Freddy vs. Jason (2003) Movie Review

Here’s what I think happened. The original writers of “Freddy vs. Jason” realized very early on that their movie was going to be a combination of insider camp and over-the-top mayhem. After all, when you’re doing a movie called “Freddy versus Jason”, there’s really no other place to go but over-the-top. But on the way to production (it took the film nearly 10 years to get made) another writer (or set of writers) was/were brought in. This second group performed a polish and added background to the victims — er, teen characters. They fleshed out the cardboards, if you will. As a result, a lot of the blood was mopped up and a lot of the mayhem was substantially reduced. That’s my theory anyway.

In a nutshell, here’s the story for those of you who cares (and really, if you still care about story with these Teen Slasher movies, you shouldn’t be watching them in the first place): Freddy has gotten weaker since last we saw him, with the entire town of Springwood (the town that Elm Street resides in) having made a concerted effort to “forget” he ever existed. Now powerless to stalk victims, Freddy (in a rather helpful first-person narration that adds to the already comic book-ish vibe of the movie’s premise) informs us that he’s resurrected Jason Voorhees to “put the fear” back into the Elm Street kids. He succeeds, but Jason gets greedy, and Freddy tries to off him, and vice versa.

My hypothesis that “Freddy vs. Jason” is the result of two writers (or two set of writers) with opposing viewpoints on how to approach the movie is further substantiated by Freddy’s opening narration, where he constantly breaches the fourth wall by talking directly to the audience. The first set of writers probably wrote the first 20 minutes of “FvsJ” and the last 20 minutes, with the middle part written by the second set. I say this because the first and last act of the movie is all camp, playing up on the two franchises’ established mythos while constantly winking at us. The middle section, about 40 minutes long, is devoted to “characterization” — something wholly superfluous in a Teen Slasher movie.

The director is Ronny Yu (“The 51st State”), who, it seems, is still in love with that Blurry Action technique he began using during his Hong Kong days on movies like “The Bride With White Hair”. Here, it’s just out of place and really takes you out of the action. Worst, Yu seems to be inserting the camera technique just for the heck of it, since it really adds nothing except to make us wonder why the hell the action is suddenly jerky and blurry. Otherwise, Yu does a competent job. But let’s face it, it’s not like he could have really screwed the pooch here unless, well, he really screwed the pooch. He doesn’t. The movie looks fine. Not that it matters.

Our movie’s Fair Hair Lead this time around is Monica Keena as Lori, an actress with a fairly generous amount of cleavage (probably owing in no small part to her doctor) and who forces me to add the word “Bland” to her archetype. Monica Keena looks like Brittany Murphy (“8 Mile”), but with less of the skank quotient. Unfortunately her lack of skank also makes her quite tedious and boring, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing had Yu and his writers conspired to get her topless, which they didn’t. So we’re left with watching her constantly tease us with her bobbing cleavage while the actress makes shocked faces at the camera. Oy.

The T&A quota (of which the movie is shockingly lacking, I might add) is provided by Katharine Isabelle, who not surprisingly shows more ability than lead Keena. I’m firmly convinced that most talented actresses in Teen Slasher movies were offered the part of the leads before turning it down and going for the meatier Slutty Best Friend role. How else can you explain the vast differences between actresses like Isabelle and Keena in these movies? The Fair Hair Leads and their Loyal Boyfriends are always the weakest part of every Teen Slasher movie. There’s simply nowhere to go with a character that constantly has to look scared, run around trying to convince people what’s going on, and finally find their Inner Badass by movie’s end. It’s just no fun.

The film’s main draw, of course, is the showdown between Jason (Ken Kirzinger, stepping into Kane Hodder’s hockey mask and rags) and Freddy (the top-billed Robert Englund). Their 20-minute fight, first taking place in Freddy’s dreamscape, then at Jason’s Camp Crystal Lake, is a whopper of a good time that’s only burdened with yet more silly characterization by the victims — er, teen characters. There’s something strangely satisfying about watching these two killers slice and dice each other, with blood gushing freely with every slash and stab. Not surprisingly, this is probably where the bulk of the movie’s budget went. And it shows.

Suffice it to say, “Freddy vs. Jason” is not nearly as bloody as you would expect. Even a massacre scene in a cornfield being used for a rave is cut strangely short. Throughout the film, I continue to have this nagging notion that the movie just couldn’t commit to one direction, and instead tried to have it both ways. Why not just go for the gusto? Shove the superfluous (and incredibly tedious) characterizations and endless expositions and endless background stories and just go with the blood and guts. Did they really think the Academy Awards folks were watching this movie, trying to gauge if the screenplay was worth a nomination? Get real.

And oh, the movie’s best line, which appears in the trailer, seems to have been excised from the movie. It’s where the Bland Fair Hair Lead shouts, “Place your bets!” Apparently no betting was allowed in the final cut.

Ronny Yu (director) / David S. Goyer, Damian Shannon, Mark Swift (screenplay)
CAST: Robert Englund …. Freddy Krueger
Monica Keena …. Lori Campbell
Ken Kirzinger …. Jason Voorhees
Kelly Rowland …. Kia
Jason Ritter …. Will Rollins

Buy Freddy vs. Jason on DVD