Worth A Look: 22.12%
Pretty Bad: 6.73%
Total Crap: 15.87%
5 reviews, 178 user ratings
|Freddy vs. Jason
by David Hollands
I love slasher films. I have fun swimming in that age-old message that premarital sex is wrong, and punishment will come from having premarital sex. That’s always something great at which to laugh.Freddy vs. Jason is truly an extremely surprising thing indeed: it is actually enjoyable, and quite frankly the most fun I’ve add going to a horror flick in years. It is the kind of film that is just geared towards an audiences’ participation. It also could have fallen right on its face. Basically, Freddy vs. Jason decides to take itself half seriously, and half be a really stupid, self-referential flick that knows its own shortcomings and makes fun of them. Somehow though, Freddy vs. Jason just pulls off the two different styles effortlessly, creating one of the most perfect blends of horror and comedy onscreen. The horror never overwhelms the comedy, and the comedy never bogs down the horror.
"Pure popcorn fun."
Freddy vs. Jason is definitely the slasher flick that features the two screen titans at their absolute best. Freddy Krueger, although still annoying as a pop-culture icon, shows a definite cunning on how to get his victims where he wants. Throughout the years of A Nightmare on Elm Street, we have learned that Freddy delves into your fear and uses that against you. Here, he does the same thing, praying on characters’ weaknesses like a plague. Speaking of a plague, this is the horror movie that truly features Freddy in a very disturbing sense: as a disease. The town has locked away anyone who was having dreams about the child murderer, much like a quarantine. If someone starts having dreams beyond control, they are kept locked away from others, and are forced to take an experimental dream represcent. Like any good virus movie, this film offers a small commentary on the consequences of doing something like that. Freddy is soon remembered when one of the mental patients, unaware that the town was actually treating him in that way to protect him and the rest of the population, lets some facts slip, this allowing Freddy to once again gain power and hurt people in their dreams. The commentary, although only delved into a little, speaks that if something bad is happening, just say it, as it will come back and create an even larger problem than if they’d have just come clean about it in the first place.
As for Jason, he doesn’t quite get the disease fear so graciously bestowed upon him by Adam Marcus in Jason Goes to Hell, but what this movie does offer is extremely cool. Jason is definitely one of my favourite screen slashers, so the fact that he gets most of the kills here is a plus for me. The direction, sound effects, and sound design are all put into Jason, making his movements larger than life and his killings almost appearing as if the Gods themselves are striking people down. Every swing of his machete sounds like a lightning bolt, and his footsteps are deliciously deep and full of bass. Plus, the way he kills his victims in this movie are absolutely fantastic. There’s a nasty electrocution, an extremely harsh throw against a tree, a painful folding in half the wrong way, an impalement on a board, a double impalement, and a gruesome scene in which a character is sliced entirely in half.
Unlike the other Friday and Elm Street films that suffered from the MPAA curse, the new modern liking of gore in cinema offers the possibility of some graphic death scenes in Freddy vs. Jason. The movie doesn’t disappoint, and the gore never has that cut down feeling. There is huge splattering everywhere in this movie. When victims get stabbed, huge geysers of blood fly into the air. When they are hit by Jason, they don’t just fall down, they fly practically half a mile before impacting on something and ripping apart. The violence is so excessive in fact, that it just dissolves into the realm of extreme goofiness. One can laugh at the gore without being disgusted by it, and that helps avoid tonal conflict with the movie’s comedy/horror genre split. For an R-rated movie, this is definitely one of the most excessive after the hilariously goofy splattering of Jason Goes to Hell. Bravo!
Another credit to Freddy vs. Jason is the intelligent handling of its characters and the numerous situations. There’s only one or two moments when something seems dumb. Such a moment is the rough belief that after witnessing a massacre of many people at the hands of Jason, and after the brutal death of their best friend, that the characters could simply head home with a few tears. Another dumb moment comes when one character heads out into the street after hearing a noise when he knows there’s a killer outside. However, that’s basically redeemed when a brutal surprise follows in the few moments after. Aside from those two moments, every action the characters take seems justified to further their own survival.
