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Freddy vs. Jason

01/10/2003. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Freddy vs. Jason in the USA - or Buy Freddy vs. Jason in the UK

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In an interesting yet sordid way, the invention of wanting to put together a couple of the big screen's most prolific slayers and have them duke it out for warped fun definitely had its advantages. After all, who wouldn't want to see the morbid mayhem between Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger and Friday the 13's Jason Voorhees?

Freddy vs. Jason (2003) New line Cinema
1 hr. 37 mins.
Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland
Directed by: Ronny Yu

Well, fright fans get to enthusiastically shiver in their boots when the terrorizing tandem get to tangle with ghoulish gusto in director Ronnie Yu's chintzy chill session Freddy vs. Jason. No doubt some had rather high expectations in witnessing adolescent killing machines Krueger and Voorhees join forces temporarily then clash based on the envious chaos they casually leave behind.

It's safe to say that the "Friday" and "Nightmare" movie franchises were safely secure thanks to the continuous madcap adventures of these two murdering misfits. The fact that both Freddy K. and Jason V. were able to cause such demented destruction throughout their repetitively mindless sequels tells us how much these creepy cads were worshiped thanks to the menacing icon status they achieved through the genre of slashing cinema. But the question remains: does filmmaker Yu give us good cause to care about these two twisted terrorists as they finally share in the mass murdering frenzy that made a noble name for them individually?

Freddy vs. Jason

Well, one can't help but to appreciate the effort in bringing together these maddening monsters and checking out the psychological frolic of the misguided actions they bring to the forefront. However, Yu never really brings any steam to this tag team of terror and as a result, Freddy vs. Jason comes off as a mere gory novelty act. Heck, the destructive duo ought to be headlining Vegas as a supernatural power pair while giving Sin City partners Siegfried and Roy a deserved rest.

We find that our horrific hacker Freddy (Robert Englund) has been reduced to that of a has-been horror host. The razor-armed dream destroyer no longer has the capability of intimidating the residents of Springwood, especially in the specific area of his favorite stomping grounds on Elm Street. True, they have forgotten about his hideous presence but Freddy is not going to be dismissed that easily. So in assessing the situation, Freddy's diabolical scheme is hatched and soon he'll be back to his twisted ways.

Looking to get back into the murdering groove since the afterlife has been Dullsville, Freddy takes on the disguise as Jason Voorhees's mother and orders him to rise from the resting place of Hell and start getting active. This is so that he can assume the dirty deeds of fear that Freddy is unable to demonstrate at the moment.

The hockey-masked menace Jason is back in impressive form and does great work to the point that he plans to rule the town with his deadly exploits. Jason's rampage is enough to fuel Freddy so that he's back to normal as far as his surging powers are concerned.

But Jason won't simply settle for the milk that Freddy wants to serve as a whim-he wants to control the whole cow! But Freddy cannot have Jason get out of hand and command a sinister stronghold on the community because this means that there will be no surrounding where Freddy can manipulate his brand of meanness. Plus, his ego may be bruised thanks to Jason's sudden dominance over his previously claimed territory.

Searching for some quick answers to combat Jason's newfound hold on his panicky playground, Freddy has no choice but to invade the dreams of Elm Street resident Lori Campbell (Monica Keena) in an effort to bring him into the real world. Once he's settled in her hallucinatory head, Freddy can properly do battle with the opportunistic Jason and try to reclaim his position as lead scare master for his precious Springwood.

Filmmaker Yu, who was responsible for helming the demented but delightfully droll Bride of Chucky a few years ago, has a stylized and slick manner for conjuring up this slaughtering showcase. The tongue-in-cheek references are in check as he serves up the prototypical clueless teen protagonists being used as the sacrificial lambs for his leading horrid anti-heroes.

It's always a humorous proposition to see a horror-related heroine such as Keena's Lori barely escape the clutches of a killer creep like Jason only to fling off this bad experience and assume her wits the next day when relating calmly with her sharp-tongued best friend Kia. (Kelly Rowland from the singing group Destiny's Child)

The fact that common sense and logical loopholes are automatically traipsed over for the goofy bloodshed antics that ensue is somewhat riotous and not to be taken too seriously. But Yu fails to ignite this flinching film and turn it into something beyond the standard slash-and-dash treat that audiences can sink their teeth into without the same old conventional creep-infested cliches.

After all, this is JASON and FREDDY joined at the hellish hip-this confrontation should be one for the ages, not a generic standoff at the old school Vincent Price bargain basement version of the OK Corral.

Yu does instill the typical elements that have become the blueprint for feisty slasher flicks. We get the familiar entrée of demonic death displays, hormonal teens with inescapable urges to "do it" at the most inconvenient times, corny edgy humor that occasionally hit and miss, cardboard performances from players we secretly wish would get knocked off by beastly bad boys Freddy and Jason, etc.

The formula is in place but Yu plays this frenzied exposition too safe and guarded where it has no room to breathe and branch out to be the outrageous blackboard of blood featuring our two gifted naughty nemesis.

When we finally wait for the second act to arrive after the movie's rudimentary build-up, the dismembered limbs and flowing bodily fluids are quite evident as we sit back and soak in the battle royal between the wise-cracking Freddy and the silent sinner Jason. And the folks will get their money's worth in the "shedding-your-disgusting-skin" department. The fight scenes are hammy yet enthralling but to get over the ho hum hump of the majority of the picture just to check out the kooky combat may not be worth the wait.

The performances are not as inspiring as one would expect. Englund seems somewhat subdued and doesn't really find the right niche to lend his Freddy Krueger an even dose of ominous input to go along with the frightful frivolity that he played so solidly in the Nightmare sequels. Keena's leading lady Lori feels too bland to be caught up in the middle of the heated proceedings. And dynamic-looking songstress Rowland is completely wasted and lost in the shuffle in the thankless mouthy sidekick role.

Despite the usual penchant for graphic horror and a bunch of faceless victims that willingly let their stupidity and dire circumstances become foolish fish bait for our dueling devils, there's a surefire disappointment behind the cheesy presentation of Freddy vs. Jason.

Yu's severed body parts party doesn't necessarily register the creative rowdiness we would have liked to perversely lose our giddy gore-related insights in. The possibilities were endless and after searching for a clever way to have Krueger and Voorhees blow some sensationalistic smoke, the results amount to dark comic bits that wouldn't even impress the likes of Elvira.

Overall gang, what you're gaining are front row seats to a couple of carousing combatants whose streaky cynicism are too watered down for us to care whether they draw blood or spaghetti sauce for that matter.

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2003

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