Freddy vs. Jason

Now we come not to the end of this Ronny Yu series, or to its peak, but at least to a watershed moment. If you read this whole series, or at least the BRIDE OF CHUCKY review, you don’t need to ask the question “how the hell does the guy who made THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR end up making FREDDY VS. JASON?”

But at the risk of reptitition, let’s run through it again real quick. For starters, Yu had been making horror movies for 20 years (THE TRAIL, THE OCCUPANT, MUMMY DEAREST, BLESS THIS HOUSE), so that part wasn’t out of the blue. Then in the ‘90s two things happened: the new wave of Hong Kong cinema became popular around the world, and many Hong Kong filmmakers began to worry about what would happen to artistic freedom once colonial rule ended in 1997. That combination of circumstances led filmmakers like John Woo, Ringo Lam and Tsui Hark, as well actors like Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung, to start finding opportunities in Hollywood.

Yu was in a unique position to make the transition. He didn’t have a language barrier, since he’d gone to boarding school in England and college in Ohio, and directed some English language scenes in the international co-production CHINA WHITE. He’d also grown bored with the types of movies he could get made in Hong Kong and wanted to try different things. His skills at wuxia fantasy made him an obvious choice for the Chinese-American producers of WARRIORS OF VIRTUE, and his experience with advanced animatronics on that film helped prepare him for BRIDE OF CHUCKY, though those producers said they chose him because they loved THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR. On CHUCKY Yu proved that he could apply his unique eye and tone to an established American horror series and give it a fresh spin, so at the moment when this long-in-development horror crossover event finally happened, Yu was a pretty logical choice for the gig.

By then, New Line Cinema production executive Stokely Chaffin had tried having an “open door policy” to meet with any director interested in the project – she estimates she met with 60 who wanted the job, but they all seemed wrong. In the great book Crystal Lake Memories by Peter M. Bracke, she says “When we originally put together our top list of five or six directors for FREDDY VS. JASON, Ronny Yu was on it. I just expected him to say ‘Thanks so much for your interest, I really appreciate it, but it’s still no.’”

Nevertheless, they convinced Yu to fly in from Sydney, Australia to meet with New Line head Robert Shaye, without letting on what movie it was for. “You’re always telling people you want to make a real American movie. And this is a real, real American movie,” he says they told him.

That Yu hadn’t seen any of the Freddy or Jason sequels was not considered a problem. In the case of CHILD’S PLAY he hadn’t even seen the original. I think that’s interesting because I can imagine The Fans thinking that was disqualifying for a director now, but the truth is most of the people who directed most of the movies in these franchises weren’t devout fans like we were, they were just people who knew it was a good job and (in most cases) tried to do something good with it.

Chaffin said they “practically begged” Yu to do it, and were impressed by his passion acting out a scene from the script in Shaye’s office. But he still said no, because they wanted to start shooting soon and he thought the script needed “massaging.” So they told him he could make any changes he wanted.

I confess that in 1993, when I saw the ending of JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY, where Jason’s mask is buried under about an inch of dirt and then a Freddy glove reaches out of the ground to slash it, I thought it was the stupidest shit I had ever seen in my life. For years whenever fellow horror fans asked if they were really making a Freddy vs. Jason movie I would say “Ha ha – no,” confident that it was never more than a throwaway gag, and that everyone agreed with me that it made no sense. I mean – what would they do exactly, have a kill off? Why would they fight? And how? Jason exists in the waking world, Freddy can only kill people in their dreams (unless you want him to manifests at a pool party again like in part 2). How would it even work?

Well, I was wrong about one thing – FRIDAY THE 13TH creator/producer Sean S. Cunningham had in fact been trying to make a crossover happen since the late ‘80s. (Like, around the time Yu was working on BLESS THIS HOUSE.) Figuring out the rights situation took a while, but figuring out how the fuck to even do it took longer. The book Slash of the Titans: The Road To Freddy vs Jason by Dustin McNeill chronicles a torturous development process involving more than ten different takes by writers including Lewis Abernathy (DEEPSTAR SIX), David J. Schow (LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III), Brannon Braga & Ronald D. Moore (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Peter Briggs (unmade ALIEN VS. PREDATOR script), Ethan Reiff & Cyris Voris (MEN OF WAR, DEMON KNIGHT), David S. Goyer (BLADE) & James Robinson (COMIC BOOK VILLAINS), Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger (King of the Hill writers who later wrote KUNG FU PANDA and MONSTER TRUCKS), Mark Verheiden (TIMECOP), Mark Protosevich (THE CELL) and David Bergantino (author of the WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE novelization and four Freddy Krueger’s Tales of Terror books) before they finally settled on a pair of newcomers.

Damian Shannon & Mark Swift had no credits, just a hot spec script that never ended up getting made, but their pitch and then their script impressed New Line enough to finally make it to the finish line. Having studied the previous drafts, they methodically stripped away what they thought had made them fail. Many earlier versions had added a goth cult leader villain named Damian Necros, and many had been set in some NEW NIGHTMARE inspired meta reality where one or the other of the movie series’ is fictional. Shannon & Swift understood that nobody wants to see some drastic new twist on Freddy and Jason in a FREDDY VS. JASON. They just want a Freddy movie that somehow intersects with a Jason movie. They figured out how to do it, Yu worked with them to improve it, and Goyer did some uncredited rewrites to shorten it to under two hours.

