Freddy vs. Jason [DVD]
Director : Ronny Yu
Screenplay : Damian Shannon & Mark Swift
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2003
Stars : Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Ken Kirzinger (Jason Voorhees), Monica Keena (Lori Campbell), Jason Ritter (Will Rollins), Kelly Rowland (Kia), Katharine Isabelle (Gibb), Christopher George Marquette (Charlie Linderman), Brendan Fletcher (Mark Davis), Tom Butler (Dr. Campbell), Lochlyn Munro (Deputy Scott Stubbs)
Gory and silly as it is, Freddy vs. Jason is a movie that was long in the making—a decade, in fact. Ever since the ending of 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (which, of course, it wasn’t) promised a match-up of the perennial ’80s horror titans Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, fans have been patiently waiting to see them share the screen in the ultimate slasher smackdown. Directors and writers came and went, rumors flooded the Internet, and most people finally gave up, particularly after the weak box-office showing of last year’s Jason X.
Yet, here it finally is, and we have to wonder, is Freddy vs. Jason the eleventh Friday the 13th or the eighth A Nightmare on Elm Street? Or does it even matter? These two characters have been around for so long in so many movies that they have become veritable cultural institutions—frightening as that may be. Logic and coherence don’t apply to them; they exist in their own cinematic netherworld that is despised by respectable critics and adored by teens who love anything their parents hate. A lot of ink was spilled in the 1980s about the dire consequences of slasher films, how they promoted violence and the sadistic punishment of female sexuality, yet watching Freddy vs. Jason, it’s hard not to smile and wonder what all the hoopla was about. After all, these characters are cartoons, as are their victims—what’s to take seriously?
Those steeped in the mythology of Freddy and Jason will likely get a kick out of this match-up, particularly if they appreciate the inherent (and often unintended) humor of so silly an enterprise. Freddy vs. Jason isn’t an outright comedy, but it has its amusing moments and a clever enough premise that finds a way to get the two slashers together without resorting to complete illogic (just a little).
It starts with a Freddy Krueger voice-over narration, in which he explains in an amusingly exasperated tone that he no longer has any power because the kids on Elm Street aren’t afraid of anything anymore (he could very well be talking about his own movie franchise, which has laid dormant since 1994). Fear gives him his power, so he has to find a way to get them quaking in their shoes so he can enter their dreams and wreak havoc. So, what’s an impotent dream demon to do but conjure up the hockey-mask-wearing, machete-wielding killing machine that is Jason Voorhees from the bowels of hell and send him on a teen rampage? That’s exactly what he does, but Freddy didn’t count on Jason’s unstoppability (hasn’t he seen any of the Friday the 13th movies?), so the two of them end up locked in combat, once in Freddy’s dream world and once in Jason’s external reality, in a death duel to see who gets to reign as the supreme killer of sexually adventurous teenagers.
There are other characters in Freddy vs. Jason, of course, most of them played by actors who look far too old to be teenagers. They are all very pretty, but about as intriguing as wallpaper, and since most of them are destined for the slaughter, there isn’t much use in getting to know them (not that writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift give us much to work with—they clearly used most of their creative juices in conjuring the movie’s basic scenario). There is one amusing stoner who meanders into the narrative about halfway through, acting like he wandered out of a Kevin Smith movie (“Dude, that goalie was pissed about something,” he says after Jason makes mincemeat of a teen party in a cornfield).
In the end, though, the real characters here are Freddy and Jason, who make an amusing match since they’re such polar opposites: Freddy, again played by Robert Englund, is tall and lean and talks incessantly. Jason, embodied for the first time by stunt coordinator Ken Kirzinger (instead of Kane Hodder, who played him in the previous four installments), is a menacing hulk who doesn’t say a word. Freddy has finesse and a smart-ass attitude. Jason has blunt force and no discernible disposition. No wonder they hate enough other.
