Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)

Cynthia Fuchs

Yet another generation of Elm Street teens arrive at the grim realization that adults are useless when it comes to serial killers, or anything else.

Freddy Vs. Jason

Director: Ronny Yu
Cast: Robert Englund, Monica Keena, Kelly Rowland, Jason Ritter, James Callahan, Ken Kirzinger, Lochlyn Munro, Joshua Mihal
MPAA rating: R
Studio: New Line Cinema
First date: 2003
US Release Date: 2003-08-15

Over 10 years in the conceiving, the showdown between New Line's most persistent franchise players proffers much slashing of skin and spurting of blood. In the plainly titled Freddy vs. Jason, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) doesn't even begin to let on that maybe he's met his undeadish match in Jason Voorhees (played this time out by Ken Kirzinger). Indeed, Freddy sets up the challenge, sort of on purpose. Feeling "forgotten" since his last outing (in New Nightmare) nine years ago, he schemes to rekindle fear in the 'hood, by digging Jason out of his deathly slumber and sending him round to carve up some naïve teens.

A notorious egomaniac ("You are all my children now!"), Freddy's annoyed that the current Elm Street residents are blissfully ignorant of his rep. This is because the authorities (cops and doctors) grabbed up any young people whose dreams he has visited and committed them to a psych ward many miles out of town. Here the kiddies play checkers and loll about in hospital pajamas, downing dream-suppressing drugs and trying not to rile the guards. That is, until young Will (Jason Ritter, son of John) glimpses a tv news report (on station KRGR -- cute) of a murder at the home of his first love, Lori (awesomely bosomed Monica Keena), that is, Freddy's old place.

Though Will hasn't seen her since they were both 14, as he's been institutionalized for four years, he's determined to warn her; so he and his buddy Mark (Brendan Fletcher) break out (much like Michael Myers of that other slasher franchise, not owned by New Line) and roar into town. When they start issuing dire warnings ("Coffee: make friends with it!"), Lori and her best friends -- Kia (Kelly Rowland) and Gibb (Katharine Isabelle, last seen gnawing on her dates in Ginger Snaps) -- are suitably horrified, having been at the crime scene the night before, but most everyone else thinks these boys are nuts, having bought the party line laid down by the intransigent sheriff (Garry Chalk) and Lori's snivelly ad (Tom Butler), that what you don't understand must be repressed.

And so, these poor kids do like Nancy's mom (the unforgettable Ronee Blakeley) used to -- they self-medicate. So that you don't miss this detail, they go so far as to organize a rave in the local cornfield, complete with glow sticks and pickup trucks and homemade booze. High and promiscuous: clearly, they must be punished. Jason arrives with his sword, hacking through the corn stalks, and soon enough, yet another generation of Elm Street teens arrive at the grim realization that adults are useless when it comes to serial killers, or anything else.

Initially, Freddy's plan swims along: Jason doggedly marauds and Freddy feels increasingly "stronger," more and more able to get inside kids' dreams and torture them with the sorts of personalized horrors that are his trademark. (To be fair, Jason has an inventive moment of his own, when one of the ravers douses him with alcohol and sets him and his weapon ablaze, such that he cuts through torsos and heads with fiery aplomb.) The tack Freddy takes with Lori is especially foul, as, in between snaking his tongue at her, he makes clear his special interest in abusing little girls.

Their dreary lives at stake, the kids catch on to these machinations quickly; they then proceed to explain it to each other about four times. (On seeing Jason act out at the rave, a stoner named Freeman [Kyle Labine, apparently modeling his performance on Silent Bob's Jay] discerns, "Dude! That goalie was pissed about something!") Organizing themselves into a core, in-the-know crew that includes one semi-adult, the ineffectual Deputy Stubbs (Lochlyn Munro), they endeavor to fight back. Little do they know that their puny lives are mere bagatelle compared to the King Kong vs. Godzilla-like face-off, which is set in motion when Jason decides (as much as the Cro-Magnon-ish Jason decides anything) to keep killing kids on control-freaky Freddy's turf.

Their extended smackdown begins inside Jason's own nightmare (that is, Freddy's domain) and climaxes several times at Camp Crystal Lake (Jason's). The transition is helped along by the kids, who reinvent the wheel that Nancy (the much-missed Heather Langenkamp) figured out back in 1984, that you can bring Freddy out of your nightmare into the physical world, where rules of gravity and blood loss apply to him. The plan is surely convoluted: suffice it to say that Lori wrestles valiantly with Freddy while Kia is left to give mouth-to-mouth to a drowning-in-his-dream Jason. Here, it's actually hard to say which is worse: facing Freddy's acrobatic tongue or Jason's incredibly yucky mouth.

The battle lurches from giddy to lumbering to literal (if digitized) pinball. Director Ronny Yu's staging is wild and wireworky, with limbs flying and bodies smashing into various basement, hospital, and construction site props, gooshy penetrations and even a massive action-movie-style explosion. Amid such spectacular mayhem, the generic badinage is rather at a disadvantage. Yet Kia manages to dunk a few, likening one nerdy boy to "one of those fuckin' froo-froo dogs that keeps humpin' your leg" and telling off Freddy: "What kind of faggot runs around in a Christmas sweater?"

What kind indeed? The predominant metaphor in Freddy vs. Jason is, not so imaginatively, disease. Namely, Freddy is one and the adults are quarantining kids instead of seeking a cure, treatment, or inoculation. In this, the film is like its predecessors, assuming the teens' point of view -- wary, fearful, rowdy, and stubbornly hopeful in the face of all contrary circumstances.






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