Since JASON X takes place in the future, and WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE takes place in a world where Freddy Krueger is a fictional character, FREDDY VS. JASON (2003) picks up where the previous chapters, JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY and FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE left off (The Finalverse). Therefore, it opens with both of our guys dead, in Hell.

The funny gimmick is that Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund, THE MANGLER) narrates the opening of the movie, using skills honed by hosting the anthology series Freddy’s Nightmares, not to mention his stint as a guest VJ on MTV. He explains that he doesn’t mind being in Hell, he’s a ghost or whatever anyway, but he needs people to fear him to have the power to haunt their dreams again. The kids on Elm Street these days, they never heard of one two Freddy’s coming for you, they got other interests. Pokemon or whatever. They don’t give a shit.

(I like how that mirrors reality, since the ELM STREET series had been dormant for nine years, so the pre-SCREAM type of slasher movie was becoming irrelevant to some of the younger horror fans.)

But Freddy found out about this Jason guy (Ken Kirzinger, stunt coordinator of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN), and his history of coming back from the dead, and figures that if he can trick him into resurrecting on Elm Street and killing somebody then people will assume Freddy did it, fear will spread, he’ll get his mojo back. So Freddy goes into Jason’s dreams – you can tell it’s Jason’s world because a woman goes skinny-dipping at night – and pulls a Ginny-from-FRIDAY-THE-13TH-PART-2, pretending to be Mrs. Voorhees (Paula Shaw, SAVAGE STREETS) telling her baby boy what to do.

Next thing you know Jason shows up at the ol’ 1428 Elm Street house, where young Lori Campbell (Monica Keena, who had played Oksana Baiul in a TV movie and was known for Dawson’s Creek and Undeclared) lives with her dad (Tom Butler, SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER). She’s still mourning the death of her mother, who Dad says died in a car accident, though she actually died in her sleep. Hmm. (Freddy later tells Lori “I’ve always had a thing for the whores that live in this house,” insulting her mother, and her, and Nancy and her mom from part 1, and Jesse from part 2.)

Lori is kind of a straight-laced girl-next-door type like Nancy before her, but the night Jason shows up she’s hanging out with her friends Kia (Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child), Gibb (Katharine Isabelle, really the 2000s horror icon of this cast, having already been in GINGER SNAPS, BONES and the TV version of CARRIE before this), plus Gibb’s shitty jock boyfriend Trey (Jess Hutch, later in the Seagal movie A DANGEROUS MAN) and his dumb friend Blake (David Kopp, “Delivery Man,” ROMEO MUST DIE), and they seem more like FRIDAY THE 13TH characters than ELM STREET ones.

They’re introduced playing Marry-Fuck-Kill with The Three Stooges, dialogue clearly more of the post-SCREAM world than of previous Freddy or Jason movies, but that’s how it goes. Time marches on. Trey is a humorous version of the asshole-you-want-to-see-get-killed type character, bossing Gibb around to have sex with him and then saying, “Babe, you know I don’t like to be touched after” when she tries to cuddle. Happily he gets to be the first kill, and one of the best, when Jason machetes him repeatedly – the knife goes all the way through the bed and some kind of organ comes through the hole? – then folds the portable bed with him inside.

Sheriff Williams (Garry Chalk, NICK FURY: AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D.) falls for it – he assumes it’s Freddy, but only discusses it in whispers. Lori overhears the name and repeats it, giving him power, but not enough – he attacks Blake in a nightmare, and his slashes have no effect. What makes this scene sing is that Freddy then breaks the fourth wall to comment on it to us. He’s like Ferris Bueller. Jason ends up killing Blake and his dad, but does not turn to the camera to comment since he doesn’t talk. Otherwise I’m sure he would.

The subplot that verges on violating Shannon & Swift’s keep-it-simple,-stupid rule has to do with Lori’s ex-boyfriend Will (Jason Ritter, SWIMFAN, whose dad was in BRIDE OF CHUCKY). They have to explain this whole backstory that Kia is trying to get Lori to date again but she hasn’t gotten over being ghosted by her first love Will, but actually Will has been locked up at Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital (the one from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS) and he believes it’s to silence him because he thought he saw Lori’s dad murdering her mom, but in fact it’s to silence him because he knows about Freddy and if he tells people it could bring him back. It’s a quarantine, basically.

When Will sees Lori’s house on the news he and his best friend Mark (Brendan Fletcher, AIR BUD, LEPRECHAUN: ORIGINS, BRAVEN, VIOLENT NIGHT) bust out to warn Lori about Freddy, and when they do they quickly realize that it wasn’t some sinister conspiracy of silence, it was actually a very effective plan for protecting people from Freddy that they just ruined. Whoops. Sorry, everybody.

Wanting to take their mind off their murdered friends, Lori, Kia and Gibb go to a rave held in a cornfield. I think for many people this is the most memorable part because a pitcher of Everclear and a tiki torch set Jason on fire, so he literally blazes into the party with a flaming machete. Beer spray from a sliced keg puts him out and then he seems to think he’s starring in SWORD OF DOOM.

