Freddy vs. Jason Review
After more than ten years of negotiations, rewrites and crew changes, the showdown to all showdowns has finally arrived. Freddy vs. Jason pits Freddy Krueger, the deformed child killer from A Nightmare on Elm Street, against Jason Voorhees, the big, mute, hockey-masked killer who terrorized nubile teens in most of the Friday the 13th series. You won't find a whole lot of people discussing the plot for Freddy vs. Jason, and there's a reason: it's a load of nonsense. The entire reason for the movie to exist is for the big showdown between Freddy and Jason, and as such, it almost seems pointless to talk about the story at all. Still, here goes.
The kids of Springwood have forgotten about poor Freddy (Robert Englund). Apparently, he gets his power from people's fears, and if no-one remembers him, he can't come into their dreams and kill them. Freddy is more than a little annoyed, but then he gets the ingenious idea of making Jason (Ken Kiirzinger) do the killing for him. Jason, of course, inhabits the mortal world, which puts him at a distinct advantage, so Freddy tricks Jason into believing that his mother wants him to go back and start killing again... or something like that - don't look at me, I didn't come up with it. Freddy hopes that people will think that he is the one doing the killing, and that their fear will allow him to manifest himself again. Problem is, Jason starts to enjoy the killing a little too much, depriving Freddy of much-needed entertainment. Infuriated, Freddy drags Jason into the dream world to give him what for...
In the red corner...
Meanwhile, a group of idiotic teens are preparing for a night of drinking, sex, and all sorts of debauchery: the perfect targets for Jason. It seems a little pointless to explain these characters, since they are cardboard cut-outs of the worst order. The chief of these, and the focus of the film, is Lori Campbell (when will they learn that these self-referential character names just aren't clever any more?), portrayed by the awful Monica Keena. She plays the goody-goody 16-year-old virgin with breasts like beach balls. Elsewhere in the mix, we have the wise-cracking token black character, the stoner, the "bad boy", the geek... Need I go on? These characters are present simply as fodder for Freddy and Jason, and to advance what passes for a story.
Monica Keena redefines the phrase "ham actor" with a performance that leaves you wondering why anyone would choose to employ her. Maybe if she didn't wave her arms around so much it would help, but I'm not promising anything. Kelly Rowland is nearly as bad, and survives for way too long. Jason Ritter just about gets by - he's neither good nor bad. It's a shame to see Katharine Isabelle in such a throwaway role here, considering how good she was as Ginger in Ginger Snaps. At least she has fun spending most of the film looking stoned and acting neurotic.
As you can see, you shouldn't go looking for Shakespearian scripts and Oscar-winning actors here. Freddy vs. Jason's saving grace is that it knows this, and by and large doesn't attempt to be something it isn't. It runs with the terrible dialogue and ridiculous story, and actually manages to make the actors' lack of ability something of a good thing. Freddy vs. Jason wants nothing more than to provide audiences with an hour and a half of blood, guts and the odd laugh, and by and large it succeeds. In the middle of the film it tries just a little too hard to justify itself, but the lengthy showdown between Freddy and Jason makes it all worthwhile.
"Actor" Monica Keena.
The real star of the show, unsurprisingly, is Robert Englund as the notorious Freddy Krueger. He mugs for the camera, prances around and spouts catchphrases with the glee of a small child, making Freddy more insane than ever, and while fans of the original Nightmare will no doubt be disappointed to see that the Freddy in this movie is along the same lines as the camp comedian of the later films, in reality there was no other way to portray him in a film as clichéd as this. Props also must be given to Ken Kirzinger as Jason, who spends the entire film with his face obscured and not saying a word, and isn't even given any title billing. He may not have quite as imposing a presence as fan favourite Kane Hodder, who played the big guy in several of the previous Friday the 13th films, but he gets the job done, and at times you almost feel sorry for the character of Jason, in a way that you never could or would for Freddy.
The end result is a polished, gruesome, fast-paced movie that is best experienced as part of a large audience that knows what to expect and is just looking for a good time. Fans of the previous Nightmare and Friday the 13th outings will no doubt be pleased with the number of nods there are to these films. This is never going to win any serious awards, but it is a thoroughly entertaining experience and one that makes the lengthy wait worthwhile. Don't look for any kind of hidden meaning or political statement in this. Don't even try. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Gibb (Katharine Isabelle) hides from Freddy.
Freddy vs. Jason is presented both anamorphically in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and in non-anamorphic 1.33:1 (somewhere between pan & scan and open matte). Selecting to play the movie from the main menu brings up a choice of ratios.
In the past I have been highly critical of a number of New Line's transfers. They tend to be exemplary in every area except detail. This is not a view shared by many critics, although Bjoern Roy seems to have the same opinions as me regarding this company's transfers. Therefore, it came as no surprise to me that Freddy vs. Jason had great black level, colours and brightness, but a disappointing level of detail with a small amount of edge enhancement. Oddly enough, the night-time scenes tend to fare better than the daylight scenes in terms of clarity, which is something of a relief, since over half the movie takes place in the dark. The level of detail, overall, is higher than that of the Lord of the Rings DVDs, but in my opinion that isn't saying much. (Cue much hate mail.)
