It was the horror movie fanboy’s wet dream: Freddy Krueger, the child-killing maniac with a twisted sense of humor who hunted and killed you in your dreams vs. Jason Voorhees, Crystal Lake’s lumbering stalker who, despite your best efforts to run, was always waiting for you around that corner with some sort of implement to gouge you. The idea had become a thing of legend and was even hinted at with the final scene of ‘Friday the 13th Part 9: Jason Goes to Hell,’ when the infamous hockey mask, laying in the sand, is suddenly pulled under the earth by the infamous bladed glove, presumably bringing Jason to hell. That was in 1993. There was fervor, excitement and speculation as to when the battle royale would go down. Then time passed. Jason went on his way and made his inevitable horror movie romp in space with ‘Jason X’ and Freddy lay dormant. The idea of a showdown faded and we went on with our lives until 2003, when it happened: Krueger and Voorhees met face to face on celluloid to presumably show who was the ultimate horror baddie.
The plot of ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ is pretty straightforward: Freddy Krueger is no longer even a memory for anyone under the age of 20 which means he can’t haunt people in their dreams. But he wants back, so he resurrects Jason Voorhees to start killing again, leading people to think that Freddy’s back, giving him power again. But Jason, being the single-minded killing machine that he is, just keeps murdering teens, giving him all the attention for the new rise of murders. This pisses Freddy off and paves the way for a two stage face-off: once in Freddy’s dream world and then again in the real world. Check your brain at the door, this film doesn’t reroute the paths the two franchises have been on since their debuts over 20 years ago. Freddy has long since moved away from a child-killer who taunts his victims with an ease and humor that makes you squirm. At this point, Krueger is kind of like that guy at the party who won’t ever give you a straight answer, instead opting to have a witty comeback for everything you’ve asked. In essence, Freddy Krueger is like Vince Vaughn who happens to be burned and seems to relish in referring to everyone as “bitch” in this film.
Jason Voorhees, on the other hand, never really had that much character to develop. He wasn’t even the bad guy in the first ‘Friday’ movie. His character traits really seemed to come down to who donned the mask for that particular film. In this round, Ken Kirzinger took up the mantle and plays Jason as the narrow-minded killer of teens. Voorhees’s pyschology tends to vary from film to film; sometimes he’s afraid of water, sometimes he’s not. He’s usually driven by his mother’s voice, but he can easily not be. So his transition to this film was par for the course. Kirzinger plays him as a little quicker on his feet and with what seems to be more of a thought process behind his acts, but ultimately, it’s Jason doing what Jason does. The rest of the cast plays the “drama” of the film up to horror cliche standards. Monica Keena plays the chaste heroine, Lori Campbell, well and, along with most of the cast, seems to realize that they’re not making high art here, so have fun with what you’re given. The only exception to this was Jason Ritter, playing Will Rollins. Ritter’s overacting seemed to say he didn’t realize he was only on screen giving dialogue to move the plot to the Freddy/Jason showdown.
Oh yeah, what about that showdown? Well, when it finally happens it’s definitely on. Freddy’s advantage in the dream world is taken full advantage of, lending the action to a bit more of an over the top ass-kicking (playing Jason like a pinball machine in the subconscious boiler room). And when Freddy’s pulled to the real world, landing in Camp Crystal Lake, Voorhees gets to shine with his blunt approach to, well, everything (my favorite part was when put Freddy through the window then ran with him down the length of said wall). Does the film land on an ultimate victor? Well, given the fact that the franchises were already well on their way to breaking some sort of record for the number of sequels in a series, I don’t know that anyone expected one to top the other. And the ambiguous ending clearly lent itself open for a revenge match. I went into this movie wanting to see ass-kicking, I got great ass-kicking and I’m down for a perpetual showdown every few years. And, in this spirit, ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ delivers perfectly. These horror icons aren’t scary anymore, so let the franchise move on in this battle of the titans vein.
Now, let’s talk about that sequel, ‘Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash.’