The other clever thing about the rave is that Gibb passes out and has a boiler room nightmare, so they’re able to have Freddy attack her while she’s at the rave. But right when he’s going to kill her her blood sprays on his face and we see that in the waking world Jason has stabbed her. Freddy is not happy.

(Note: It’s icky that some guy is trying to rape her while she’s unconscious, but that’s the kind of person we want to see Jason kill, right? And it shows that Jason is so messed up in his anti-sex thing that he can’t tell the difference.)

Lori and Kia survive and flee with two stock characters, the Jay-from-CLERKS-esque stoner Freeburg (Kyle Labine, “Teen Party Guy,” HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION) and nerd Linderman (Chris Marquette, THE TIC CODE) and then they’re approached by Deputy Scott Stubbs (Lochlyn Munro, UNFORGIVEN, DEAD MAN ON CAMPUS), who’s been shut out of what’s going on because he’s new in town, but he knows Jason is dangerous so he teams up with the kids.

They figure out that Will and Mark weren’t dreaming while at Westin Hills because they were given the experimental drug Hypnocil (also from DREAM WARRIORS), so they try to break into the hospital to steal more of it. But Freeburg gets high and Freddy somehow controls his body to make him destroy the medicine and tranquilize Jason.

Lori figures out that like Nancy she has the ability to hold onto things in dreams and still have them when she wakes up, so they drive unconscious Jason back to Crystal Lake and pull Freddy out of a dream to make them fight. First, Freddy messes with Jason in the dream world. We get to see Jason’s subconscious – like the real world, it’s a place where he drags bodies around.

One fun gross-out touch is that Freddy is making Jason dream about drowning, so poor Kia has to pull sleeping Jason’s mask off and give him mouth-to-mouth.

Lori enters Jason’s dreams about childhood bullying at Crystal Lake, finds Freddy dressed as a camp counselor, and pulls him out into the real world, where Jason and Freddy have a big fight in a construction site (a resort is being built at Crystal Lake – apparently there was more about this before the rewrites). In an article in Starlog’s official movie magazine Yu says, “I didn’t look at this as being just another slasher movie where the audience would simply sit there, waiting for the kills and the body count. I looked at this as being an action-horror movie, kind of like ALIENS… like KING KONG VS. GODZILLA— plenty of combat and scenes of the two monsters fighting.”

It would be funny if Yu had Freddy and Jason flying around like a bride with white hair, but the only part that’s kind of like that is the beautiful sequence where Freddy (in a dream) leaps out of Crystal Lake and lands on a dock in front of Lori, now with a new Demon Freddy look.

I coulda used more stuff like that, but Yu has too much respect for the dorks who would’ve been mad that it was weird. In another article in the official movie magazine, Yu says, “I felt I should go back to the basics and have them really chop each other up rather than resort to wire-work and things like that. In a sense, I used the World Wrestling Federation as a model of what I was trying to do with the battles between Freddy and Jason.”

That’s very true. What else is it but a WWE entrance when Freddy thinks he’s about to kill Lori but she pulls him into the real world? Jason throws a table aside, there’s fire everywhere, the rockin’ guitars begin to blaze (with a ki-ki-ma-ma, ’cause it’s his theme music) and Freddy turns around with a scared expression that has pretty much the same amount of subtlety that Hulk Hogan would’ve used. Acting for the cheap seats.

Then they walk slowly towards each other before the fighting starts. And the fans go wild. Pandemonium, Jesse the Body would say.

The fight choreographer is Chuck Jeffreys, a veteran martial artist and stuntman who has worked frequently with Wesley Snipes, including training him for the sword fights in BLADE. Freddy gets in some elbows, but he hurts himself kneeing Jason’s apparently very powerful balls. Jason literally tosses Freddy around. My favorite move is slamming Freddy through the window and then dragging him through a whole long row of more windows.

Though Yu avoided noticable Hong Kong style, there is in fact wire-work used to send characters flying through the air. Even in the “real world” there’s some cartoonish fighting – Jason seems to have super strength, Freddy chops the ends off of oxygen tanks to launch them like torpedos, and dumps a bunch of rebar to turn Jason into a pin cushion. Freddy ends up comically swinging from a chain upside down yelling “Oh nooooo!” as Jason plucks them out, spraying blood like a sprinkler.

The finale on the dock gets more raw and brutal, with Freddy both slashing Jason and chopping him with his own machete, before Jason rips Freddy’s arm off and pulls his heart out. Lori and Will cause an enormous explosion that sends both slashers flying through the air in flames and splashing in the lake. It looks beautiful, it’s a great fire stunt, and it poetically incorporates fire and water, the two elements that originally killed each of them.

They don’t die yet though. We still get to see Jason impale Freddy with his own glove, on his own severed arm. And then Lori gets the honor of chopping Freddy’s head off with Jason’s machete and calling him a bitch. Nice touches.

In the build up to the release there was much pointless discussion about who would “win.” Of course any fuckin body knew 100% for sure it would be at least a little bit ambiguous. In the Goyer-scripted ending they shot first Jason seemed to win, but in an epilogue Will somehow becomes possessed by Freddy and slashes Lori. No one thought it worked, so when test audiences hated it too they went back to the drawing board. Shaye is often credited with suggesting the ending they used, but in Crystal Lake Memories executive producer Doug Curtis says it was Yu’s idea. Whoever came up with it, it’s one of the film’s highlights. After everything seems to be over there’s a beautiful shot of Jason slowing emerging from the lake, carrying Freddy’s severed head like a trophy. But then the head winks at the camera, so it seems the fight continues.