On the downside to this movie is the fact that the dialogue is extremely poor. It doesn’t seem fresh and ripe, and not even that enjoyable to listen to despite the movie’s horror/comedy splice. It is standard, and although I would never expect films like this to be masterpieces of writing, I would actually expect more than this. All of Freddy’s one-liners and stuff like that simply aren’t frightening or the least bit suspenseful. They sound dumb and lame, not being funny and definitely not having any impact at all. And the moments when he talks to himself such as when he utters “Still not strong enough…oh well, in the mean time, I’ll just let Jason have a little fun” are terminally grating. Also a definite annoyance are how the characters simply realise things out of the blue. For example, in a scene where the survivors are speaking around a table, one guy just randomly throws out the entire movie’s plot. I could never believe for a second that at that point in the story the characters could possibly understand what is going on.
Despite that, the thing that basically makes up for that is that the characters are all likable. Our main heroine is an emotionally raped girl, because her mother has been murdered and her father seems extremely distant and mysterious. Even her Destiny’s Child friend isn’t as annoying as she may sound, because the script never really puts lines into her mouth that are THAT terrible. They’re still pretty bad, but still considerably better than in most films like this. And finally, the most heartbreaking character in this film just has to be poor drunkard Gibb. She’s practically a poster child for the negative effects of addiction, and she dates a guy without being able to cannot separate herself from him even though he’s abusive and hurtful. Basically, she dies because she could never have the willpower to break away from him, in the aforementioned dead boyfriend’s body scene. It’s truly tragic, and while it’s meant to be a throwaway sequence, it still has dramatic weight.
The main selling point of Freddy vs. Jason is the battle between the two screen titans. The main conflict happens at the film’s conclusion, and despite a minor caveat, the battle is extremely exciting. The two live up to their names and REALLY go at themselves, using everything from long, thin poles to huge trailers, to compressed air canisters to try and do themselves in. And in a true of poetic justice, there’s even a moment where Freddy uses Jason’s machete to try and kill him, and Jason rips off Freddy’s arm with the knife-finger glove and stabs it threw his stomach in an attempt to kill him. The battle is extremely brutal though, but one can easily set that aside and simply revel in the two masters of slasher cinema just constantly going at each other over and over again. But there is a minor annoyance that is slightly disappointing. The characters are basically the ones who decide which one wins and looses, and the final choice of the winner of the battle is actually decided by one of the characters instead of the two slasher icons. That is a little bit of a cheat, as I came into Freddy vs. Jason expecting a true bloodbath between the two, not the typical conclusion where the virginal heroine and her man save the day. Still, Freddy vs. Jason is a lot of fun, and the minor error there shouldn’t really set back your enjoyment levels THAT much.
Director Ronny Yu has created a visually stunning movie. Using the entire 2.35:1 widescreen frame, Yu has crafted a horror film that looks very slick. The wide angles give the movie a definite sense of class and structure that was missing from practically every other Friday. However, one thing Yu is incapable of doing is to create or even sustain any suspense. There’s only one moment in this entire film when I was truly creeped out, and that was in a beautiful composition of eyeless bodies staring up at one of our main characters. Other than that, every jump scare in this flick seems telegraphed, and you can see them coming miles away. Despite this, the film never really looses its sense of fun, because really this movie isn’t about trying to scare its audience, but just entertaining them.
Quite refreshing is the assured editing by Mark Stevens, who never over-cuts a sequence with showy MTV-ish circus tricks, and instead allows the movie to flow naturally. His pacing is perfect, as there’s never a moment anywhere here that feels bogged down or desperate to increase the running time. What’s really surprising is the fact that the movie never feels overlong, despite having a running time of nearly two hours, definitely a first for this type of slasher film.
