Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Pervasive Strong Horror Violence/Gore, Gruesome Images, Sexuality, Drug Use and Language
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Written by: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Chris Marquette, Brendan Fletcher, Katharine Isabelle, Lochlyn Munro, Kyle Labine
In the world of cinematic villains, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees have much in common. Both were born out of the 80’s slasher craze brought on by John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN. Both have killed many hapless teenagers in creative ways. Both were eventually bought by New Line Cinema. Respectively, both also jumped the shark multiple times (e.g. Jason went to Space and New York, while Freddy got a 3D makeover). At the conclusion of the absolutely terrible JASON GOES TO HELL, there was a hint that a possible crossover between both characters. Fans would have to wait for nearly a decade for that to happen though. Writers and directors were changed, many possible scripts were floating out there, but the real question remained: Why did the devoted fans of either series think this showdown would be remotely good or even serviceable? The bad films outweigh the good in both the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET franchise and the FRIDAY THE 13TH name. It’s sincerely surprising that this fight between two slasher killers turned out to be this well-done!
We pick up years after the events of both Freddy’s last nightmare and Jason’s last murder frenzy. The adults on Elm Street have found a way to suppress the memories of Freddy Krueger and an entire generation of their children have no idea who he even is. Without their fear keeping his legend alive, Freddy finds himself rotting in Hell with no way to kill. This is when the scarred maniac comes across the dreams of another undead psycho named Jason Voorhees. Freddy tricks Jason into traveling to Elm Street in order to off some young people and re-instill fear into a new generation of potential victims. The body count rises and soon Freddy finds himself strong enough to kill again, but there’s one tiny issue. Jason keeps stealing all of Freddy’s possible kills and this pisses Krueger off beyond reason. Meanwhile, the newly endangered group of Elm Street teens try to figure out a way to pit both killers against each other, before they wind up dead.
I am not doing justice to just how clever the whole story is. This is a dead teenager movie that does all it can to be different from the pack of generic slashers, while also delivering the gory goods. Though the real stars of the movie are not the cast of young faces, but the two horror titans on display. This doesn’t mean that the potential victims aren’t fleshed out a little bit. The script actually has a coherent plot that plays by the rules of both series and melds them together seamlessly. Robert Englund also delivers his final portrayal of Freddy Krueger and gives the character a fine swan song.
In a movie featuring two iconic psychopaths, one would expect a whole lot of violence and FREDDY VS. JASON delivers in spades in that department. I saw a total body count of 21 dead teenagers (both main cast and poor saps in the background), while others are killed off-screen as well. In all honesty, the movie takes a good amount of time before getting to the actual showdown between Freddy and Jason. In retrospect though, a 98 minute movie that is filled with 20 minutes of set-up and over an hour of fights would quickly get very dull. The script for FREDDY VS. JASON is the best thing about the film, because it respects the mythologies of both characters while also creating an entire new story that closes off both series nicely.
While Jason hulks around crushing, slicing, and even electrocuting over a dozen victims, Freddy haunts the dream realm. The nightmare sequences in this movie are the only actual scares. The set design in these moments is top-notch and there are some pretty disturbing images on display. Simply put, these are some of the best nightmare sequences in all of Freddy’s eight (nine, if count the remake) films. The kills on display here are also some of the best in Jason’s twelve movie career as a slasher. From the Elm Street to Camp Crystal Lake to the dream world and the real world, FREDDY VS. JASON is quite clever and well-constructed for a slasher flick.
That’s not to say that it isn’t without some typical flaws that come with this territory though. Some of the characters are merely stereotypes (e.g. the stoner who looks like Jay and the abusive boyfriend/abused girlfriend). There are some bad one-liners courtesy of Freddy. A fight between him and Jason in his realm also gets a little too goofy at first, but slowly finds some creepy ground later on. The CGI here is also spotty in some places. I understand the movie is now a decade old, but there were better effects than this available at the time.
If I were to sum up FREDDY VS. JASON in two words, they would be: Cool and Fun. This is a pretty clever movie for a slasher and it features two of the most iconic boogeymen to ever grace the screen. The kills are creative. There is real entertainment to be had here. It’s also a solid way of closing off the original run of both franchises. FREDDY VS. JASON isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s not trying to be. This is a film made by fans for fans and you can tell while watching it. In the end, it’s far better than many of Freddy’s or Jason’s movies. Check it out, if you’re a fan of this kind of thing.