Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

In a fight, who would win, Spiderman or Batman? Such cross-franchise speculation is best left in the realm of fan fiction and late night nerd debate (with the exception of the occasional video game). It’s likely that the attempt to merge two worlds would fails either in terms of characters, continuity or amount of fan service for each series, leaving the film egregiously one sided. If only that was the biggest problem facing the crossover between the two popular ‘80s horror franchises.

Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) has long been forgotten by the children of Elm Street, but he’s still able to tap into the mind of one sleeper, Jason Voorhees (oddly played by Ken Kirzinger instead of Kane Hodder) of Crystal Lake fame. Freddy sends Jason to spread his name once more (which seems strange given than Jason never says anything). His plan starts working at least until Jason spins out of control and Freddy finds out that Jason has been killing off “his kids.”

As simple as this setup is, the film takes a good forty minutes to get to the point. It’s clear that the two slasher juggernauts are going to have to go at it. It’s not as if this is a big twist given the title of the film. In any film with X vs. Y in the title, one expects that at some point X and Y will end up not liking each other in fight. If anything, it might be a good lead-in to your film to start with a fight between the two as that’s probably what people came to see. There’s a dream sequence that the film easily could have started at, cutting out all the fat that pads the film.

This makes for a tedious and annoying storyline involving the latest gang of a bunch of dumb teens that slowly get picked off as the movie progresses. They certainly aren’t the worst cast of either series, but there’s a clunkyness to their dialogue and interaction that makes most of the scenes that don’t have one of them in peril of getting killed a scene painful to watch. At least it makes the parts where they do die a lot more satisfying.

It’s a bit of a shame too, because the premise could lead to some interesting teens that differ from past series cast. Freddy is an unknown, those last few kids who still had nightmares about him have been quarantined by the adults in order to protect the rest of the kids. This setup creates for a few mildly interesting plot twists that give the story a little more than just a bunch of excuses for killing scenes, but it always feels as if this concept has little bearing on the teens even though that was the entire point of the program. Wouldn’t people have noticed all their friends had gone missing? What would be the dilemma for parents who suddenly discovered their child was having Kruger nightmares?

More egregious an oversight is that these teens are given inexplicable knowledge out of nowhere, blurting out information they couldn’t possibly know, or at least information the audience has no idea that they would know. If all these kids who know about Freddy have been locked away, then how does one character inexplicably know Freddy’s weakness? Even more important, why does she simply blurt it out at the most awkward moment possible?

All this talk of the teens just goes to show that too much of this film is about the regular cast of fodder when what people really come to see is the killer. The film gets into the origins of both Freddy and Jason with some nice flashback sequences. It also allows the film to contrast the two killers, show how they differ from each other and what the implications that has. Some of the implications seem a bit silly, especially the film’s conclusion about Jason.

With this cross of franchises, one might think there would be a clash of worlds, but after The New Blood, The Friday the 13th series opened wide the door of the supernatural. It’s when the dream world of Freddy and the reality of Jason clash that the film is it its most compelling. There’s a fantastic moment where it becomes clear how the two universes are going to relate to one another but then the film proceeds to throw away that potential.

At least the fights between Freddy and Jason are fun. There’s more than one and it’s fun to see these two seemingly invulnerable horror legends duke it out, even if some of the fighting is a bit clumsy. These moments prove far more satisfying than all the killings of random teens in part because at this point the films have just ceased to be all that suspenseful or scary. It’s a shame, because even here when the film is built around these characters, the film can never make them the creepy figures they once were.

It’s this ultimate failing that brings the film down. Friday the 13th started suffering this problem around A New Beginning while one could argue that A Nightmare on Elm Street was far too self-aware to begin with to every be all that frightening. These are the men of nightmares, the figures that lurk in the dark and in the back of children’s minds. The fact that they aren’t scary any more is proof that both series have simply lost their way at this point, leaving a last ditch pandering to fans to rake in whatever cash can be captured.

© 2010 James Blake Ewing