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11 September, 2010


Title:  FREDDY vs. JASON

Year of Release—Film:  2003

Year of Release—DVD:  2004

DVD Label:  New Line Cinema

As a confirmed fan of the FRIDAY the 13th series of films, (less so of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. movies) I’ve been hearing rumors, and rumors of rumors, of this project for a full ten years, ever since the rather obvious clue at the end of JASON GOES TO HELL:  THE FINAL FRIDAY (yeah, right… where’s truth in advertising?).  When it became clear that it was finally coming to fruition, I must admit that I felt no small amount of trepidation; Hollywood does not have a sterling record of managing such projects either wisely or well.  While the two franchises had admittedly fallen into disreputable circumstances long before this was a gleam in Sean Cunningham’s eye, they had, more or less, managed to remain true to their core fans.  The thought of the potential disaster that this could become certainly wasn’t a pleasing one.

Those feelings were amplified as the early reviews of this film began to come out.  Though there were scattered positive opinions out there, most of the fan reviews I saw were decidedly harsh, doing nothing to improve my outlook at this movie.  But the box office numbers were very impressive, and I felt that there just might be something worth checking out.  As soon as the DVD was released, I quickly, though with some measure of reluctance, bought my copy and sat down to see just which camp was right.

First, in the interest of full disclosure, I must be totally honest.  I did not expect to like this movie.  In fact, I expected to hate it.  I had myself all worked up to deliver a true grade-A rant about this one.  But I won’t be delivering that rant, because something unexpected happened while I was watching it.
I enjoyed it.  And not just a little—I really liked it.

Ok, so it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before.  The story is very good, though, better than the norm for both series.  Though Freddy’s dialogue sometimes goes a pun too far, it’s nothing that we’re not used to by now; indeed, Krueger’s wisecracks are as much his trademark as his glove or ratty sweater.  The plot is tight, coherent, and logical, for the most part.  Though there are holes here and there, it’s certainly not your average Campers go to lake; have sex; get drunk; get slashed… style of plotless, formulaic, stock-footage montage of murder that the last few examples of both these series (barring WES CRAVEN’S A NEW NIGHTMARE, which I felt was a tremendously original concept, very well done) provided.  The story actually serves to lay new foundations for both characters, especially Jason.  To discover new ground in characters this long-established is amazing, something akin to discovering an unexplored island in the middle of Lake Michigan.

The casting, though decent, is about average for the F13 series of films, and actually below par for the NIGHTMARE… franchise.  The actors show up, and do their jobs, but, with one exception, there are no standouts among the supporting cast.  That lone exception is Katharine Isabella, late of GINGER SNAPS fame.  She has a unique, intense look that really comes through on the screen, and a gift for being the ‘bad’ girl.  The rest are standard, typical “central casting” stereotypes, adequate, but not impressive.  But let’s be honest.  They’re only here for Body Count fodder.  Everyone knows who the stars of this film are.

Though he’s stayed very active in the genre apart from the NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. films, Freddy Krueger is as much Robert Englund’s signature role as Dracula was Lugosi’s.  And Englund was at the top of his form in this outing, his eighth as the wisecracking, throat-slashing ghost of a sadistic child-murderer.  Not a likable character; Englund has, nonetheless, made him a thoroughly enjoyable one to watch.  Though this series never captivated me to the same degree that the F13 series (or even more, the HALLOWEEN franchise) has, I’ve always enjoyed the character of Freddy Krueger, one of the true icons of the modern Horror Film.

Perhaps the most recognizable Horror icon of the past thirty years, however, is Jason Voorhees.  Almost a direct antithesis of Krueger’s garrulous style, the ever-silent Jason has hacked, slashed and carved his way through eleven films (though his appearance in the original film was admittedly brief).  While he’s been played by several different actors, and though his look has altered over time, this is the same living-dead unstoppable slasher that we first met in FRIDAY The 13th: PART II (1981).  Sure, he’s aged, he’s been to Hell and back, with a little detour to outer space, maybe he’s mellowed a little, right?  Wrong.  He’s still the silent, relentless, killing machine, out to punish teen-agers for indulging in sex, drugs, and/or rock and roll.

Yu’s direction, though very good, is nothing too original.  He manages the action very well though, and doesn’t let the flow of the film bog down too much.  Some of that is inevitable; very few films can maintain a frenetic pace for long.  But the pauses are kept to an acceptable minimum, and the pace doesn’t suffer.  Some of his directorial choices aren’t what I’d have liked, but that’s not totally bad.  It would be difficult to be specific without revealing too much of the plot; suffice it to say that he leans a little too much to the safe, conventional side of the coin.  While that’s probably for the best, it would have been nice to see something really daring for this movie.

The Special Effects are good, about average for a medium-budget film like this one, though nothing about which to get excited.  They are well done, though, and the CGI effects are blended smoothly into the physical shots, making for very convincing FX sequences.  No Academy Award nominations here, but you won’t feel cheated, either.

The DVD is superb, packed with extras, including interviews, commentaries, deleted scenes, behind-the-scene segments, and more.  While I seldom make use of all those extras, they are nice to have, and do make recommending the purchase of the DVD easier.

To sum it up, this is one of the best movies of 2003, and is a definite buy.  A lot of you may have the same preconceived notions that I had; abandon them, and give this movie a shot, you won’t be sorry.  Your opinion of the ending may depend upon who you’re a bigger fan of, Freddy or Jason; but give it a try.  While nothing, in my opinion, can beat out HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES as the Movie of the Year 2003, this one runs a close second.

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