Something I wasn't expecting was the weak compression that plagues both transfers. It's unsurprising, given that two different versions of the film are crammed on to one disc, but this is very disappointing and is quite negligent on New Line's part.
This transfer will probably be fine for the majority of viewers, and I realize that I am incredibly picky when it comes to image quality, but I believe in telling it the way it is, and the transfer for this film could have been a lot better.
The requisite Friday the 13th skinny-dipper.
Two audio mixes are provided: English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and Dolby Surround 2.0. A DTS mix was originally announced but was dropped in favour of a pan & scan transfer. I guess when they were handing out the brains New Line Home Entertainment's bosses were off taking a leak.
The 5.1 mix is very good, with loads of bass and split channel effects, and decent clarity. Don't look for any subtlety here: the rears pump out almost as much noise as the front speakers. The audio does exactly what is required of it, and that is to provide an over the top aural experience that complements the on-screen mayhem nicely.
See? Anyone can touch their toes if they really try.
The menus are nicely designed and feature music and animation from the film. The transitions are overlong, especially the ones that appear before the main menu screen, but they are skippable.
Real American Heroes™.
Whoever designed the packaging definitely knew what they were doing. Notice the complete lack of appearances by Monica Keena et al on the front cover? Care to guess why that is? Answer: no-one cares about them. The designers cut to the chase and focus on the characters people actually want to see: Freddy and Jason. The artwork and layout are sleek, and the whole thing has a polished and professional look. New Line's packaging is usually very good, and this is definitely one of their best.
Beyonce attempts to lower Freddy's self-confidence with her sassy moves.
New Line has given Freddy vs. Jason the top-range treatment, with a double disc set featuring a substantial array of extras.
Commentary - The audio commentary features director Ronny Yu and actors Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger. This is a lively track with lots of anecdotes, jokes and a fair amount of technical information. Englund dominates the track, and his passion for the character of Freddy and the series as a whole shines through. Kirzinger doesn't say much, but he does provide the odd bit of information here and there.
Jump to a death - A neat little feature carried over from the previous Nightmare on Elm Street DVDs, this allows you to instantly skip to one of the many deaths featured in the film.
Deleted/alternate scenes - 20 deleted and alternate scenes are included, clocking up an impressive 15 minutes of running time. They are all presented in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio -- very impressive. The scenes can be played with or without commentary by director Ronny Yu and executive producer Douglas Curtis. Some of the scenes are a little pointless, although others add to the atmosphere or plot, and there is an amusing little scene where Gibb (Katharine Isabelle) screams "Stop staring at me!" to a baffled group of school students -- a scene I could swear I saw at the cinema.
Infuriatingly, the scenes provided here have better image quality than the film itself, which to me is further proof that New Line's policy of doing extensive digital "remastering" work on their transfers is the primary culprit for their disappointing level of detail. This is also true of the theatrical trailer, which demonstrates an admirable level of sharpness.
Fangoria magazine articles - Two articles that originally appeared in the Fangoria magazine are reproduced here in text-only format. Both are quite lengthy and informative and deal with the troubles the film went through before finally being produced. Well worth reading.
Production featurettes - A number of short featurettes are provided, covering the writing process, photography, set design, stunts and make-up. While not great, they are reasonably entertaining. The biggest problem is that, apart from the script featurette, there is very little interview material and a huge amount of on-set photography.
Visual effects featurettes - 12 brief featurettes, each focusing on a specific effect or series of effects, are included, all with optional commentary by visual effects supervisor Ariel Velasco-Shaw and visual effects producer Kevin Elam. It is quite interesting to see these scenes in various stages of development, and it gives you some of an idea of the challenges faced by the production team.
Galleries - Static storyboards are provided for six key sequences, including an impressive look at the first fight between Freddy and Jason. Also included are a number of behind the scenes photographs, as well as concept drawings and various miniature models.
Pre-fight press conference - This brief, amusing press conference, set up like a WWF-style confrontation, features Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger, in character as Freddy and Jason, challenging each other in front of a massive press crowd.
Theatrical trailer - Presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, the trailer is nicely cut together and quite exciting.
TV spots - Eight TV spots are included, all presented in non-anamorphic 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The majority of them are reiterations of the same thing, culled from the same footage used in the theatrical trailer.
Music video - A music video from one of the licensed songs used in the film.
My summer vacation: a visit to Camp Hack'n'Slash - A slightly amusing but ultimately pointless montage showing a number of movie fans on a camping trip organized by New Line, which culminated in an outdoor showing of Freddy vs. Jason.
...and in the green corner.
Freddy vs. Jason won't change your world. It's a silly movie, but at least it knows it, and it provides enough blood and entertainment to satisfy even the most voracious appetites. The DVD presentation is reasonably good in most areas, but the video quality disappoints. Overall, if you enjoyed Freddy vs. Jason at the cinema, you shouldn't hesitate to pick up a copy.