On the performance side, this film is a very mixed bag. It’s the kind of film where the actors try their best with the dialogue they are given, but can’t really rise above the limitations of the material. As the heroine, Monica Keena is very sweet and enjoyable to watch. Even more refreshing is the fact that neither she nor any other woman in this movie have horrendously waif-ish forms as is usual in Hollywood. Keena in fact, has a nice layer of chubbiness to her face that is refreshing and very sexy. Plus, she’s an okay performer, so that’s always a plus. Also quite good is Kelly Rowland as Kia. Rowland speaks her lines well and looks her performers in the eyes at all times, so I really don’t care if you hate Destiny’s Child, her performance is a good one! As Gibb the drunkard, Katharine Isabelle brings a very pathetic side to the character. She sounds extremely tired when speaking her lines, something that seems oddly in place since her character both smokes and drinks endlessly. However, she seems to be forcing her dialogue out too much at times, and it’s easy to see that she’s pretty bored with the material.
On the male side, we have some pretty good performances, particularly a small role from Brendan Fletcher playing the broken down Mark, whose brother died by Freddy’s hands. The guy is excellent, always allowing the scene to carry the performance instead of taking it over himself. He allows his other actors to breath, while still turning in a heartbreaking turn in what is definitely an excellent portrayal of a broken down psychotic. As the hero, Jason Ritter is pretty good. He has a good screen presence and a nice ability to carry a scene without much effort. Lochlyn Munro turns in an excellent goofy turn as the sheriff who cares, and the standout role definitely belongs to Kyle Labine, who’s fantastic as the stoner Freeburg. The performances are better in this flick than in other slashers, and as a result, there’s a definite care for the characters that’s practically unheard of in these types of films. We don’t want them to die, and feel disappointed when they do depart on the screen, because they are highly entertaining to watch.
Robert Englund resumes his role as Freddy Krueger. He’s typically good here, going through the same shtick here with the energy he brought to past Nightmare in Elm Street movies. There’s really nothing more to say, aside from the fact that it is great to watch Englung go wild here. Many fans will most likely scream at not including Friday the 13th veteran Kane Hodder as Jason. Hodder was excellent in the role, bringing a huge sense of menace to the role simply with his imposing size. I was disappointed that he was being replaced, but that quickly disappeared when the replacement turned out to be superb. Ken Kirzinger may be a little smaller than Hodder, but he looses none of the menace, instead making up for it with subtle movements in his actions, and extremely evil looking eyes that burn holes through one’s head.
No slasher film review would be complete without an examination on the sex and nudity. There’s some flesh shown here, once by a girl in the beginning and another time by Gibb as she takes a shower by candle light. There’s also a really surprising scene of sex that comes a bit unannounced. Most times in film, one wouldn’t expect to see two actors going at it as they were in that scene, making for a very brief, but still VERY sexy sounding love-making moment. Aside from that, there’s nothing really. That’s also a fresh element, as this film really isn’t awash in wall to wall sex and nudity. There’s only two naked bodies here and a lot of tight tops, but the lack of lots of sex just has that original feeling to it. It helps the audience to focus more on the concern in the movie, that Freddy and Jason are back, rather than distract them with sex. Also, it actually does make it a bit hard to decipher exactly when a character will die.
Graeme Revell and Corey Taylor contribute an a*s-kicking score to this movie. Their original compositions are awesome and have tons and tons of drive and impact. In another bit of extremely refreshing business, there are only a few instances where the standard modern horror movie rock tune is used, and when it is, it actually sounds awesome rather than highly annoying. Basically, the tunes are here to announce with extreme ferocity that Freddy and Jason are indeed back for another round, and the effect is undeniably cool. Plus, the rock n’ roll type soundtrack during the final battle between the titans is excellent, as it really shows how awesome the scene is without making it look entirely bloated. And I don’t know if it’s just the passing of time, but the “chi chi chi pah pah pah” and the “one, two, Freddy’s coming for you” just sound especially cool here.Freddy vs. Jason is a wonderful throw back to the days of slasher cinema. This movie does have many faults littered throughout that do stick out, but the overall sense of light-heartedness and fun, as well as the absolute joy of seeing these two titans go at each other pretty much wipes them out. Plus, the themes found in the flick, and some of the disturbing under-current here makes Freddy vs. Jason seem like a much more important film than it’s surface would lead you to believe. When all is said and done, it’s the perfect end to a Friday evening.
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originally posted: 12/13/03 10:25:37