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Tuesday, August 15, 2023

‘Freddy vs. Jason’ 20 Years Later – The Ultimate Horror Battle Still Satisfies After All These Years

I was somewhat of a late bloomer when it came to my exposure to horror. I lacked the cool older relative or friend that seems to serve as a customary gateway for many genre fans. I had seen a few horror movies growing up (Child’s Play and Scream each terrified me at different points in my youth), but seeing Freddy vs. Jason at the tender age of 15 is single-handedly responsible for the horror fandom that has consumed my life ever since. Without the movie — which hit theaters 20 years ago today — I very likely wouldn’t be writing for Bloody Disgusting now.

I knew of Freddy and Jason through pop culture osmosis, but I hadn’t seen any of the combined 17 films that comprised the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises when Freddy vs. Jason piqued my interest. Even with the advent of Netflix’s DVDs by mail, I had neither the patience nor the budget to rent them all before seeing the two slasher icons duke it out, so I thought I could get the gist by watching the first movie in each respective series. Elm Street became an immediate favorite, but you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that Jason isn’t even the killer in the first Friday.

Little did I know that horror fans had been waiting many years for Freddy vs. Jason, the development of which is among the most complicated in horror history. Fan desire for a crossover began shortly after Freddy started dominating cinemas in the mid-’80s and studio negotiations followed shortly after, but it seemed like the two slasher icons would finally face-off after Elm Street rights holders New Line Cinema purchased the rights to Jason. Years of speculation were all but confirmed by Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, which concludes with Freddy’s glove pulling Jason’s mask down to Hell.

But it would be another decade before Freddy vs. Jason came to fruition. More than 15 screenwriters tried to crack the story — costing the studio a reported $6 million — but none of them could satisfy all the parties necessary to secure a greenlight. Most takes read like overly complicated fan fiction, including retconning backstories with Freddy having an affair with Mrs. Voorhees and/or being a camp counselor who let Jason drown. (For more on the various false starts, Dustin McNeill’s 2017 book Slash of the Titans: The Road to Freddy vs. Jason is required reading.)

It was Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, who previously penned an unproduced adaptation of the comic Danger Girl for New Line, that conceived a concept which everyone could agree on. Both the Elm Street and Friday series were at their best when kept simple, and Freddy vs. Jason‘s setup is ingeniously straightforward compared to the prior attempts. It presents the classic versions of the horror icons known the world over while avoiding — but not ignoring — other baggage to keep it as widely accessible as possible. It also isn’t as outlandish, with the only real suspension of disbelief (beyond what’s inherent to supernatural slashers) being that Springwood, Ohio is within a night’s driving distance from Camp Crystal Lake, New Jersey.

Having recently revitalized another slasher favorite for modern audiences with Bride of Chucky, Ronny Yu was hired to direct. The incomparable Robert Englund would, of course, play Freddy Krueger for the eighth (and as yet final) time. Kane Hodder, who had become a fan favorite for his commitment to the previous four Friday the 13th installments, was expected to reprise the role of Jason, but Yu had a different vision for the character; he wanted a hulking killing machine with sympathetic eyes. Ken Kirzinger, who previously donned the hockey mask for a stunt sequence in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, fit the bill.

Freddy catches new viewers up to speed with a voice over during the prologue, explaining that the children of Elm Street and beyond have forgotten about him, rendering the Springwood Slasher powerless. He resurrects Jason from Hell in order to make people remember him. “He may get the blood, but I’ll get the glory,” he sneers. “And that fear is my ticket home.” The plan proves to be too successful, resulting in the two baddies duking it out first in the dream world where Freddy has home field advantage and then in the real world at Jason’s stomping grounds of Crystal Lake.

Not safe awake or asleep, among those embroiled in the chaos are final girl Lori (Monica Keena, Dawson’s Creek), love of her life Will Rollins (Jason Ritter, Joan of Arcadia), stuck-up Kia (Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child), party girl Gibb (Katharine Isabelle, Ginger Snaps), nerd Linderman (Chris Marquette, Fanboys), stoner Freeburg (Kyle Labine), Will’s loyal friend Mark (Brendan Fletcher, Tideland), Gibb’s obnoxious boyfriend Trey (Jesse Hutch, Batwoman), and Deputy Stubbs (Lochlyn Munro, Riverdale).