Freddy and Jason did a boxing/MMA style weigh-in as a promotional event. It would be cool if they also did a Family Feud episode.

One metric as to whether Freddy or Jason won could be whether this plays more like an ELM STREET or more like a FRIDAY THE 13TH. That too has been interpreted different ways. I’ve always felt it was more like an ELM STREET, which is my preference anyway. You’re kind of forced to be more like an ELM STREET if you’re gonna involve the dream world, aren’t you? The main way to feel like a FRIDAY THE 13TH is to have people stalked by Jason in some woods.

Instead it’s mostly in Springwood. The suburbs. A place where there are cops, schools, hospitals. There are asshole parents. There are supportive friends. These are elements of most ELM STREETs and few FRIDAY THE 13THs, because until they get off track the FRIDAY THE 13THs are all about young people away from home, at a campground, during the summer.

I suppose it also leans Freddy by having Englund return while switching out who plays Jason for the first time since part 7. Not using Kane Hodder (famous for playing the character in 7, 8, GOES TO HELL and X) was the movie’s most controversial choice, and remains a sore subject. In Crystal Lake Memories, casting director Matthew Barry says, “In the end you always have to do what’s best for the film, and Ronny thought recasting Jason would be the right thing to do. And, to be honest, so did I. Kane was physically too big. He didn’t fit the image that Ronny was going for. Ronny wanted to focus on Jason’s eyes. And he felt Kane was a little too cartoony in the last few films.”

But in the same book Yu says “I had no problem with Kane. Kane did fantastic work. But the studio thought it was a good idea to change. They were thinking that this is a whole new franchise, and another new actor to play Jason could give the movie a little different flavor, including updating his costume and look.”

Executive producer Curtis insists it wasn’t Yu’s doing, but that of production executive Chaffin. “To Ronny, it was a non-issue, but Stokely, to her credit, didn’t want the guy. She thought Kane wasn’t scary, that he was too chunky. To me, it just needed to be somebody who could pull off the Jason swagger with some intelligence and not be a total robot, and who could convey what turned Jason into this monster.”

I understand why some fans (and Hodder) were mad, but I also like the new look. Kirzinger is a little taller and alot less beefy, which makes him look way bigger on camera. And it’s true that the eyes are more emphasized, making him more of a human, less of a shark. (My favorite Jason is currently part 3’s, played by Richard Brooker. He was still alive then, they should’ve brought him back.)

But FREDDY VS. JASON is not without its FRIDAY THE 13TH trademarks. In the Jason column we have characters who are designed to just be total dumb assholes, lots of beer and weed, an emphasis on large boobs (mostly clothed, though). In Jason’s dream at the end we get to have some crossover imagery dominated by the FRIDAY aesthetic, such as this play on the end of part 1.

And in one very important way Jason dominates: this movie has a FRIDAY THE 13TH sized body count, almost entirely courtesy of Jason. He kills seven of the major named characters, plus the woman in the dream at the beginning, Blake’s dad, nine random people at the rave, and a security guard. Freddy only kills Mark (plus Lori’s mom before the movie). So if this is supposed to be a kill competition, Jason wins in a massacre.

Since Jason is so dominant in the killing department we don’t really get many of the more elaborate, based-on-some-character-trait-of-the-dreamer, FX-showcase nightmare set pieces that made the ELM STREET sequels so unique. There are a couple nice digital era nods to those – Kia getting her nose slashed off while contemplating plastic surgery, Freeburg meeting a hookah-puffing, Freddy-faced caterpillar. But most of the dreams stick to a part 1 type primal simplicity. It’s well done but those gimmicky latex-fests where people get turned into a roach or a drawing or a motorcycle are whatever are the one thing really missing from this, and something Yu would’ve excelled at.

A funny thing about fans of these long running horror series: it seems to me most of them always hate the new one. They always think they got it wrong, they sold out, they made it how you make movies now instead of how they made the old ones. Later on, when that one’s the old one, they tend to see it in a different light. Many people who grew up on Freddy and Jason in the ‘80s and ‘90s had trouble swallowing those two coming back in what was clearly a movie made in the 2000s. It had a slicker look, a different type of cast, digital effects, and a bunch of rock bands of the time on the soundtrack (I have been told they are not “nu metal,” but that’s what many called it at the time, and I didn’t know better.)

I admit to being a snob about the music. Some of the guitars have a good crunchy sound to them, but it’s an era of the rock ’n roll that I don’t relate to. Not that I really like any of the heavy metal and what not in the earlier ELM STREETs, but those came out when I was younger, so I can have a little nostalgia for their specific type of cheesy. I was heading toward 30 by this time so that style of music got burned into my brain as the bullshit that the kids these days listen to, and it always seems silly when it pops up here.

Still, I’m okay with it because I’ve always liked that the popular music awkwardly wedged into the ELM STREET sequels traces a history of music trends. First you got Dokken in part 3, by part 4 they’ve switched over to rap with the Fat Boys and (people tend to forget this) part 5 mixes Bruce Dickinson and W.A.S.P. with Whodini, Doctor Ice, Schoolly D, and a really great, totally-unrelated-to-the-content-of-the-movie end credits song by Kool Moe Dee. So it’s only fair that the 2006 Freddy picture has Slipknot and Mushroomhead and all those fuckin dudes. (I had not heard of the other bands listed on an ad for the soundtrack, but an informal Twitter poll suggests they were pretty popular ones, not just randos who happened to be on the right label at the time, as I assumed.)

