Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #126
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: August 15, 2003
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $114,843,030
Running Time: 93 minutes
Director: Ronny Yu
Producer: Sean S. Cunningham
Screenplay: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
Characters: Wes Craven, Victor Miller
Special Effects: Wayne Beauchamp, Robert Paller, Erick Brennan, Royce Hager, Steve Tressel, Jeff Butterworth, Amanda Paller, Steve Tressel, Philip E. Davis
Visual Effects: Ray McIntyre Jr., Kevin Lingenfelser, Ariel Velasco-Shaw
Cinematography: Fred Murphy
Score: Graeme Revell
Editing: Mark Stevens
Studio: Cecchi Gori Group Tiger Cinematografica, Avery Pix, Sean S Cunningham Films, WTC Productions, Yannix Technology Corporation
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Stars: Robert England, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Chris Marquette, Brendan Fletcher, Katharine Isabelle, Lochlyn Munro, Kyle Labine, Tom Butler, David Kopp, Paula Shaw, Jesse Hutch, Zack Ward, Garry Chalk, Brent Chapman, Spencer Stump, Joëlle Antonissen
Suggested Audio Candy:
Ill Niño How Can I Live
Everyone loves a good face-off. From Alien vs. Predator and Batman vs. Superman, to John Merrick vs. Rocky Dennis, it’s a fascinating proposition pitting one against the other in the name of good-old fashioned scientific research. We all want to see who would come out top in such a scenario and the horror genre is ripe with possibilities for to-the-death skirmish. That said, it can be a decidedly troublesome bout to arrange, particularly when the rights to both properties are under different ownership. The idea for matching up Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees came as far back as 1987 but, when respective gate keepers New Line Cinema and Paramount Pictures failed to agree terms, it was placed on the back burner, where it remained for well over a decade.
Eventually, New Line acquired the rights to the Friday franchise and proved they had absolutely no idea where to take it by bringing us Adam Marcus’s misguided Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. Suddenly, it was game on and, after frittering around $6m on eighteen unused scripts from more than a dozen screenwriters, they finally came up with a winner. Fans had been crying out for Freddy vs. Jason for so long that they were well within their rights to believe it was never to come about. However, with Ronny Yu (Bride of Chucky) set to direct, these two hulking horrors were all set for seconds out.
I may well have been the only horror aficionado in existence who didn’t get even the vaguest bit moist at the news that these two slasher behemoths were due to brawn it out against each other for the ultimate showdown. Unlike most fanboys clamoring for this epic battle, I was left rather cold and would have been just as happy for Celebrity Deathmatch to settle their feud once and for all. It wasn’t that I didn’t see the appeal of Krueger and Voorhees going toe-to-toe for the ultimate bragging rights, simply that my fingers had been burned on too many an occasion by both to feel confident of this rumble in the jungle and felt neither had any real claim to slasher sovereignty any more.
I’d spent years wishing for a true Friday to match those early entries. No space travel or The Hidden-style body transference, just a good old-fashioned marshmallows by the campfire stalk and slash fest with no bells and whistles. As for our well done dream rascal, I had long since grown weary of giving a solitary hoot what he got up to. That’s no slur on Robert Englund’s fine name, he still remained the consummate professional but had repeatedly failed to be given the service he deserved. Two and a half reputable offerings had given way to a spewing of increasingly farcical nondescript money grabbing exercises and though Wes Craven had restored some decorum with his decent film within a film New Nightmare, it was hardly the titanic return to abandoned form required to shepherd the once burly Dream Master back in line with the flock.
There was one vague hope for Yu’s movie match-up and that was to watch Krueger get his frazzled ass handed to him by his frustrated foe and this alone kept a small fire blazing in my soul. Maybe the flick would be one ninety minute Rocky-esque montage to get Jason battle-readied for a real return to Camp Crystal Lake? Regardless, the imaginings of Fred getting pummeled to a pulp was admittedly a rather inviting proposition. The big screen was the locale for the first round and I entered the auditorium with no real expectation other than for a rollicking rampage of revolting reprisals (and that shit-kicking for Krueger of course). Going in with the most fundamental of expectation actually allowed me to put my sneakers up, place my elbows on the head rest behind me and simply enjoy the ride.
Killswitch Engage When Darkness Falls
Those agonizing seats barely had chance to remind me that I once had a posterior before we were spat out once more and the feeling I took with me was the same indifference I had entered with previously. It washed over me like a prosaic tsunami, and then dribbled back to whence it came. That is not to say that my time had not been benefited from, oh contraire my dear Grueheads. It hadn’t dropped below damned good fun once during its 97 minute runtime which is something that can’t be said for many theatrical horror releases drizzling through on a bi-monthly basis. Both stars shone, Fred in an “I still want to watch you extirpated” kind of way and Jason in a strong silent bemused Marlee Matlin manner, contented with letting his meat grinder do all the talking. Both get to have their jollies and gratefully receive a generous spread of hateful hell-raisers to annihilate in increasingly outlandish manners.
This is where Freddy vs. Jason works so well as double the douche-bags mean double the dispatch rate. Double the assassins equates to twice as many opportune means for mischief and, in Fred’s case specially, mirth which both marauders take to with blood-soaked savour. The silage is a succulent sirloin of sluts and stoners, primed for the fucking and plucking like the randy poultry that they are. When they meet their demise our hearts applaud and, for a moment, the world seems cleansed and a more inviting place. As an additional sweetener, covetable redhead Katharine Isabelle has a petite part, alas no more than that. Isabelle was incensed with Yu for expecting her to strip for her role without informing her prior to her acceptance so a body double was employed instead. Despondently I report, no Ginger Flaps.
For what it’s worth, here’s a little pre-fight build up while we take our ringside seats. Freddy has been consigned to hell as the kids of Springwood have long since got over him, rendering him impotent. So he dons the disguise of Jason’s long-deceased mother Pamela and hoodwinks his opposite number into commencing a rampage in the hope that it will inspire fear and rejuvenate his powers. Meanwhile, Lori Campbell (Monica Keena) and her widowed father are inhabiting 1428 Elm Street and she is not short of gormless friends, all simply begging for the ventilation. This provides Voorhees with an opening and one which he takes swift advantage of.
Over at the nearby Westin Hills Psychiatric Unit, Lori’s ex-boyfriend Will (Jason Ritter) and his buddy Mark (Brendan Fletcher) are still haunted by the specter of Krueger, having been the last to come into contact with the crispy critter and, upon hearing the news of a fresh spate of murders, hatch themselves an escape plan and head back to Springwood to give Lori the heads up. Of course, the teenagers of Springwood are not fazed by the prospect of being caught up in a free-for-all and, instead, arrange an unsolicited rave in a nearby cornfield, where they plan to drink copious amounts of alcohol, smoke enough weed to floor Malachai, and engage in the usual promiscuous sex. This is all the encouragement Jason needs to crash the party and, with the body count fast rising, Freddy also earns himself an invitation.
Spineshank Beginning of the End
There are only two stars on exhibit here and any sub-plots are superfluous to requirements. The kids themselves are little more than fodder and their reprisals are unlikely to encourage sobs of “why them?” from the audience. Human surplus is treated as just that and it is here that Yu’s movie succeeds at its most rudimentary of goals. It pays homage like a motherfucker, citing previous highs whilst looking to remain current and knows full well what the audience have come to see. There’s not a dash of real innovation, apart from that of being the first of many proposed match-ups which had, up to now, not made it past the storyboard stage and both Krueger and Voorhees treat it very much as business as usual, obliterating any obstacles to their pre-ordained fight night with such ease that they barely even break a sweat until the bell tolls for round one. When that transpires, Freddy vs. Jason becomes the pay-for-view event fans were desperate for and takes full advantage of its opportunity to dazzle.
So who did we wish to witness emerge the victor? You won’t need Dr. Watson to help decipher which of the two I was rooting for. On paper, it could’ve been the most one-sided fight since the Smough and Ornstein battle in Dark Souls as, when within Jason’s range, Freddy becomes a spineless rag doll, with five blades that may as well be fashioned from ostrich feathers for all the good they will do him. That said, once outside the machete’s range he gets to commence his dream weaving, running rings around the self-confessed momma’s boy and using alternative reality to outwit his broad-shouldered opposing number. His apparent sovereignty is shorter than a peanut’s tail as Jason, having now mastered space travel, is a far more advanced model than the Rocky Dennis tribute act who first forgot his water wings, culminating in a gloriously bloodthirsty climactic scuffle which cannot help but satisfy our basic requirements.
Freddy vs. Jason does what it says on the tin, no more and mercifully no less. Having taken an infinity to reach its final cut after countless alterations from the 150-minute script presented at one point, Yu manages to come good on his brief and provides us with the closest we can realistically expect to Balboa’s grudge match with Drago from Rocky IV. It’s the cinematic equivalent to candy floss, full of short-lived flavor but ultimately just nice-looking fluff and, considering the compromised trajectory of both Krueger and Voorhees in recent times, could have turned out a darned sight worse. Will it live long in our memory after the credits roll? About as long as it takes to return the disc to its clasp but, as long as or expectations have remained realistic beforehand, that’s still fine and dandy. As for whether it presents either of its combatant with much-needed second wind, you only need look at their following pursuits to know the answer to that poser. Perhaps a rematch will be in order.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: One of the greatest pleasures comes in hearing Freddy utter the words “how sweet, dark meat” as Kelly Rowland’s insufferable Kia is tree-slammed by Jason in a moment we could watch on indefinite loop for the foreseeable. Meanwhile, we are gifted with beheading, bisection, laceration, penetration and electrocution, all integrated into a frothy 97 minute box-ticking exercise which covers the bases soundly enough but never quite takes full advantage of the personnel. That said, the final showdown is suitably savage and more than lives up to its billing as battle royale. There’s even a dash of harmless Friday-style T&A courtesy of late-night skinny dip for Jason to ogle at from the foliage, while Freddy’s hopes of a spot of masturbation are dashed by his five-fingered glove, earning him a prompt outing to the emergency room for his troubles. Jason 1 Freddy 0.
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Revised Edition 2016)