This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
Quite how anyone though that the world really, really needed a crossover of the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises I’ll never know, but that’s what we’ve got. To be honest, the series both long since ceased even trying to be scary, relying on gory death and extreme acts of violence getting ever more tongue in cheek as time progresses. Witness last years Jason X, a film that can only be described as tremendously silly, and that was pretty much the only thing going for it. After a slew of frankly despicable teen oriented horror from Darkness Falls, Dreamcatcher and Wrong Turn I had little hope for this to be approaching good.
I was wrong yet again, something I’m getting tired of. Freddy vs. Jason is by no means going to be remembered as any sort of cinematic classic and unless there’s an Oscar for Most Severed Body Parts In A Motion Picture category added to next years awards it’s unlikely to be troubling the Academy but it’s one of the most enjoyable guilty pleasures of the year so far, in a visceral and brainless way.
Anyone wanting a level of intellectual stimulation would be advised to body swerve this, as despite a convoluted plot set-up it soon becomes a kill-fest. It seems that Freddy Krueger is in trouble. The children and vulnerable teenagers of Elm Street have forgotten him. Those ungrateful fickle youngsters. Without their fear of the urban legend / reality tale that is Fred’s dream based slashing sprees, he can’t manifest himself and generally make a nuisance of himself. His solution is obvious, trick Jason Voorhees into taking a trip from Crystal Waters Lake to chop up a few kids. The town will assume it’s Freddy, start fearing him again and he can get back to slashing kids. He overlooks one small detail, but it’s always difficult to predict exactly what supernatural psychos are going to do in a situation.
Jason gets a bit overenthusiastic and doesn’t stop killing when Freddy asks him to. This leads to a bit of a freakshow psycho supernatural nutjob impasse, as they start going after the same victims. Springwood ain’t big enough for the two of them, and it seems the only way to settle their differences is with a bit of a barney. Marquis of Queensbury rules were never designed with Freddy and Jason in mind, so they have to go for a no-holds-barred slobberknocker of a battle raging over Freddy’s dreamscapes and Jason’s more grounded chopping and cleaving skills at Crystal Waters lake.
Having been a fan of neither series I can’t say I was pining for the matchup but it’s certainly novel, and the ultimate realisation of the way horror movies have been moving for some years. We don’t care about the hapless bumbling teenagers and their slow acceptance of the horrors facing them. We don’t care if they survive or not. They uniformly aren’t interesting enough to care about. We do care to see them die. Horribly. With as much blood as possible. That it doesn’t occur in any way that isn’t signposted a mile off has become far less important as time progresses and the human race become gradually desensitised to everything. Perhaps a tragic statement on society but this kind of thing isn’t shocking or scary any more.
Still, it’s certainly a failing that Freddy vs. Jason doesn’t make any attempt to introduce any tension anywhere. As we’ve pointed out time and time again it’s sound design that’s the precursor to freaking out, notably seen in Dark Water, The Ring and Hideo Nakata’s original version. Freddy vs. Jason goes down the cheaper ‘orchestral stabs after silence’ route, which ain’t big or clever. Still, we have to credit Ronny Yu for only attempting it a few times as he works out the cliches in the system early on. Most of the first hour is unfortunately dedicated to afore mentioned baffled teenagers, but it does seem that Mr. Yu recognises that we only need to see enough of their personalities to determine what order to die in. Heavy drinking and pre-marital shagging? That’ll be your card punched.
It’s a shame because this is just a prelude. It’s competently handled by the actors who by horror standards aren’t shockingly awful, although again Oscar can rest easy. As soon as Jason starts spectacularly chopping people up and bending their spines in interesting ways with the help of folding beds it starts following slasher horror type in such a way that irony is guaranteed. In one of his efficient slaughters at a rave in a field of crops, Jason ends up doing his trademark slow plod after a rapidly fleeing teen who defies all laws of motion by not accelerating away from Jason after setting him on fire. This is because Jason is imbued with the power of stereotypes. He eventually resolves the situation by hurling his flaming sword through the rapidly fleeing lad, then slaughtering a few more teens otherwise occupied in their ‘headless chicken’ impersonation for the hell of it.
I can barely remember who our supposed teen heroes are. There’s a nerd, a virgin, her spunky sidekick, two escapees from a mental hospital incarcerated their for their previous experience with Freddy, and a police deputy who figures out the vague conspiracy regarding the mysterious murders popping up all over Springwood. One of them is from Destiny’s Child, apparently. Oh, and some guy who seems to be a young clone of Jason Mewes of Jay & Silent Bob fame. For a horror movie it actually isn’t a bad plot, almost being intriguing, but ultimately just preamble to keep us occupied while Freddy gains enough power to take on Jason.
If you don’t find this sort of comic violence; this ironic bloodletting funny then please avoid this film, you’ll hate it. For a certain demographic who has grown accustomed to completely unrealistic violence and can see what funny side exists in such behaviour it’s an absolute gas. Kudos must go to Ronnie Yu, director of some genuinely good HK films like The Bride With White Hair and The Postman Strikes Back, and also the unexpectedly halfway alright Bride Of Chucky. Every scene from Englund’s overly enthusiastic introduction of the genesis of his character at the outset is treated with the respect it deserves, that is very little. Everything from Freddy playing pinball with a bemused Jason’s body in one of his nightmares to the gang of teens contemplating giving Jason mouth to mouth resuscitation as it becomes clear he may be their only hope for salvation (which is a nice genre-subverting idea) is played out and out for laughs. It succeeds.
I found myself amused throughout, which surprised me. Hardly high concept humour but certainly funnier that the cynical and joyless American Pie: The Wedding, even the sections contain little more than the humans bemoaning their predicament, stuck between a Freddy and a Jason place, contain enough decent lines to keep you interested until Robert Englund shows up again, owning the film. As the only bad guy with a voice he has to pull double duty, and it works well indeed. Some credit has to go to noted stunt co-ordinator and man behind the hockey mask (for this instalment) Ken Kirzinger for not only looking convincingly threatening but also managing to convey some hints of character despite being able to do no more than tilt his head to one side.
Flaws? There are many. It’s marketed as a horror film, but it isn’t scary in the slightest. It won’t stand up to repeat viewing at all. Some of the CGI is very, very ropey, although it’s comic intent goes some way to mitigate that. These realisations in the cold light of day are enough to knock it down from my initial 4 snowflake feeling on leaving the cinema, but it remains a hoot to watch for the first time at least. In all likelihood if you’ve read more than the first paragraph of this review you’ll know that it’s inevitable you’ll be seeing it. If you’ve ever derived any enjoyment from any previous instalment of either series you’ll know that it’s inevitable you’ll be seeing it. The novelty of the concept guarantees it. Evil vs. Evil. Bad guys are always more interesting. All this film is missing is Michael Myers as a special guest referee. (The Halloween Myers, not the Austin Powers star. That would be a little too genre-subverting.)
I laughed like a drain throughout. I felt a little dirty for doing so, mind you. Sometimes being dirty is good for the soul. There’s no artistry to this film, no brains, no beauty, although a whole lot of beast. If you want something funny and clever this week we’d recommend the utterly enjoyable Roger Dodger. If you’ve been itching for a spot of the old ultra violence so sadly denied us by Darkness Falls, Dreamcatcher and Wrong Turn then get thee to this film. It won’t win any new fans for the genre, but damned if it won’t keep existing fans happy.