Casting director Barry says in Crystal Lake Memories that “the studio wanted some kind of hip hop quotient for the movie. We interviewed Eve and Pink (?) and all these other hip hop artists and most of them just couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag.” But then they found Rowland to play Kia. Too bad she didn’t do a FREDDY VS. JASON R&B theme – that would’ve been more my speed of taking-you-out-of-the-movie soundtrack pandering.

One thing I absolutely love that seems pretty of-the-time is the bombastic opening credits sequence. I pity the poor fool who can’t laugh at the audacity of a title screen where a bunch of slashes appear in skin, then the skin explodes (?) and the pieces turn into letters forming “New Line Cinema,” which then turns into blood that splatters right through the virtual camera, then sloshes across concrete as some song called “Beginning of the End” by some band called Spineshank starts chunk-chunk-chunking along, and the concrete is hot I guess so the blood turns into steam, revealing the title FREDDY VS. JASON. And then that gets slashed apart and transitions into the next scene.

Other than the song it’s a perfect A+ title sequence, in the spirit of the many great FRIDAY THE 13TH ones, if not the style. And to be honest the song sounding like that and the lyrics not fitting the occasion at all makes the whole thing way funnier, so I’ll take it. Maybe it was the right choice.

The end credits also have rock ’n roll, slashes, and blood dripping onto concrete textures, and I like that the fake camera makes loud whooshing sounds as it swoops around from name to name. The title design is credited to Gary Hebert (THE BOURNE IDENTITY, SERENITY, CLOVERFIELD), so give that man a medal. These days nobody fuckin bothers to do title sequences. A bunch of bums over there in Hollywood. Whatever happened to the good old days of FREDDY VS. JASON?

I guess there are a few aspects that are as dated as the music. If it were to be made more recently I think they’d be more shy about having Freddy say so many misogynistic things, or refer to Kia as “dark meat,” things I think work because they’re in character for that asshole and recall previous Freddy lines like “Welcome to prime time, bitch!” A line they definitely wouldn’t do now is when Kia (who is not supposed to be a murderous piece of shit escaped from Hell, but one of the good guys) taunts Freddy back with a homophobic slur, but that already seemed backwards at the time. I don’t think it has ever been confirmed that Rowland improvised it, but Shannon & Swift have always said it wasn’t in their script, that they tried to get it cut, and that they consider it “a real stain on the movie.”

But I think if you erased my memory I’d have a hard time estimating when this one was made. It’s too clean and digital to be earlier than the 2000s, but it’s very much an anomaly of its era. It was a huge hit as far as horror movies go, making $116.6 million in theaters, far more than any other installment of either franchise. But that had to have been from the novelty of the crossover, right? It didn’t turn out to be particularly influential, and is not representative of what was popular at the time. In the two years preceding it, R-rated slasher movies like VALENTINE, JASON X and BONES had been outperformed by PG-13 J-horror remakes like THE RING and THE GRUDGE. And the other slashers that did well in 2003 (HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, HIGH TENSION, TEXAS CHAINSAW: THE REMAKE) had a much dirtier, grislier approach than Yu’s shiny cartoon barb wire match.

New Line wanted a sequel, but knowing it would require another level of gimmickry to do as well, they put all their eggs in the FREDDY VS. JASON VS. ASH basket. Then-24-year-old producer and New Line executive Jeff Katz was pushing the idea, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell negotiated for a while, but eventually decided they weren’t into it. (The treatment was adapted into a comic book in 2007.)

Instead, Freddy and Jason only returned in remakes. FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009) – I guess more of a reboot than a remake, since it’s more based on the sequels than the first film – was also scripted by Shannon & Swift, and shares FREDDY VS. JASON’s laugh-at-the-asshole approach to characterization, plus a couple good parts. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010) is dull and depressing and so forgotten that if Freddy tried to slash one of us today his claws would turn into noodles.

After 20 years of rewatches, I think I’ve kind of worn out FREDDY VS. JASON. I don’t get the same jolt out of it I once did, or that I still do for the best Freddy, Jason, or Ronny Yu movies, or out of BRIDE OF CHUCKY. But as a fan of Freddy and Jason who always thought this was a stupid idea, I respect that they made it into a fun, goofy event movie that I have been able to enjoy many times over the years.

As a Ronny Yu film, of course, it’s on the more anonymous side. Unlike BRIDE OF CHUCKY, this production didn’t have any of his Hong Kong team with him. The director of photography is Fred Murphy (Q: THE WINGED SERPENT, STIR OF ECHOES, AUTO FOCUS), and the editor is Joel Schumacher’s guy, Mark Stevens. I don’t think it’s as playfully stylish as BRIDE OF CHUCKY, but it does have a vivid look to it distinct from the other movies in either series, and some beautiful shots that nobody else would’ve done.