Director Ronny Yu, a veteran of Hong Kong action films who already revived a dying ’80s horror series with 1998’s Bride of Chucky, gives Freddy vs. Jason a veneer of kinetic style without completely losing the essential elements of the genre. He mixes the straight-up lurking horror of the Friday the 13th movies with the surreal trappings of A Nightmare on Elm Street; he plays up the clichés, but he also gives us some genuinely intriguing imagery, including a scene in which Freddy’s shadow takes on a life of its own. Yu plays the movie a bit too straight, though; he doesn’t seem to be fully in on the joke of just how ludicrous this all is, although he gives us an outstanding final shot that answers the question of who won the battle of the horror titans without leaving the door fully closed. In this genre, that would be the worst sin of all.
|Freddy vs. Jason Platinum Series Two-Disc DVD|
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 / 1.33:1|
|Audio|| English Dolby Digital EX 5.1 Surround |
English Dolby 2.0 Surround
|Supplements|| Audio commentary by director Ronny Yu and actors Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger|
“Jump to a Death” menu option
Deleted/alterate scenes with optional filmmaker commentary
Publicity and Promotion
“The Cutting Room Floor” edit activity (DVD-ROM)
|Distributor||News Line Home Video|
|Release Date||January 13, 2004|
|Freddy vs. Jason is presented in an anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer that simply looks great. The dark parts of the frame are inky black, and the shadow detail (so crucial in a horror movie predominantly set at night or in dark buildings) is excellent throughout. Contrast and color saturation are dead-on, and the transfer maintains the finest details of Ronny Yu’s stylized direction (you can see every last droplet of arterial spray and every bit of mossy nastiness hanging from Jason’s shredded clothes). The disc also includes an optional 1.33:1 transfer. This is not a true pan-and-scan transfer since the film was shot in Super35, so you get more space at the top and bottom, but some loss on both sides. Regardless, the widescreen transfer (as always) is the one to go with.|
|The Dolby Digital EX 5.1-channel surround soundtrack is likewise excellent. The surround speakers are frequently and creatively used for “jump in your seat” moments and to give the dream sequences a particularly otherworldly feel. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, and the musical score shines, whether it be Graeme Revell’s orchestral music or one of the movie’s many rock songs.|
|New Line has equipped this Platinum Series release with plenty of supplements to satiate any rabid Freddy or Jason fan. On the first disc is a full-length running audio commentary with director Ronny Yu and stars Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger. It’s a laid-back commentary that sometimes meanders, but it has some good nuggets of informantion and is a generally fun listen. Starting on the second disc are 20 alternate and deleted scenes, the majority of which are less than a minute in length and constitute snippets cut from already existing scenes (in other words, there’s not much there). Included in these is an extended version of the opening sequence with the skinny dipper and a completely different alternate ending that was wisely cut after audience didn’t know what to make of it. The disc is then divided into two main sections, one on “The Production” and the other on “Publicity and Promotion.” The production section begins with a reprint of a two-part article originally published in Fangoria magazine on the film’s lengthy and complicated development (the original pages from the magazine are included, as is the complete text). Next up are five decent, but not outstanding, production featurettes (ranging from 6 to 21 minutes in length), featuring interviews with all the major players (including director Ronny Yu, New Line co-CEO Robert Shaye, and actor Robert Englund): “Genesis: Development Hell,” “On Location: Springwood Revisited,” “Art Direction: Jason’s Decorating Tips,” “Stunts: When Push Comes to Shove,” and “Make-Up Effects: Freddy’s Beauty Secrets” (this one is the most disappointing since it doesn’t discuss anything other than Freddy’s make-up). After that is a series of visual effects featurettes (about 35 minutes total) in which visual effects supervisor Ariel Velasco-Shaw and visual effects producer Kevin Elam guide us through 12 key effects sequences. These include interviews, production footage, and clips with effects in various stages of development. The stills galleries are divided into two parts: There are galleries of storyboards for six major sequences and also production galleries of behind-the-scenes photographs, concept art, the “Freddypillar,” locations, and make-up design and models. The “Promotion and Publicity” section opens with video footage of a cheeky press conference held in Las Vegas that is played up like a promotion for a title fight. This is followed by the original theatrical trailer, TV spots, a music video, and four minutes of video footage from the film’s amusingly debauched premiere at a ’70s-era summer camp near Austin, Texas, complete with such classic camp activities as swimming, craft making, and … beer drinking and a wet T-shirt contest?|
©2003, 2004 James Kendrick