Freddy vs Jason 20 years

I went into Freddy vs. Jason with my limited knowledge and loved every second of its 98-minute runtime. 15-year-old Alex was admittedly scared, but I couldn’t get enough of the gratuitous bloodshed, the unexpected sense of humor, and the WWE-worthy battles. It didn’t hurt that the soundtrack perfectly coincided with the transition of my musical taste from nu metal heavy hitters (Slipknot, Mushroomhead, Powerman 5000, Ill Nino) to metalcore acts on the rise (Killswitch Engage, Hatebreed, Lamb of God, From Autumn to Ashes).

After the titans of terror’s bloody battle, the ambiguous ending allowed the debate between fans to continue in perpetuity. Friday the 13th defenders have criticized Freddy vs. Jason for feeling more like an Elm Street movie and aligning Jason with the teens to stop Freddy, while Fredheads have condemned the film for giving Jason nearly all the kills. Both points are valid, but the fact that such a dichotomy exists with no consensus is proof that the approach worked; no matter who you were betting on, an argument could be made that your preferred killer came out on top.

Freddy is more sinister than several of the later Elm Street installments, and England still chews the scenery with his one liners. Kirzinger is appropriately imposing, although Hodder’s signature Jason mannerisms are missed. Keena gives an operatic performance, in step with the movie’s tone, but it’s not without nuance; I’m surprised she didn’t go on to more high-profile roles. She also has good chemistry with Ritter. It’s always a treat to see Isabelle, even if she isn’t given much to do. Rowland makes a better singer than actor, although her arc with Marquette earns her a dash of sympathy. Labine looks and acts like a Wish.com Jason Mewes.

Yu and cinematographer Fred Murphy’s (Secret Window, Stir of Echoes) use of colorful lighting extends the elemental division between the killes — blazing red for Freddy, who died by fire; icy blue for Jason, who died by water — and affirms the heightened reality in which the film is set. The idiosyncratic aesthetic isn’t totally out of line for the Elm Street universe, which often explores the surrealism of dreams, but it’s certainly more visually ambitious than most of the Friday the 13th franchise.

Freddy vs Jason 20

Freddy vs. Jason is decidedly not the scariest, most original, or most realistic movie in either killer’s arsenal, but it may very well be the goriest. Drawing influence from his Hong Kong action roots, Yu unleashes geysers of blood with every slash, stab, and hack. Spotty CGI is largely offset by old-school practical effects. Trey’s death — in which he’s folded in half backwards into a mattress — is arguably one of Jason’s best kills, and I rank the blazing cornfield massacre as a highlight of either franchise.

The crowd-pleasing elements of Freddy vs. Jason hold up two decades on, but that’s not to say it isn’t dated. There’s an indefensible use of the F slur, which is especially egregious because it’s hurled as a casual taunt to Freddy by one of the teens. While the movie has glossy production value carried over from the post-Scream slasher boom, the jittery editing effect occasionally employed for emphasis makes it feel very early 2000s.

With a worldwide gross of $116.6 million on a budget of $30 million, sequel talks began almost immediately, but the horror remake trend sparked by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre a mere two months after Freddy vs. Jason‘s release would ultimately lead to both Friday the 13th (also written by Shannon and Swift) and A Nightmare on Elm Street getting rebooted. The story of Freddy vs. Jason continued in the Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash comic book limited series as a satisfactory consolation.

I don’t expect everyone to look at Freddy vs. Jason through the same rose-colored glasses, but I’m always taken aback when it falls toward the bottom of fans’ franchise rankings. It’s far from a classic — or even one of the strongest entries in either series — but it delivers on everything I wanted from a movie called Freddy vs. Jason. 20 years later, the passion for horror cinema it ignited in me still thrives.

Freddy vs Jason 20th

The post ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ 20 Years Later – The Ultimate Horror Battle Still Satisfies After All These Years appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3775192/freddy-vs-jason-20-years-later-anniversary-retrospective/

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