Kevin O’Reilly has reviewed the theatrical release of Freddy Vs Jason, which unites for the first time eighties slasher movie icons Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare On Elm Street and Jason Voorhees from Friday The 13th. Promiscuous teenagers beware.
You’ve got to hand it to the Destiny’s Child girls – they’re nothing if not good sports. Last summer Beyonce Knowles made her movie debut kissing Austin Powers and fielding sexual advances from Fat Bastard. Now here’s Kelly Rowland in her first film, teasing Freddy Krueger about the size of his penis and administering mouth to mouth resuscitation to Jason Voorhees. It’s the same spirited lack of shame that makes Freddy Vs Jason such surprisingly good fun. While more discerning horror afficionados who preferred the first, scary Nightmare On Elm Street or the more risky Wes Craven’s New Nightmare won’t find it to their tastes, Freddy Vs Jason wants only to be a trashy, eighties-style slasher movie and as such it delivers everything you could expect. If it’s not the best of this summer’s deluge of sequels, it’s the only one about which you could say the film-makers cared enough to make it the best film it could be. That counts for something.
For those of you who didn’t spend the 1980s renting horror videos, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees were the two most popular slashers of the decade. Freddy was a child murderer who was cornered in his boiler room by the angry parents of Springwood and burned to death. He returned as a dream demon, haunting the nightmares of the town’s teenagers and picking them off while they slept, usually after delivering a choice one-liner like – on putting a girl’s head through a television screen – “Welcome to prime-time, bitch”. Freddy has featured in seven Nightmare On Elm Street movies and is rarely seen without his trademark hat, stripy jumper and razor-fingered glove. Jason was a deformed child who drowned at Camp Crystal Lake while the teenage counsellors who should have been watching him were off having sex. After his vengeful mother was decapitated while attempting to slaughter a camp full of promiscuous teens, Jason was resurrected as a mute, indestructible zombie to continue her work. He’s starred in eight of the ten Friday The 13th films and his preferred ensemble is a boiler suit, ice hockey mask and machete.
Fans have been waiting for a Freddy Vs Jason movie for well over a decade. The dilemma was always how to match the killers up since Freddy exists in dreams and Jason inhabits the world of the living. Screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift’s solution is that Freddy can drag Jason into his dream world and likewise Freddy can be pulled into reality. The plot: Freddy (Robert Englund) has been forgotten and, as he’s no longer feared by children, he’s lost his powers. The only way he can regain them is for a new killer to get to work in Springwood and cause the townsfolk to think Freddy’s returned, thus making them afraid of him once again and thus enabling him to make a real comeback. To do his dirty work, he turns to Jason (stuntman Ken Kirzinger), winning his help by impersonating his beloved mother and sending him to Springwood on a killing spree. Sure enough, Jason starts hacking his way through the local high school kids and, though the local authorities take steps to hush up the crimes, rumours soon spread and Freddy goes from strength to strength. Only two obstacles stand in his way – a group of teens including Lori (Monica Keena), Kia (Kelly Rowland) and Will (Jason Ritter) have figured out what’s happening and Jason himself is slow to get the message that his services are no longer required.
Chinese director Ronny Yu (Bride Of Chucky) shows a fan’s affection for both series, throwing in plenty of cameos and in-jokes but never camping it up or going too far into self-parody. In style and approach, Freddy Vs Jason is closest to Dream Warriors and The Dream Master, which were the most popular of the Nightmare series. Like those films, it’s less about suspense and scares than bad taste humour and gruesome special effects. The production design and cinematography successfully evoke the style of a late eighties horror film, with all the smoke and coloured back-lighting that requires! CGI effects are used only sparingly. Most of the gore is delivered the old-fashioned way, with make-up. And boy, is there a lot of gore! At one point, the killers are stabbing each other with their own amputated body parts. Freddy Vs Jason is one of the bloodiest mainstream films in years and another sign of a welcome return by Hollywood to harder, R-rated entertainment. Its opening weekend gross of $36 million (more than the combined grosses of the last Nightmare and Friday films put together) should ensure many more returns by both its stars.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum