In honor(?) of the new A Nightmare on Elm Street, we're recapping all of the Elms so far. Find more on the Pixel Vision blog.
The stage was set for Freddy vs. Jason (2003) long before Freddy’s glove made a cameo at the end of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993) — yet another in a long line of misleadingly-titled films promising the last stand of the boogeyman in question (lest ye forget, Jason X came out in 2001). Who didn’t want to see the wisecracking scourge of Springwood go glove-to-machete with Camp Crystal Lake’s burly maniac? Truly, it would be a grudge match for the ages, with two of the most franchise-able movie monsters (combined total in 2003: 17 films) poised to lure both long-standing loyalists and new blood into the theaters. (And even if the entire film was simply a canny marketing tactic, it worked -- Freddy vs. Jason was a huge hit, earning $82 million in the United States alone.)
It goes without saying that all viewers must choose a side. And I don’t mean choosing the side of the generic teen actors (Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Destiny’s Child-er Kelly Rowland) — after all, it’s only fun when the bodies start dropping, so that ain’t even an option. I remember attending the Freddy vs. Jason press screening and being outraged that the promotional giveaway item was a paper Jason mask. Hold the (tongue-twisting) phone! No glove bedecked with cardboard razors? No disposable fedora? Clearly, favoritism was being displayed! UNFAIR TO FREDDY!
Um, anyway. Nearly 10 years later, I still have that paper hockey mask, but I hadn’t re-watched the movie since its release. Looking at it again last night, I remembered why: it’s just sort of blah. A huge amount of exposition — wherein we learn that the powers of Freddy (Robert Englund) have been nullified because Springwood grown-ups have taken drastic steps to make all the wee ones forget about him, and if nobody remembers him, they can’t fear him, and if they don’t fear him, he has no strength to sweeten anyone’s sleepytime, etc. etc. — leads to Freddy rousing his fellow hell-dweller, Jason (Ken Kirzinger), from whatever stasis the superhuman killing machine happens to be in this year. (For the record, I kinda liked Jason X. Jason in outer space was such an awesome idea, I didn’t really mind that the movie was so insanely formulaic otherwise.)
Anyway, Jason rises, again, lumbers over to Elm Street, and starts taking out the local under-18 population. Word gets out, thanks to some indiscreet cops and a couple of kids who’ve been institutionalized and medicated for the sole purpose of silencing the Ballad of Freddy Krueger. Oops. There are slicings, dicings, a rave in a corn field (wait — a rave? With glow sticks? In 2003? I hope this is a sign of the sense of humor that enabled director Ronny Yu to helm 1998’s Bride of Chucky), and all manner of bloodshed; at a certain point, Freddy gets pissed at Jason (“That hockey puck!”) for killing wide-awake kids he was hoping to slaughter in their dreams. Important lesson, everyone: it’s hard to reason with a voiceless, soulless, heavily armed killing machine.
SO. One thing leads to another, and Jason gets tranquilized. Freddy goes into his dream, and pretends to be Jason’s nagging-from-the-grave mother, kind of a Mrs. Bates in a turtleneck. Despite all efforts, Jason won’t die, of course. (Is it possible Freddy never saw a Friday movie? That’s Jason’s magic power! He is evil immortal! Like, duh!) The kids intervene by driving Jason’s snoozing body to Camp Crystal Lake. (All this time it was terrifyingly close to Springwood — who knew?)
Elm Street dweller Lori (Keena, whose character’s name may or may not be a reference to Laurie Strode from the Halloween movies) has the bright idea of bringing Freddy into the real world, which is exactly what happened in Freddy’s Dead (1991) and probably a few other Nightmares as well, but at this point, I’m having trouble keeping track. Pretty much, it’s breasty Lori’s only contribution to the film, even though she’s positioned as a Nancy Thompson-style last girl standing. Oh, how times have changed ... and gotten worse.
Anyway, at last, Freddy and Jason have it out on the shores of Crystal Lake. There is fire, there are explosions, there’s a beheading, and if you really want to know, neither guy wins. There’s no winner! Haha, sucker! Argh. But, I suppose, the end result was convincing enough to pave the way for another clash of horror titans, Alien vs. Predator (2004), which in turn brought us Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), which in turn probably helped this summer’s Predators get made, and Predators looks awesome, so I’m not complaining. However, the success of Freddy vs. Jason also no doubt inspired last year’s Friday the 13th remake, which was utter shit (in 3-D), and the brand-new A Nightmare on Elm Street, which opens tomorrow, featuring Jackie Earle Haley instead of Robert Englund in the striped-sweater hot seat. How will Freddy fare? Stay tuned for Louis Peitzman’s review!