On one hand, FREDDY VS. JASON doesn’t seem particularly representative of Yu’s work. On the other hand It’s hard to imagine a FREDDY VS. JASON by anybody else, since nobody else figured out how to do it. Wes Craven considered doing it early on, but couldn’t think of a premise that made sense. Peter Jackson and Rob Zombie (not yet a feature film director at the time) both turned it down. FX legend Rob Bottin (THE THING) was attached to direct for a few years, but it sounds like his makeup ideas were way better than his story. The two directors who were briefly attached who I can imagine doing a great job are Guillermo del Toro and Stephen Norrington. Del Toro decided to do BLADE II instead, so in that case things worked out for the best. Norrington did THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, which I have learned to enjoy, but it also caused him to pretty much quit the business, so maybe him directing FREDDY VS. JASON would’ve been the best timeline. I’m sure Yu could’ve found something else cool to do.

But would I have been inspired to write this review series? Maybe not. So take that as a consolation prize.

Next up: After a post Freddy and Jason hiatus, Yu returns to Asia to help Jet Li with a passion project.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 26th, 2023 at 11:30 am and is filed under Reviews, Action, Horror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

16 Responses to “Freddy vs. Jason”

  1. I was really surprised when I learned how disliked this movie is in the horror community. (Yet its IMDb score is 0.1 higher than BRIDE OF CHUCKY) And I kiiiiiiiiinda get it. But then I don’t. Most of the complaints seem to me just the the typical nerd nitpicking, whined by people who are unable to view this as a non-canonical one shot and have fun with it.

    That said, it’s really not as good as BRIDE, but judging by how weird (in a bad way) many earlier ideas for this movie were, I would say this is the best we could get. And that’s not a backhanded compliment. There might be some clever writers outthere who have an absolutely perfect way to let Freddy and Jason fight, but I am okay with the one we got. Especially because the end fight delivers. I haven’t rewatched it that many times, so every time I do, the end fight still makes me smile. If there was a studio note at some point that said: “Fuck the rest of the movie, but make sure that duel is gonna be awesome”, it would be no surprise.

    One side thing that always amuses me, was that one guy’s power to turn Kelly Rowland into a nice (although sadly still homophobic) girl and possible love interest, just by telling her to stop being such an asshole. (Is he supposed to be a descendant of Kristy Swanson’s character from THE PHANTOM, who managed to do a similar thing with Catherine Zeta Jones?) It is even pretty sad when we see him sitting dead by the tree.

    All in all: I approve. Good movie and a nice bonus episode of both the FRIDAY and NIGHTMARE series.

  2. This one is a weird case, normally reserved for Michael Bay movies, where I can say that absolutely none of the creative decisions are the way I would have gone and also I wouldn’t change a second of the movie as is (except the F-bomb, which was uncool at the time and bordering on monstrous now, only made palatable by the incompetence of the actress delivering it). I watch it every few years and it’s always a hoot. It’s fast and colorful and dumb and delivers where it needs to. That’s probably the best case scenario for this particular pop culture brundlefly abomination.

  3. Very good review, and I have to agree: I’ve watched this too many times over the past twenty years, so I’m not really interested in sitting through it ever again. But it was a lot of fun to watch on opening weekend with a noisy crowd. I still have the giveaway mini-poster from the theater.

  4. I think this is actually the best modern ‘versus’ movie we got until Godzilla Vs. Kong, which is arguably too much of a ‘real movie’ to count for our purposes. I mean, they have Rebecca Hall in there.

    1. Freddy Vs. Jason (knows it’s a geek show, still well-executed)

    2. Alien Vs. Predator (knows it’s a geek show, not well-executed, PG-13)

    3. Batman V. Superman (doesn’t know it’s a geek show, not well-executed)

    4. Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem (doesn’t know to turn the lights on)

    I wish the trend had really caught on and Versus movies had become a hallmark of the 2000s slasher, instead of the Platinum Dunes thing. We could’ve gotten Scream 5: Wes Craven’s New, *New* Nightmare! Neve Campbell hangs up on Ghostface, only to get tongued by Freddy when she tries to call the cops!

  5. I am sleepy, so this will be even more stream of consciousness than usual, my bad, sorry.

    FVJ is such a ridiculous, self-aware event film that it exists in a world unto itself — somewhere between meta and reboot and parody but not quite any of those. It’s utterly pointless and adds nothing good to either character’s lore; indeed, if anything, it just dilutes and cheapens each film’s lore. I was completely stoked and loved it when it first came out. And I am still really pleased that Robert Englund’s last ride as Freddy was a massive hit and a true event, not even just a horror event but a bona fide cinema event and one last early 2000s ride for a pair of franchises whose best days were the 80s. As a cultural and personal event, this was a big deal.

    I loved the demon Freddy sequence and Jason’s subconscious world, the rave, and all the fights were well-done. I also was not mad at the T&A, and I thought Monica Keena was a cutie in this, so sue me, it’s a Freddy movie. The film as a whole looks pretty gorgeous and first-rate, with the exception of the CGI, which I think is uniformly pretty chintzy looking. I am also a sucker for Freddy being such a creeper, with lines like “This bitch is dead on her feet.” What a weirdo, this guy. This film gets the essence of who NIGHTMARE 3-6 Freddy is. We get a lot of him in this film, a lot of good Freddy set pieces and variations, and they’re uniformly pretty fun or interesting to look at or different and inspired in their own way (even the bad cgi hookah lizard) .

