The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Fans will enjoy Freddy and Jason's fight to the undeath

August 28, 2003
By Franklin Harris

Taken for what it is, "Freddy vs. Jason" is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. Its plot is an act of desperation, meant to revive two movie franchises well past their expiration dates.

Take a pair of '80s horror icons (Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees), put them in the same film, and have them fight each other. Along the way, be sure to butcher some one-dimensional teenagers.

Monica Keena, Katharine Isabelle and Kelly Rowland are the latest generation of teen victims in ''Freddy vs. Jason.''
Photo © Copyright New Line Cinema
Monica Keena, Katharine Isabelle and Kelly Rowland are the latest generation of teen victims in ''Freddy vs. Jason.''
But if it is desperation, at least it follows in a proud tradition. During the 1940s, Universal Studios bled every ounce of life it could from its celebrated movie monsters, giving us what are now known as the "monster rallies." In "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man," "House of Dracula" and, most memorably, "House of Frankenstein," Universal's greatest horror creations faced off with one another. It wasn't great art, but it made for some fun moments.

By that standard, "Freddy vs. Jason" holds its own, and as a sequel, it's one of the best of either the "Friday the 13th" or "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchises, although that isn't saying much. Both became pointless after about three outings. "Freddy vs. Jason" is good enough to make the duo's fans happy, but it won't win many converts.

Life has returned to normal on Elm Street, where the children have forgotten Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), the razor-fingered killer who haunted their dreams for more than a decade. And this has Freddy in a bind. Because as long as no one remembers him, no one fears him, which leaves him powerless to enter dreams and kill teens in ironic ways. But Freddy has a plan to change all that. In Hell he finds Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger), the hockey-masked slasher who made life short for promiscuous campers at Crystal Lake. Masquerading as Jason's equally murderous mom, Freddy resurrects Jason and sends him to Elm Street, where Jason promptly does what he does best.

The killings start people whispering about Freddy Krueger again, giving Freddy just the break he needs. But although Freddy is back in action, Jason never knows when to stop. So, it's inevitable that the two cross cutlery to decide who gets the highest body count.

After the limp slasher movies of the late '90s, "Freddy vs. Jason" serves up some good, old-fashioned exploitation in the form of a healthy amount of gore and several incidents of gratuitous nudity. I was beginning to wonder if horror directors knew what shower scenes are for.

The cast is a mixed bag. Englund is clearly having fun, and Kirzinger does what is expected of him as the latest interchangeable stuntman to play Jason. But the teens are, for the most part, as annoying as ever, with the exception of Katharine Isabelle, who fans of more ambitious horror films may recognize from the excellent Canadian werewolf flick "Ginger Snaps." A stoner, obviously cloned from Jason Mewes' Jay of "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," lives long enough to wear out his welcome, while Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child continues the trend of singers proving they have no business trying to act.

Screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift don't embarrass themselves, and they do manage to keep the story more or less coherent as they rummage through their title characters' respective backstories. But most of the credit for "Freddy vs. Jason" working as well as it does goes to director Ronny Yu, who makes Freddy and Jason's two big fights more enjoyable than anything in that bloated "Matrix" sequel.

Yu worked similar miracles with "Bride of Chucky," 1998's amusing installment in the otherwise dire "Child's Play" series.

Of course, if you want to see the magic that Yu is really capable of, check out the films he made before coming to Hollywood. His 1993 sword-and-sorcery epic "The Bride With White Hair," starring Brigitte Lin and the late Leslie Cheung, is one of the landmarks of Hong Kong cinema.

It was a better use of his time than turning bad horror movies into watchable ones.

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