For the last nine days I’ve been watching and reviewing the movies in the Friday the 13th franchise from the very first through Jason X (I’m up in the air about including Freddy vs Jason).
I’ve been counting kills, observing the bad behavior that gets teenagers
killed at Camp Crystal Lake, chronicling the ways Jason and the other
killers in the series bite it at the end, and awarding my favorite kill
of the movie. Needless to say this is going to be heavy on the
spoilers, so if you’re some kind of movie virgin who hasn’t yet bathed
in the spring of Jason Voorhees et al, be wary.
Special thanks to Litmus Configuration for the amazing image above!
Jason X (2001)
Freddy vs Jason (2003)
Kills: 23 Jason kills confirmed, but total number of ravers kills is unknown (one machete party followed by back breaking bed folding, one decapitation, seven various machete slashings, one two for one pipe impalement, one Linda Blair imitation, one flaming machete through the chest, one smooshed by door, one electrocution, one bisection, one death by shelving unit, one slash that implausibly causes a twenty foot toss and destruction against a tree)
Best Kill: While possessed by Freddy, a stoner finds himself in two spurting halves.
Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll: Beers are drank. Sexual activity in the home of someone whose name you don’t even know. Plenty of dope is smoked. Stupid glowsticks are used in a rave. Attempted rape is foiled by Voorhees.
The Comeuppance: Freddy sticks Jason’s machete through his heart, but Jason never seems to actually die.
The Movie: This series was going to end Friday with Jason X, but you guys demanded that I press on and round the whole thing out with Freddy vs Jason. I take this as a sign that you guys really, really hate me.
This movie is why the Friday the 13th series had been treading water for ever since Part VII. I don’t know why it took New Line so long to get this film made after they acquired the rights to Jason Voorhees and Friends, although it certainly wasn’t worth the wait. Freddy vs Jason isn’t a terrible movie, and its high production values are certainly commendable, but the whole picture is a concept wandering in search of a compelling story.
The movie opens with Freddy Krueger, child-killing hero of the A Nightmare on Elm Street films, explaining what he’s been up to since we last saw him menacing a group of cookie-cutter suburban youth. It’s like being cornered at your tenth high school reunion by the ex-jock who has been divorced three times already and works at a gas station – after a successful run of killing the children of Elm Street (located in Springwood, USA, apparently just a trip down the road from Crystal Lake) in their dreams, Freddy has finally been defeated by the town, which has come together to forget him. He gets all of his power from the fear of sleepers and if they don’t know who he is, he can’t enter their dreams.
Infuriated by being forgotten, Freddy hatches a scheme – he’ll manipulate Jason Voorhees, who is inexplicably buried in the Crystal Lake area, into taking a walk over to Elm Street and killing some kids, returning fear to Elm Street. The movie drops the ball early by not showing the journey of Jason – imagine him hitchhiking, and doing a Friday the 13th version of Harry and Tonto, or we pan down a bus while Everybody’s Talkin’ is playing and there’s Jason at the back, head leaning against the window, watching the wide world roll by.
At first I wasn’t sure how Freddy’s plan would even work – surely the hockey-masked zombie would be scary on his own and wouldn’t throw much residual fear to Freddy – but the filmmakers actually thought this part out (it’s the only part they did think out). Freddy impersonates Mrs. Voorhees and gives Jason pretty specific orders, so that he wanders into a house full of partying kids (and not just any house – the house from the first film) and only kills one of them, and he does that in a kind of weird way – breaking the kid in half in a folding bed (after stabbing the shit out of him, granted) – that sort of resembles a Freddy kill.
Meanwhile, the last kids who have met Freddy Krueger (not in any film, as far as I can tell) are locked up in a mental institution being fed Hypnocil, a drug that keeps them from dreaming. And, judging by flashbacks to four years previously, from aging as well. John Ritter’s son is incarcerated there for reasons that are too boring to explain; he’s the boyfriend of the girl who now lives in the Elm Street house (played by the super hot, pre-fucked up cosmetic surgery Monica Keena), and when he sees that there’s a murder in her house he realizes Freddy must be back. Working with his mental patient buddy, Ritter Jr escapes and goes to warn the kids of Elm Street, which is really stupid, since that’s just what Freddy wants.
Anyway, Freddy’s plan works better than he could have hoped, but it turns out that Jason isn’t interested in stopping his kill spree. If Freddy doesn’t do something, Jason’s going to kill all the kids of Elm Street himself before they even have a chance to fall asleep. Freddy conspires to bring Jason into the dream world where he discovers that Jason’s afraid of water (this is a major problem for some fans, especially the ones who have seen the multiple films where Jason happily wades into water and Crystal Lake specifically, but I’m OK with it, mainly because this is the dream world. In other words, it’s not that Jason is paralyzed by water in real life, but deep inside his tiny brain (tinyness established in Jason X), he really hates water. But he’ll totally get out into it in order to kill some rutting teens). Little Ritter and Keena and their friends figure out what’s going on and they conspire to bring Jason back to Crystal Lake and tear Freddy out of the dream world and have the two of them duke it out.