    I actually do not like that opening monologue, with Freddy breaking the fourth wall and this dumb-ass idea that he needs or can use Jason. Also, Freddy’s contacts in that scene are so fake and bad — little things like that take me right out of the film. I find the whole thing very jarring and weird and bad, though I get that it’s an efficient way to just get the ridiculous premise out of the way and tbh is probably a lot better than 30-45 minutes of build-up to get these two together. They just get straight to it. So, they probably made the best, hard choice: 60 seconds of shitty, ridiculous, fourth wall-breaking exposition to spare us 45 minutes of slog. I still don’t condone the contacts.

    This film’s Springwood and kids all feel much more Canadian than any other. This Springwood feels nothing like Springwood. This also feels like by far the most “at nighttime” Freddy movie. Am I wrong about this?

    I like the hypnocil callback. Nice! I also thought Monica Keena’s dad was good and had a weird, haunted/bug-eyed thing going on.

    Lochlyn Munro was fun. I remember for some reason his introduction got a big laugh in the theatre.

    Ken Kirzinger was excellent. Sorry, Kane, this guy was the better Jason for this sort of film. He looked like a giant, and that served the film well.

    I don’t think I’ve watched anything else by Ronny Yu (including BRIDE OF CHUCKY. Busted!), but I think he did a nice job with this film. I was decidedly pumped walking out of theater. Hell, given how long this languished in development purgatory, he may have done a miraculous job.

    In summary, this film excelled at what it set out to do, though, like many here, I feel at peace being done with the film. Just glad you made it happen, Bob Shaye, Ronny Yu, et al. Yo, Freddy and Jason, we did it.

  6. FlyingGuillotine

    April 26th, 2023 at 10:36 pm

    I got the opportunity to read the Peter Briggs version… which if memory serves started with Crusader knights and a castle and a necromancer, but that’s all that comes to mind. I heard that some versions involved Freddy and Jason in a literal ring, like for wrestling or boxing, but I never saw those.

  7. I know one script had a dream death where Freddy snorted his victim and then she was killed by a booger monster, which for me is exactly the line between “I’m glad this never happened” and “Too bad this never happened”.

  8. I guess this is nerdy or whatever, but if I made “Face Off!! Leather vs Ghost” and gave Ghost like 50 kills while Leather gets one, I’d be accused of making a movie with a strong Ghost bias at the least, if not getting called out for downright jiveness.

    And yet…

    I don’t even mind that Freddy was made the ‘bad guy’, because someone has to be. I just feel the Freddy buying public did not get their money’s worth, and someone should answer for that.

  9. Don’t get wrong, I do like this movie. It’s about as clever as one can get to have both of them in the movie. But, being a big F13 fan, it doesn’t wholly work for me. A lot of that is becuase Yu is the wrong guy to make this movie. Take the corn field massacre. What could be a cool sequence is completely fcked up by that weird blurry slow motion thing he does (that I hate) It completely takes me out of the scene. Plus, I’m sorry, but I don’t care that Ken is tall, he’s a terrible Jason not helped by the awful design.

    But yeah, it’s stilll like a million times better than like Friday Part 7

  10. Sadly, I’ve never gotten around to seeing this. I *did* read the Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash comic, but it wasn’t great, and I never got around to the sequel, which brought in Tommy Jarvis and the Dream Warriors, I believe.

  11. Eh….I also don’t quite get the hate for this in some quarters. Must only happen in Nerd Nitpick Nirvana. This is the ONLY installment from the Elm St or F13 series which I own on Blu Ray, have watched it more times than I can count and after reading Vern’s review, watched it again. This is sooooo Comfort Food Watch for me. I can turn my brains off and still enjoy what’s happening. It helps that whenever I see a “Versus” in the title, my only expectation is the movie fulfills it’s Mission Statement which is to get 2 Bad MoFos in the same location and for them to start ripping chunks out of each other. Other considerations would be, “How long does the movie take to get there?”, “Is the journey getting there interesting enough?” and “Is the Boss Fight worth the wait?”. Freddy V Jason: Dawn of Nightmare on Camp Crystal Lake ticks all those boxes.

    I like that the central plot machinations to get these Iconic Boogeymen together is the Corporate Equivalent of a former High Performer who’s now in a slump, brings in a new Hot Shot with the express purpose of riding on his achievements, only to have Hot Shot march to the beat of his own dream, and so must now be “managed out”.

    The Showdown is Bat Shit crazy. Monica Keena is cute AF, Englund’s Freddy is back to being more menacing especially after Elm Sts 4-6 dialed the quips way up, plus how can u NOT love a movie that starts with a pretty girl stripping to go skinny dipping (Bless her)? As for the Hodder Vs Kirzinger debate..that has all the relevance to me as people bitching about Pedro Pascal only doing voice work and was most likely not on set for the 3rd Season of THE MANDALORIAN.

  12. BuzzFeedAldrin

    May 1st, 2023 at 7:12 am

    I have fond memories of seeing this in the theater as it came out the day after the 2003 NY blackout. I was living in Queens which was the first place to get power back. I remember waking up hungover, cranking the AC, learning work was closed, then grabbing my girlfriend to go see the first showing of this. That said, I can’t get down with this movie. It still reads like all the Freddy and Jason movies were fed into an AI bot along with “what teens in 2003 like” and this is what popped out. It’s somehow the worst of both franchises (until the remakes). I don’t blame Ronnie for this. I know the script went through ten trillion rewrites but I still think one more pass couldn’t have hurt.

