FEBRUARY 9, 2009
The first time I actually felt old was during the opening weekend of Freddy Vs. Jason. First, none of my friends wanted to go. I remember pleading “Come on! We’ve been waiting for this since grade school!” But no dice; in the end it was just me and my girlfriend, who hadn’t even seen most of the movies. Also, during the opening scene when the girl showed her tits, the kid next to me began making comments and shouting at the screen, and I had to tell him to shut up. In retrospect, the inane shit he was saying was just as bad as the inane shit the people in the movie were saying, but still, it doesn’t change the fact that I had become the old man in the crowd.
The main problem I had then, and now, with FvJ is that it’s not an equal movie. It’s a Freddy movie that Jason appears in, and I say this even though Jason kills all but like two people in the movie. This was a movie that was promised IN a Jason movie (Goes To Hell), but yet at no time, even during the Jason-centric scenes (i.e. the opening, the rave), did I ever truly feel like I was watching a Friday the 13th movie.
Making matters worse, it actually would have made for a pretty decent Freddy sequel, had Jason’s role simply been some anonymous (non-supernatural) killer. The idea of Springwood “quarantining” Freddy by keeping everyone who remembered him in comas is pretty great, and I also like the idea of Freddy gaining power by getting credit for someone else’s kills. Had the filmmakers not been tied to using Jason, they could have done more with this concept - I would have loved to have seen people coming up with different ideas of what this guy looked like in their nightmares (if no one remembered Freddy, how would they get the details of his appearance right?).
But even with that taken into consideration, it’s just a giant disappointment. The dialogue is beyond horrible (“Freddy died by fire Jason died by water, how can we use that?”), the kids aren’t compelling, and there are nonsensical plot developments that make even Jason Takes Manhattan look logic-proof in comparison (I love how the cop seeks out a few kids he doesn’t even know in order to help them find a serial killer). And like Jason X, they blow their wad on the first kill (the bed breaking) before settling for a bunch of lame ones that you’ll never remember.
The logic holes are just impossible to ignore though. Jason walks from CT (or NJ) to Ohio, a MINIMUM distance of 500 miles, seemingly in one night, and never kills anyone along the way. People fall asleep in the most unnatural situations possible, a lame cheat to get around the whole “we don’t know if they are asleep or awake” thing. And if Freddy is strong enough to resurrect Jason from Hell, why can’t he just do the same damn thing for himself?
The biggest problem, however, is the total lack of evidence that anyone had even SEEN one of the other Friday films. While Freddy gets some nice shoutouts (the house, Hypnocil*, some of Freddy’s more classic one-liners), it appears that the Jason motifs were learned from watching the trailers for a couple of them. He is from Crystal Lake, his mother is important... and that’s it. Nothing set up in JGTH comes into play, and you can forget about Tommy Jarvis or anyone showing up. Worse - they get so many things so damn WRONG. Since when is Jason afraid of water? And why would he chop off a guy’s head and then wait until his son wakes up to do him in as well? They don’t even get the ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma right (it sounds like chee-hahahahahaahah). The poster tells you all you need to know - Robert Englund’s name is there, but not Ken Kirzinger. Ultimately, since 90% of the movie takes place in Springwood and the plot is about Freddy’s rebirth, Jason is essentially a glorified Macguffin in the film until the final 10-15 minutes.
That finale, of course, is when the movie finally delivers on its titular promise. The battle is impressive, and for once in the movie, it doesn’t feel like one killer was favored over the other. Since Jason is stronger, Freddy has to use his environment, and it makes for a frenetic and exciting battle (THIS is how the finale of New Blood should have played out). And it’s also impressively splatter-y, particularly when they are more or less holding each other and gouging out eyes and cutting off fingers and such. And I LOVED that they are more or less “killed” by their own weapons - Jason using Freddy’s glove, Freddy wielding the machete. Obviously the whole movie couldn’t have just been the two of them whaling on each other (though that would be an interesting approach), but it’s a shame that they didn’t let them interact until the final act. There’s a great bit during the fight where Kelly Rowland’s character begins to trash talk Freddy, who lets her ramble before pointing out that she forgot about Jason standing nearby. More of the movie should have been their sort of “teamup”, but I don’t even think Jason is aware of Freddy’s existence until the final half hour.
On the plus side, it’s certainly the most stylish and interesting looking movie in the series (again though, that’s something that makes it feel like just a Freddy movie), and while replacing Kane Hodder is one of the lamest moves in horror movie history, Ken Kirzinger is a formidable Jason, questionable makeup decisions notwithstanding (what’s with the black head?). I also liked the idea that when Jason dreams, it’s of just doing the same shit he does when he’s awake (I also dig his sideways water hole of bodies).
However, it does have its fans, and they must be delighted with the DVD set - it’s easily the most jam-packed edition for films in either series. You get a commentary with director Ronny Yu, Robert Englund, and Kirzinger, and it’s a fun track, despite Englund’s traditionally lame puns and “humorous” comments. Englund is a movie/tv encyclopedia, so he’s constantly bringing up random movies and shows (“This shot reminds me of the TV movie Coma...”), which is pretty awesome because it’s the same type of nonsense I’d be saying. The DVD also offers a full-screen presentation for those fans who also happen to be idiots.
The 2nd disc has about three hours’ worth of content - including a very in depth look at the CGI shots in the movie, a handful of deleted scenes (with Yu commentary), and various other featurettes on production. Everyone obviously worked really hard and the various sets/design elements are indeed impressive, though a few of the comments are bit puzzling (like the guy who says that FvJ is the first horror movie he’s done, because he doesn’t count H20 and Final Destination as horror films?). Englund admits to using a double for some of the action during the look on the stunts, which I appreciated - beats a “I did all my own stunts” boast that everyone else will instantly refute. There’s also a fun look at the “summer camp” atmosphere created for the film’s premiere at the legendary Alamo Drafthouse in TX.
The most fascinating, however, is a look at the script’s development. There are two text articles (originally run in Fangoria) about the various unused concepts, and then a 10-15 minute piece with the eventual credited writers (Mark Swift and Damian Shannon**, who wrote the Dunes’ remake), the super hot New Line VP who greenlit the movie, Yu, and a few others. It’s a terrific piece, and far more interesting than anything that you’ll see in the final product. Also worth pointing out - a collection of trailers for (then) recent New Line movies, as well as Jason Goes to Hell and Freddy’s Dead. It’s interesting because it skips over New Nightmare and Jason X, likely due to the fact that they were box office duds.
I never really expected a great movie out of this concept, and like I said, as a Freddy movie it’s actually not all that bad. But the total unbalance in Freddy’s favor, and unforgivable rewriting of Jason’s character, make it hard to swallow for this Friday fan. I don’t even really count it as part of the franchise, but since it was the last time Jason appeared in a film until the remake, I thought I’d give it another look and include it in my marathon coverage. Rest assured, it will more than likely be the last time I touch the DVD.
What say you?
* It’s been 16 years and this shit STILL doesn’t have FDA approval?
** Rumblings during interviews for the remake, and also on the His Name Was Jason DVD, suggest that the pair are not entirely happy with the finished product on this movie either, and want to make clear that Jason was NOT afraid of water in their draft.