Friday, October 21, 2016

Staying Positive: Freddy vs. Jason

by Adam Thas
Somewhere in a dark and gloomy boardroom, a few movie producers concocted a devious plot to attain great sums of money by putting two of the greatest villains of the '80s horror together in one epic money grab. Okay, that probably isn’t exactly how it went, but in 2003 I could not have been more excited for my generation’s version of The Wolfman vs. Dracula in an epic drag out brawl.

Needless to say, as a fan of the previous solo movies, Freddy vs. Jason left much to be desired not only as horror movie, but also as a movie and as two hours. I hated the movie. I thought it was boring; the dialogue was as if a two-year old wrote it, and it shit on the things I loved growing up. So this week I decided to grab some popcorn and bring my nightmares to life by staying positive through 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason.
In case you don’t know what is going on, Freddy explains it all to you the first few minutes. Now I know you’re thinking that sounded very sarcastic, because it was. And I am well aware that sarcasm is not "staying positive."  However, I actually think it is in this case. How many of these movies have begun with a voice over catching you up on the plot? Pretty much all of them, so while this may not be a good display of movie storytelling, it is doing the same thing many of the other movies do. If you’ve a fan of the originals, this isn’t far off base.

It’s here that I actually find my first positive. In concept, the movie is pretty cool and I’m with it. The “adults,” realizing they couldn’t stop Freddy directly, instead cut off anyone who remembers him, taking away his powers. To make people think he’s back, Freddy raises Jason from the dead to commit murders on Elm Street. Okay, I’m on board, and as a timeline of events this makes sense. In Jason Goes to Hell, the final image is of Freddy’s hand grabbing Jason’s mask, so we’ve established the two have some kind of relationship, no matter how farfetched.

If you are a true fan of either the Friday the 13th movies or Nightmare on Elm Street movies these things deliver. It does feel like two separate movies, each with their own feel to them. The beginning finds Jason being resurrected and then walking from what I’m assuming is Camp Crystal Lake to Elm Street. We are now hanging out with the teenagers we’ve seen in every Nightmare or Friday the 13th movie; teenagers who love to drink and have sex, and the one (Monica Keena) who isn’t into it. Oddly, there is a familiarity to it that is comforting. I kind of know who is going to die by the end of the movie. In true Jason fashion, the slaughters are brutal, but it's a nice change to see Jason stabbing people in a suburban home rather than a forest. Sure, the producers probably weren’t a fan of the extra set costs but fuck you, Jason’s getting his stab on.
Let’s fast forward because the plot really slows down for a while. Long story short, Freddy is back and so is the best actor in the movie. No, not Robert Englund, but Brendan Fletcher as Mark Davis. I know these movies aren’t known for pumping out Oscar winners, but when Kelly Rowland is giving the best performance to this point you know it’s brutal. Brendan Fletcher is genuinely good in this movie as Will Rollins’ (Jason Ritter) sidekick and fellow asylum inmate. He’s good and fun and brings some life into a movie that was starting to drag. On top of Fletcher showing up, we start to have the Freddy dream/nightmare sequences that, growing up, are what I always enjoyed the most about the movies. The surreal images and quick changes in the setting live up to many of the ones in previous Elm Street movies. So if you’re a fan of it previously, you’re probably going to be a fan of it in Freddy vs Jason.

This does lead to what I think is the most lasting and, upon re-watching it, the best sequence in the movie: the cornfield rave. I remember when I saw the movie the first time that this scene was the only thing that stuck with me, and upon a second viewing this is, in my opinion, one of the better scenes ever offered in a Friday the 13th movie. During the rave, Jason has killed a few victims and finally is discovered, sprayed with alcohol and set on fire. As Jason walks through the cornfield -- on fire -- he leaves a burning trail. There is a great shot of Jason surrounding the party stabbing people with a trail of inferno behind him that I enjoyed immensely. I enjoyed it so much that I wish they would have just let it play out instead of cutting in a Freddy sequence.
Eventually, we find ourselves back at Camp Crystal Lake. The kids have managed to pull Freddy out of the dream world and into our world, where a very pissed off Jason and Freddy fight each other. In terms of a Freddy vs. Jason theme, this delivers. The fight scenes are genuine fight scenes, where horror nerds everywhere are finally getting the question “who would win in a fight?” answered. It’s competently shot and well choreographed and I can say that I did find myself enjoying parts of it. Granted I’m not exactly sure how Freddy learned to fight, but let’s just assume it was in the Matrix and enjoy ourselves.

Freddy vs. Jason suffers from all of my original criticisms and definitely still has problems. Upon re-watching it, I found myself enjoying a bit more than I did originally. The cornfield rave scene is good. Portions of the end fight are good, and seeing Jason kick ass in the burbs was fun. During the re-watch, I began to ask the question "why did I hate this movie so much"? I’ve sat through 17 combined Elm Street and Friday the 13th movies and I can honestly say this movie is better than at least 60% of those, so why did I hate this movie so much more? The best answer I can give is hype and that it came out in 2003 instead of 1993. I don’t know what I was expecting, but whatever it was, Freddy vs. Jason did not live up to it.

Is Freddy vs. Jason a good movie? No, but neither are many of the other previous movies. For me to be a fan of those originals and somehow hold this to a different standard is simply a case of me hanging onto some twisted nostalgia. Freddy vs Jason is not a good movie, but it’s an above average Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th movie.

5 comments:

  1. My favorite part of the entire movie is when Jason pushes Freddy through the pains of glass in the cabin. I threw my hands up in the air in the theater like I was at a concert and the band played my favorite song.

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  2. there was rumors, years ago, for a freddy vs jason vs evil dead.

    we can only dream

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    Replies
    1. Michael GiammarinoOctober 22, 2016 at 8:42 AM

      Sadly it'll never happen as a film, but it's been made into a comic series, Freddy vs Jason vs Ash.

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  3. Thanks for the nice write up. I really like these "Staying Positive" ones. That being said, I can't for the life of me get through Aeon Flux. It's sci-fi action spy movie, right? Charlize Theron wearing tight bat womenesque suits? Should be a no brainer, but after 3ish attempts, have only made it 30 minutes in. I end up just fast forwarding to watch clips of action Charlize in her sexy suit. I'm weak that way. But I'll watch it someday.

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  4. I I can't I can't argue with that, it is very slow for an "action" movie. I think the last time I watched it, it was doing things visually that really struck a chord with me.

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