty spot where Freddy vs. Jason should have been.  Who would I have lent it to?  Who wouldn't have returned it?  Who needs to die?!?  Luckily, I remembered that I got my FvJ copy as part of my four-disc Nightmare on Elm Street collection, so it was on the flip side of New Nightmare.  That wasn't very interesting, but I shared anyway.  Speaking of sharing, here's a list of ridiculously stupid moments that I love in Freddy vs. Jason:
  • Teens on Elm Street have absolutely no problem scoring alcohol below the legal drinking age
  • Big Dumb Tits, after a few drinks, is going to drive to the liquor store for more beer, claiming she is "totally below the limit."  Except that every state has some sort of Zero Tolerance law for underage kids drinking and driving.
  • Big Dumb Tits has sex with the bedroom door open in Lori's house, with other people in the house.  Afterwards, her boyfriend refuses to cuddle because he "hates being touched after."  So...much...awesome...badness...!!!
  • Lori's friends want her to have sex because she hasn't had a boyfriend since she was fourteen.  Sure, her boyfriend mysteriously disappeared and her mother died in a tragic accident at the time, but the obvious cure for emotional distress is a hot meat injection.  By the way, she can't be older than eighteen in this movie.
  • Sometimes, editing in post-production leaves in special effects without explaining them.  Case in point: the snakes on the bathroom floor.  Deleted scenes show how they got there, but the theatrical version just cuts to the floor and, whoa, snakes.
  • The stabbing and crushing of one body, beheading of another and stab wound-caused death is called a sort of "Columbine thing"?  I don't even know where to start with that one.
  • While trying to research Freddy Kreuger at the library, the records appear heavily edited.  The researching character's response: "January 18th.  That's the day my brother committed suicide [in a Freddy-related way].  Why isn't that in here?"  Probably because it would have been reported in the January 19th paper.
  • The teens motor around in a van with a wizard on the side and black lights in the back.  While that's awesome, the owner of the van has been dead for years and his little brother has been committed to the psych ward.  What kind of parents keep that thing in pristine shape?
  • They have a rave in a cornfield.  They all deserve to die.
  • My favorite raver is Powerman 5000-looking punk rock dude.  Punk rockers love glow sticks.  And rape.  I learn everything from movies.
  • After the rave massacre, the surviving kids agree to go home instead of the police.  Because, you know, one of their friends was murdered and they all need sleep.
  • The legend of Jason Voorhies has him returning from the grave to kill anyone at Camp Crystal Lake.  Except...he was alive when he did that in Part II...and then he visited the camp in Part VI, but didn't kill any'm going to call that legend incorrect.
  • The police officer explains the legend of Jason dying and coming back to kill again.  Obviously, we're dealing with a copycat killer.  The nerd says, "no, I saw what he can do, this is the real thing."  Because he knows his undead murderers.
  • Hypnocil bottles call for a 1000:1 dilution.  That's practical.
  • Freddy asks Jason, "Why won't you die?!?"  Maybe because he's an unkillable zombie murder machine?
  • The nerd charges at Jason, wielding an American flag as a weapon.  Sadly, the "Star-Spangled Banner" is not playing in the background.
  • Apparently, blood loss is supposed to be a problem for Freddy and Jason, based on how much attention it gets from the camera.  Never mind that they are undead killers, back from beyond the grave.
  • You're a stoner, trying to stay awake as you break-and-enter into a secure facility with a police officer.  What do you say?  "Time for a 'J' break"?  Really?  Really?!?
  • "'One, two, Freddy's coming for you.'  You know why they say that?  Because that's when he comes for you." "one, two"?


  1. Jason hitchhiking would have been the best scene in this film.

  2. Here's how I imagine it would happen:
    JV has his thumb out and somebody pulls over. JV happily scurries to the car, leans in and breaks the driver's neck out of habit. JV would then have a V8 moment and try again. I figure that would happen six or seven times, and I like the image of the vehicles (with their dead drivers) all being within view on the same street. Ultimately, some overly horny truck driver would give JV a ride in exchange for sexual favors, leaving JV's self-esteem at a low point that only murder can cure.

    Holy crap, I think I just pitched the next Friday the 13th!

  3. One line in this terrible (but highly entertaining) movie that has always stuck with me is right after the carnage in the corn field. One of the kids in the van states, "Man, that goalie was PISSED!" (or something along those lines). The line cracks me up every time I hear it.

    A friend of mine and I always reminisce at how terrible the acting in this movie was. One scene in particular that I remember was where the main girl hero is in her house and her dad asks her to drink some OJ or something before she goes off to school. She states she doesn't want it. The delivery of those lines was so very, very dreadful.

    It's a great movie, though. It delivered on its promise... we saw Freddy vs. Jason. I didn't want to see some well thought out production. I wanted to see two horror icons go at it in the only way they could, in a movie with a terrible plot and ridiculous acting and I got it.

  4. @Ben: I laugh at the goalie line every time, too.

    The acting is atrocious from everyone but Englund in this movie, and his best work is still pretty hammy. What I like best about the OJ scene (apart from the 16oz size of the glass --- who drinks that much OJ?) is how it fits in with the rest of the plot. You naturally think the dad is up to something nasty, but it turns out that he's just incredibly stupid and insensitive.

    I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it as much as I do, and for many of the same reasons.