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  Freddy Vs. Jason
Ronny Yu, USA, 2003
Rating: 2.5
 

Posted: August 19, 2003

Ahhh, Freddy vs. Jason. An excellent concept, really. So ingenious in its simplicity that it just had to happen sooner or later. The master of nightmares against the hulking killer from Camp Crystal Lake. Sounds foolproof, doesn't it? Well, someone should have mentioned that to the fools involved in this fangless horror of a horror flick, because it takes dang near the whole movie to get up to the promised title bout. Everything leading up to that point...well, everything leading up to it is wholly insignificant.

Save, that is, for one performance; one gifted actress whose name Oscar himself should soon be adding to his little black book. I speak here, of course, of the great Monica Keena. Oh, Monica. If you are not crowned Best Actress for your work in this movie, then justice as we know it is no more. If not for you and your ample...er, talents, this film would have been well nigh unwatchable. But thanks to you, Monica -- and more to the point, thanks to snug-fitting sweaters, tight blouses, and numerous overhead camera shots -- I was able to withstand the brutality of this wretched film. Make no mistake about it, there are two stars in this film, and they are, sadly, never given the chance to break out onto the screen.

And, oh, yeah -- Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees battle each other, too. Not that you'd know it from sitting through the lion's share of this interminable botch-up. If we had more Freddy vs. Jason, and less filler, this X-treme mass murder bout may have worked. For the love of God, the film almost writes itself! Just add a few naked chicks, and get out of the way! I will, however, give props where props are due. There is a scene in which a flaming Jason (I believe he was set ablaze with a match and a pitcher of Everclear) chases a rotund youth through what appears to be a cornfield. As the victim believes he has reached safety, Jason throws a machete, a flaming machete that is, through the youth. It is, in a word, cool. But the rest of FvJ fails, by and large, to live up to the visual derring-do of that singular moment.

Now, I operate under no delusions here. Clemenza is nothing if not a time-tested veteran of the cheesy horror flick. To compare Freddy Vs. Jason to top-notch horror would be like comparing monster truck demonstrations to Formula One racing. And yet, is there not a primal glee in witnessing a huge pickup truck flatten a Toyota Corolla? Of course there is. On some base, primal level, even the most uninitiated fans of the horror genre can tap into that primordial delight as they watch Freddy claw at Jason with his finger knives, while Jason in return mercilessly hacks Freddy with a machete. It's all in campy, if bloody, fun.

And there's certainly nothing wrong with campy, bloody fun. I mean, really, it's the very DNA of the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series. And when the stars of those series finally collide, one would expect a bloody explosion of Big Bang proportions. Don't get me wrong: When the main event finally does take place, it is not a disappointment. It's everything you think it would be, with one addition. Extra blood. Lots and lots of flowing, squirting, leaking and spraying blood. Limbs are hacked, eyes are gouged out, and finger knives and machetes fly like undergarments at a Barry Manilow concert (now there's horror for you).

If there had been more of the blood-soaked finale, a running battle throughout the film, two popular horror franchises engaged in an ongoing game of one-upmanship, then the creatures' fans would no doubt have left the theater sated. But the plodding buildup to the gory grudge match doesn't heighten anticipation for the final showdown; instead, it actually weakens it. This ain't Gangs Of New York, folks. Save the excessive backstory (which involves Freddy in Hell, sending Jason out to scare a bunch of teens on an Elm Street where he's largely been forgotten) and give the fans what they want, why don't you? (And while you're at it, why not throw in a surprise ending? Freddy fights Jason to the death, and one emerges victorious, a tight close-up on the victor's face suddenly shattered by a sickening wet sound, and the camera pans down to see the edge of a sharp blade protruding through the killer's windpipe. We then pull out of the tight shot to reveal none other than Halloween's Michael Myers! I mean really, if you're gonna go, go all out, am I right?)

There are elements of campy fun here, but they're not enough to distract us from the over-long wait for the main attraction; when it comes, you're all the more frustrated, because the buildup is pointless. Yes, the battle is great, and hardcore fans of each series will delight in the closing battle between the two infamous killers. But even they will leave wondering what could have been, if only the conflict had begun earlier in the film.

So who wins this bloody battle? That's easy.

Monica Keena.

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