When I type it out like that, it almost doesn’t sound half bad. And I didn’t even mention the scene where a flaming Jason (on fire, not wearing a bondage outfit and ostrich feathers) steps out of a corn field with a fiery machete and lays waste to an entire rave – surely one of the highlights of Voorhees’ entire career. There are highlights throughout, but for the most part the connective tissue – aka the story and talking and stuff – doesn’t work. The film is, for want of a better term, completely fucking dull. There’s not a single character in the movie who is engaging (although one character, a stoner obviously based on Jason Mewes, takes the trophy of ‘Stupidest Victim Ever’ – when the gang breaks into a medical lab to steal Hypnocil, he stops to smoke a joint), and the formula is closer to the snooze-inducing Nightmare tropes, which involve the kids trying not to sleep for a couple of days and blinking off into microsleeps at the most dramatic moments so that Freddy can take them while they think they’re still awake. I think this is how every single dream sequence takes place, with the exception of the final one, where Keena puts herself to sleep to get to Freddy, which I think is also pretty standard. After a while it becomes funny how often these kids nod off in the middle of conversations or even while walking around – it’s like the movie is stuffed with narcoleptics.
Jason is painfully useless in this movie, and his movements around Springwood make no sense. In Jason X it’s playfully hinted that a couple having sex on the spaceship wakes Jason from the dead, and this movie seems to take that one ste farther by having him wander across a suburban landscape and hone in on teens only. What I love about the rave is what I hated about Jason Takes Manhattan – put into a situation with a lot of people, Jason doesn’t just follow one person, he mows down everyone in front of him. That same logic should apply to Springwood; once Jason is done taking Freddy’s orders he should just be going from house to house, killing everybody he finds. Instead of blindly following Freddy’s plan, he’s being walked through the director’s, which is even less satisfying.
The director this time is Ronnie Yu, a talented Chinese filmmaker brought to America to direct absolute crap (he did a Chucky movie before this one). Yu brings with him not just his Oriental inscrutability but also a fondness for wire work, which is so weirdly out of place in this film. There’s one moment where the wire work is great, when Freddy leaps out of Crystal Lake, because the arc of his jump has a true dream-like surreality, but when Freddy and Jason are fighting in the real world and they’re tossing one another twenty feet at a time I felt like I was watching a goddamned WWF wrestling match, except less gay because we know Freddy likes (little) girls.
Speaking of that final battle, what the hell are the rules for Freddy in the real world? He seems to be not only superhuman but also trained in martial arts: watching Freddy deliver a flurry of kicks to Jason Voorhees is so delightfully stupid that I clapped. But he takes an exceptional amount of punishment and keeps coming back, which also makes no sense on a tactical level – when he resurrects Jason at the beginning, there’s a line of dialogue about how the big lumbering tard can’t be killed… so why is Freddy trying to kill him? It would make much more sense to try to get the fuck out of there and attempt a return to the dream world, where he was truly pwning Voorhees. But fans want to see a fight scene, I guess, even one that involves both characters getting nailed by a cart and being sent flying cartoonishly.
There are things I like about the film, though. When Freddy resurrects Jason he enters his dreams (I guess it makes sense that he would dream while ‘dead’) and it’s great that Jason’s dreams are like a dog’s, only instead of chasing rabbits through them, he’s chasing teens. Also, Jason’s many victims appear before him saying they deserved their fates, a nice little touch. And a later dream sequence takes us to Camp Crystal Lake in 1957, where we see young retard Jason getting mercilessly taunted by the kids and being driven into the lake where he drowns. The New Line Friday films seem to take only Part 2 as canon, and that means Jason has some hair on his head, but beyond that I found this entry to have decent continuity – the mythological elements of the Jason story are all used and are all important. Mrs. Voorhees’ severed head makes its first appearance in some time, in fact.
It’s the overwrought Nightmare-style story that sinks the film. I don’t care about Monica Keena’s dark family secret, or the angst of the children of Elm Street. Fuck that noise, get naked and murdered, you punks. There’s always been an emo element to the whole franchise, the whole aspect where the kids get glummer and sleepier and keep fucking up in reality because they’re pushed the edge of exhaustion. Play me a fucking Conor Oberst record.
After watching the film I’m still unsure about including this in the 10 Days of 13 series, since this is just not a Friday the 13th movie – it’s an A Nightmare on Elm Street film with a special guest star. Plus, Jason just doesn’t get the respect he deserves, especially in the final battle, when it seems that his machete is now a magical weapon that can off him. Like so many other high concept movies, Freddy vs Jason should have been left as just an idea and all of the cool Jason scenes could have been folded into a better Friday film.
Freddy vs Jason scores:
One and a half Retard Jasons out of four.
Two molested and murdered children out of four.