MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Horror/ Stars: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Chris Marquette, Lochlyn Munro, Katharine Isabelle, Brendan Fletcher, Zack Ward, Kyle Labine, Chris Gauthier, David Kopp, Jesse Hutch, Tom Butler, Garry Chalk, Paula Shaw, Spencer Stump/ Runtime: 98 minutes
Here you go Horror cinema aficionados: after waiting a REALLY long time for it audiences finally got in the long gone year of 2003 a serial killer smackdown/crossover event masquerading as a movie called Freddy vs. Jason. Indeed here was the slice of cinematic pie that was to be the movie that was meant to bring us into a new age in the world of Horror cinema where our favorite butchers didn’t just go up against their usual batch of young dumb victims, but also against each other in a brutal, no-holds barred fight to the death….or at least until a sequel occurred which then (through the magic of narrative convenience) brought the killers back to go back at it again for another 18 holes of blood, gore, visceral brutality, and just enjoyably cheesy Horror shenanigans. Yet despite accruing for long time producer of the Elm Street series, among other films you may or may not have heard of, New Line Cinema a fairly good box office (for this genre anyway) consisting of at least 82 million domestically alone, it may surprise you to learn that the concept of dueling horror icons has still only been limited to just this one movie. Indeed instead of seeing films that would showcase, among other dignitaries, Ash, Pinhead, Pumpkinhead, Chucky, or heck even Michael Myers, these movies have still not even been thought on let alone a follow-up to this film that could have featured these 2 going at it once more or managed to raise the stakes by bringing in another iconic horror hero or butcher to kick things up a notch. In all fairness though that’s the land of movie magic for you dear reader. Having said that though, it still is quite sickening to see movies like Epic Movie, Disaster Movie, and Meet the Spartans (as gloriously stupid and cheesy as those were) get made. Indeed is this the next Oscar contender? Not even close and even I would laugh such an idea off. Is it what fans of the horror genre had all been wanting though? Surprisingly in many ways you could definitely say that. Indeed Freddy vs. Jason might not be the say-all, end-all it could have been, but this also could have been much, much worse and as such I have to give it praise for definitely not being that.
The plot is as follows: Freddy vs. Jason opens as we witness Freddy Krueger aka the living personification of the killer dream and the material of which legends are truly made of as he mopes and sulks around Hell. We soon learn that the reason for his sulking is due to being silenced courtesy of the teens on Elm Street having forgotten all about him and his deadly 8 film rampage which presents a problem. This is because unless he is a part of the collective conscious in Springwood he is sapped of his power to enter the dreams of the teen demographic and viciously murder them in both their sleep and in the real world (oh the horror). Thus finding himself in desperate need of help to get back to his old tricks, we soon learn that Freddy has been looking all over Hell for a killer that could help put him back on the map again with the teens of Elm Street. It isn’t long then before we see him (due more to location of franchise rights than anything) bringing back to life one Jason Voorhees, the infamous horny camp counselor butcher of Camp Crystal Lake to aid him in a little slaughter and terror session on Elm Street. Astonishingly, we soon see Freddy’s plan actually works to some degree as Jason’s murderous ways have got the locals, including a girl by the name of Lori, starting to remember ol’ Freddy once more. However once Freddy has managed to recover his power and is ready to get back to work, he soon discovers a slight hiccup in his plan has emerged. Namely that Jason really has no desire to stop killing those who Freddy would like to kill. Royally infuriated to say the least, Freddy decides to turn his focus for a little bit to Jason and in doing so establishes an iconic showdown for the ages as two of horror cinema’s most iconic villains decide to engage in the ultimate smackdown and while no chairs will not be used everything else suffice it to say is fair game…
Now as is seen so often in films in this distinct genre of movie magic, and especially in the other films in both the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th films respectively, neither the overall narrative nor the “human characters” really at the end of the day matter as much as they would like to. Indeed in a film like this, it is the monsters like Freddy and Jason who are what the audience comes to see and rightfully so; I mean each of this dynamic duo manages to come to this cinematic smackdown with a distinct style and fighting technique that makes them both brutal and visceral yet also is able to show flaws in their near indestructability especially when they have to contend with each other on arenas that are alien to them. Along with that, I guess it should be said that also because of this prioritization, it doesn’t really matter that the performances, aside from Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger, is not the best in the world especially from the so-called “teens” that are the de-facto leads of the film. Indeed clichéd to the hilt, and just unintentionally hilarious in the best ways possible, the performances in this slice of cinematic pie really do feel like a mix of every single stereotype from the past 3 decades of Horror cinema. Be that as it may be, at least they do decent enough to propel the narrative forward, make it a no-brainer for us to applaud when they are bumped off, and keep us at least mildly engaged until we get to the smackdown between the silent behemoth that is Jason and the quick witted Freddy. To that end, it should be noted that Englund, as to be expected, manages to bring an unusual charm to the role which makes Freddy quite distinct among horror villains. I say this because typically the horror villains that are the size of an adult like Pinhead, Michael, Leatherface, and (obviously) Jason are stoic and quiet preferring to let their butchery speak for them. On the other hand, the quippy ones seem to be more juvenile-sized like Leprechaun and Chucky. Yet this is something that works to the film’s advantage since the movie doesn’t exactly require its dueling divas to be of the same ilk…..though come to think Freddy vs. Ash would actually be quite entertaining…..
Dueling film or not, I think it can be said the vast majority of slasher films are only as good as the butchery that goes in them. Thankfully I can say that in that respect, this movie does give audiences what they want in that regard. Indeed even though this movie does have terrifically bloody moments that involve our dynamic slasher duo dealing with the expendable teens at the heart of the story, the movie really comes into its own in the final act as we see these two icons finally face off in one of the most fan-pleasing ends to a horror film ever. Indeed there really is no love lost between this duo and the filmmaking team has done wonders in breaking these two into as many pieces as they can. Suffice it to say then that it is as visceral and novel as anything either franchise has given us and even though the movie’s first two acts operate more as a showcase for what these two can do, the final act is what makes this worthwhile to lovers of the horror genre. Finally it should also be noted that this film does do a decent job at finding a way to bring these two titans together. That is because despite being less about narrative and more about gore, there still does need to exist a degree of believability in why these two are being brought together; I mean them meeting in the horror film section at their local video store just wasn’t going to be enough. To that end, this film’s narrative is one that I feel fans of both series will be able to go along with and, despite any issues with the finer aspects of the narrative, it does manage to function just enough so that we can get to a smackdown that is easily one of the most fan pleasing moments I have seen in a Horror film.
All in all I guess it should not be any particular surprise for you to learn at the end of this review that Freddy vs. Jason is able to give audiences that choose to engage in it just what they were wanting it to be. By that, of course I mean that this is a bloody hybrid of a MMA Cage Match and a street brawl between a pair of the most iconic characters in all of Horror cinema that is both darkly comic and plenty gory in equal measure. Decently made from a technical perspective, and actually engaging to watch, Freddy vs. Jason is actually one of the more decent horror offerings of the 2000s aside from the necessary yet not always engaging filler material that is needed for the movie to ultimately make its way to what you paid to see. Indeed it might be in quite a few ways what you expect from the horror genre, but also a fairly bloody (in a good way) time to be had, this movie might not be entirely what you wanted it to be, but it is also infinitely better than it quite easily could have turned out to be. On a scale of 1-5 I give Freddy vs. Jason “03” a solid 3 out of 5.