  13. This was actually my first Freddy or Jason movie and it made me a life long friday the 13th devotee and binge the rest of the franchise. So it’s pretty hard to be objective on it and will always have a huge soft spot for it.

  14. A friend had not seen this before and wanted to watch it to round out his Freddy/Jason catch-up. This is a good forcing function for me to actually watch the damn movie, as opposed to the all-too-common experience of watching only half it, watching all of it half-assedly, or speed-watching it.

    And it was fun! I will never have anything but a favorable disposition toward the film, but my interest or enjoyment of it during any given instance can vary quite a bit depending on mood or context. This time I had a blast. It really comes on strong in the cluth, that last 35-45 minutes. The acting and dialogue are really bad. Like, really bad. Shout out to Linderman and the dad actor, though.

    I was right in my earlier post: This is almost all at night and most be the most at-night of either series, though IIRC FRIDAY 7 and NIGHTMARE 5 give it a run for its money. JASON X doesn’t count in this sweepstakes. Also, very strobey. This may be misinformation or cultural appropriation, but I’m just going to declare that it causes epilepsy. It certainly doesn’t help it, I’m sure. The visuals are an odd mixed bag. Lots of Dutch angles and whatnot, lots of backlighting, strobing, and visual-kinetic effort. Fake Jase Mewes stoner, Jack Black-adjacent character, a Destiny’s Child singer, boobs, raves. A good bit of Jason mayhem. That gets us through the first 65-70 minutes. Then all the Freddy-Jason rumbling is pure gold. Very Looney Tunes meets WWF, everything but the kitchen sink. Englund delivers. What a pro. That last shot coming out of the misty lake is gorgeous.

    This is definitely the most fast-paced, ADHD, weird-ass film. The rave is a good set piece for this film, because it kind of captures the whole ethos of the film — constant motion, everything and everybody ultra-extra, energy and feelings cranked to 11, but so chaotic and manic that nothing settles or breathes — it’s onto the next set piece or kill, no time to mope! This is not a film where people stare out windows or attend funerals or contemplate or have long monologues or dialogues. When people talk, it’s to telegraph the next move, and its in some ridiculous situation or setting, like being in a van with three other people and a 7-foot Jason, who is tranq-ed out of his mind choking on dream water.

    My other novel piece of analysis this time around is: Blake’s dad looks a lot like Alex Jones. You’re welcome.

    Still some stuff left in the basement / boiler room with this one, apparently.

  15. The hype for this one got me at the time, and represented the first time I had really been interested in a horror film; before then I hadn’t watched a single NOES film and only knew Jason from reading titles, don’t think I even knew he wore a Hockey Mask and not because I thought the sack was permanent. I was 16 at the time so couldn’t get into this film that in the UK was rated only for 18s and over, no not even with parents, what do you think this is America?, but I was able to watch it on DVD a little under a year later, and by that time I had watched I believe several NOES and at least one FT13 (if it was just one, than the one was JASON X). I enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m not sure how the horror community views it now, it might be hated now I guess, but at the time it seemed there was a lot of good feeling around it.

  16. I would not say I have — or ever had — my finger on the pulse of the horror community, but my sense is that JASON X now enjoys a fair amount of love. I saw it theatrically. No one was there. Maybe like a couple of people in one of the smaller screens at the big AMC. I might have even been the only person. I liked it then, and I think it’s great now! It’s just so dumb, but it really revels in its dumbness and someone manages to be a kind of self-parody that induces affection rather than eye-rolls or a “This is just sad” vibe. It’s too fun and brash to be sad. And the face smash has to be a top 5 all-time Jason kill, so, that alone would redeem it even if you didn’t like anything else.

    I was thinking about this the other day, and what I appreciate about JASON X is how it just jumps way out of continuity. The brilliance of this is that the could’ve easily jumped back to Crystal Lake and the vague approximate present day, no explanation given, and it would be fine. Lo and behold, that’s pretty much exactly what FREDDY VS. JASON did for both franchises — mostly ignore the most recent prior installments and just pick up with slightly tweaked late-period (~NIGHTMARE 4-6, FRIDAY 6-8) iterations of the Freddy and Jason.

    This also serves as a good illustration of one of my main gripes about HALLOWEEN ENDS. It really depends on your expectations and how you’ve been setting up the film in terms of how it figures into a set of films. If Michael Myers went to deep space in HALLOWEEN ENDS, that would’ve been ridiculous, because that would be so out of step with the story-world of the prior two. The Corey pivot in HALLOWEEN ENDS is not as absurd as Michael suddenly being in space, but it fails for the same reason: It’s just too left field and too central to a final chapter of a supposed series-resolving trilogy to work (for me!). It does not follow from this that a Michael Myers in the future, space, etc. would be bad (JASON X is good!), it just has to be right situation. They could do a really weird high-concept HALLOWEEN next year, then go back to more Haddonfield shit, and that could all be fine, depending. The one-offs tend to be better than the fake “final” installments, anyway, with the exception of FRIDAY 4, which is one of the best.

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