Thursday, February 12, 2009

Freddy vs. Jason

There are decisions we have to make in life that define us. Which school to attend, who to marry, when to start a family…important things that have long-lasting consequences. Here we have one of those decisions: Should the next movie watched and reviewed in the Friday the 13th series be the next one filmed (Jason X) or the next in the chronological storyline (Freddy Vs. Jason)? I decided to go with Freddy Vs. Jason, for reasons which will be revealed in the Jason X review.

Before getting to the movie itself, a few words about movie reviewers themselves. When this movie came out, it received a lot of negative reviews from writers who claimed it was just a gorefest, nothing more than two movie monsters fighting. The name of the movie is Freddy Vs. Jason, what the hell did you expect? To watch this movie and then complain it wasn’t as deep as Proust is ignorant. Movies should be reviewed for what they are supposed to be, not what you think all movies should be. Legendary film reviewer Pauline Kael (probably the most famous in her field of all time) freely admitted she hated science fiction and horror movies, yet she kept on reviewing them. If you know you hate something in advance, don’t go see it, and a title like Freddy Vs. Jason should be a good tip-off of what to expect.

As those of you who have been following along know, at the end of the events in Jason Goes To Hell, Jason was in hell. Again, notice the title. Also temporarily out of the picture is New Line’s own slasher, Freddy Krueger. Freddy’s still around, but he derives his power from being feared by children, and all of the kids in Springwood who remember him have been institutionalized and drugged to prevent dreaming. His solution? Resurrect Jason, who will instill fear in the minds of Springwood kids, some of which will be blamed on Freddy, and he will be powerful again.

So Freddy pulls Jason up out of hell and sends him to Springwood, where he begins to slice and dice the locals, most noticeably at a cornfield rave. The plan works, and soon Freddy is back to full strength. His new problem is Jason is not inclined to step aside and leave the slaughterin’ to Freddy. To most people, there would be plenty of potential teen victims to go around, but Freddy doesn’t want to share, and soon Freddy is in Jason’s dream world, kicking his ass. He does this by exploiting Jason’s fear of water, a fact that overlooks the little detail that Jason has spent half his frickin’ time in the previous nine films underwater without being bothered by it. I suppose they have to give Jason a weakness, since Freddy’s whole act is based around exploiting people’s fears.

A few survivors of the ongoing massacre realize what’s going on, and come up with a plan: They’ll transport a drugged Jason back to his home base of Crystal Lake, pull Freddy out of the dream world into reality the same way it’s done in every other Freddy movie, wake Jason up, and let them battle to the death. This more or less works. If you want to know who wins, watch the movie.

A few things of note:

New Line wanted to make this movie as far back as 1987, but had problems, first with securing the rights from Paramount, then with coming up with a workable script.

Because director Ronnie Yu wanted a taller actor to play Jason, or because they thought Kane Hodder would be in some way difficult (take your pick, both stories have been published), Freddy vs. Jason uses Ken Kirzinger as Jason instead of Hodder. Kirzinger does a good job, but count me as one of those who thinks Kane Hodder is the definitive Jason Voorhees. Hodder’s great comment on the casting change: “I guess they wanted Jason to be a skinny bitch this time.”

When you watch a series like this in sequence, you notice an interesting trend in casting. In the early slasher films in the 80s, the cast was generally unknown actors who would compile few credits after their appearance in a genre film. Part of the fun of watching them was catching a to-be-famous actor like Kevin Bacon or Johnny Depp paying the bills in one of these movies. It was considered bad for your career to make a slasher film in 1980, so name stars tended to avoid them. In the post-Scream era, these movies have a certain “cool” cachet, and attract a cast of more promising young actors. This one includes Monica Keena and the criminally underutilized Katherine Isabelle (the Ginger Snaps series). Isabelle is an actress who deserves to be seen in many roles, better than the one she got here.

I thought the biggest problem in integrating the two series was the marked difference in tone between the two. The Friday the 13th series is mostly a grim slasher series, while the Nightmare on Elm Street series was just as gory but with almost cartoonish violence. I think they mostly succeeded here, but it seems that people who are more Friday the 13th fans like myself feel the movie is too much of a Nightmare on Elm Street movie, while fans of the other series feel exactly the opposite. I dunno, maybe that means it worked.

Tomorrow: The big finish!


Craig Clarke said...

They probably didn't like Alien vs. Predator, either.

KentAllard said...

Not even The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy!