2. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Director: Ronny Yu

Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Kelly Rowland, Jason Ritter, Christopher George Marquette, Lochlyn Munro, Katharine Isabelle

Perhaps no other horror film has suffered through the kind of prolonged developmental hell that “Freddy vs. Jason” endured. Originally conceived in the late 1980’s by both New Line Cinema and Paramount Pictures, it would take until 2003 for the picture to finally be completed and released to the viewing audience. In the meantime, on top of other series entries being produced first, the plot of “Freddy vs. Jason” would undergo numerous changes and responsibility for its creation would fall under several different writing teams. Among the unused plot elements were a Freddy Krueger cult, Jason Voorhees’ famous 1957 drowning coming at the hands of Krueger, and a “real world” Jason being the subject of an O.J. Simpson-like trial. Finally, settling on a modified version of a plot idea that had been considered for more than one of the 1980’s slasher icons over the years, it was decided that Freddy Krueger would attempt to get back to terrorizing the youth of Springwood, who had been conditioned to forget about him entirely, by way of gaining strength through the fear generated by the actions of Jason Voorhees.

Following a brief recap of Freddy’s origin story and a subsequent collage of clips from all previous Nightmare on Elm Street films (except for “New Nightmare”), we return to the by now familiar home on 1428 Elm Street, where Lori Campbell (Monica Keena) and friends Kia (singer Kelly Rowland) & Gibb (“Ginger Snaps” star Katherine Isabelle) hang out with classmates Blake and Trey. Soon, Jason arrives and kills Trey by stabbing him repeatedly through the heart and then bending his body in half along with the bed he is lying in. This gains some but not all of Freddy’s powers back for him, and so he continues to allow Jason to “have some fun,” as the hockey-masked killer goes on to make Blake and his father the next victims.

At Westin Hills (the same psychatric hospital/asylum first seen in “Nightmare on Elm Street 3”) where all the young patients are fed the drug Hypnocil, Will Rollins (Jason Ritter) and friend Mark break out after learning of the attack on Lori’s house. Unfortunately, Mark manages to spread enough fear to give Freddy his strength back, and Krueger intends on testing himself on Gibb when she falls asleep at a rave party where she and other friends (Lori included) are in attendance. But he doesn’t count on Jason crashing the party and killing everyone in sight, including Gibb and a raver who attempts to rape her after she has passed out from too much alcohol.

Escaping along with the nerdy Linderman (Chris Marquette) and Freeburg (a not-so subtle clone of Jason Mewes from “Jay & Silent Bob”) Lori, Kia and Will discuss how to deal with the threat of death in both the dream world and the waking world. Approached by Deputy Stubbs (Lochlyn Munro), they form a plan to bring Jason back to Crystal Lake, remove Freddy from the dream world, and have the two fight it out on Jason’s turf. Before they can do this, Freddy kills Mark while Jason kills Stubbs and Freeburg… but not before Freddy takes control of Freeburg’s body and injects Jason with a tranquilizer. After their initial struggle on Freddy’s terms, Lori joins them in the dream world and witnesses Freddy trying to drown Jason before turning his attention on her after Jason wakes up. Finally arriving in Crystal Lake, Will revives Lori just before Freddy has a chance to kill her, and she brings Krueger out with her. Jason fatally impales Linderman, and later kills Kia with his machete.

Will and Lori watch as the epic battle between the killers begins as they prepare to destroy the camp’s gas tanks. Both Freddy and Jason severely wound one another, culminating in Freddy having his right arm ripped off, glove and all. The explosion from the gas tanks blows both monsters into the lake. Freddy emerges first, attempting to use Jason’s machete to kill Will and Lori. But Jason sneaks up from behind and impales Freddy through the back with his own clawed arm. Reacting with shock over the sight of his own hand sticking out of his chest, Freddy is defensless to stop Lori from beheading him with the machete (in a scene shot very much like that of Mrs. Voorhees’ death from “Friday the 13th”). With Will and Lori having escaped to safety, Jason emerges from the lake the next day carrying his machete and Freddy’s severed head. A final close up of Freddy’s head shows him winking at the camera and laughing after the scene has faded to black, thus making the true winner of the fight open to interpretation.

While just who wins the fight is left up in the air, there are a few things that are crystal. The film is littered with so many in-joke references that it seems to have been made specifically with the fans of both series in mind. Also clear is the fact that the film has its fair share of controversy. First is the casting of Ken Kirzinger as Jason, rather than the popular Kane Hodder who had played the role for the last four Friday the 13th films. The fact that Hodder’s may well be the worst movies in the franchise seems to either not be a factor or otherwise simply not a shared opinion where his fans are concerned.

Another gripe which is constantly brought up in relation to “Freddy vs. Jason” is the dream world scene where it is revealed that Jason fears water. While it is true that this is never so much as hinted at in any of Jason’s previous appearances, that doesn’t rule it out entirely as there have been plenty of absurd and bizzare contrivances throughout the 30+ year run of Friday the 13th. One other thing that I personally try very hard to ignore when watching this movie (but am not always successful) is the idea that Springwood, Ohio and the New Jersey-based Camp Crystal Lake could ever be located as close to one another as implied by this movie.

A cameo that may go unnoticed by some occurs when Will reunites with Lori in the hallways of Springwood High School. During this reunion, one can see in the background a female student in a green long-sleeved shirt and navy blue sweater vest. This student is Evangeline Lilly (“The Hobbit” trilogy, “Ant-Man,” and the TV series “Lost”).

This one is a difficult one to grade. I enjoyed “Freddy vs. Jason” a bit more when I originally saw it theatrically as opposed to how I feel about it now. This is due in part to the initial excitement of seeing these familiar characters on the big screen together, a feeling amplified for someone such as myself who was too young to have seen the previous entries theatrically. Monica Keena is a solid “final girl” in spite of some of the lame lines she’s asked to read. The rest of the cast of victims is less endearing than some of their 1980s counterparts. Kelly Rowland, who is downright annoying, drags down almost every scene she’s in. One of the film’s highlights is when Kia is finally taken out by Jason. But the film is about the long dreamed of battle between two of the most popular horror icons of all time, and it is here the film surpassed my expectations (aside from the ambiguous ending). If you’re a fan of both Freddy and Jason… even if you’re a recent convert… this movie was made with you in mind.

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