Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

First published by Movie Gazette in 2003

Jason Voorhees has been silently slicing and dicing teens at Crystal Lake since one Friday the 13th in 1980. Four years later Freddy Krueger appeared on Elm Street, invading teenagers’ dreams with his sharp one-liners and even sharper clawed glove. Ever since, the two have always been deadly rivals at the box office – and while at first it seemed that the new kid on the block had stolen the Slaughter King’s crown, somewhere along the way Freddy got left behind, with his seventh and final outing, New Nightmare, coming out as long ago as 1994, whereas the hockey-mask and machete formula was still going strong in 2001 in Jason X, sending Jason into space and showing that he has a very long future ahead of him (it’s set in the year 2455).

Freddy vs. Jason is an ingeniously plotted cross-over sequel which dramatises the rivalry between these two horror franchises while bringing them both some new blood. At its beginning, Freddy is festering away in his dream world, unable to haunt the next generation of teenagers in their nightmares because he, like his films, has become a forgotten chapter in the history of horror. So he enters Jason’s dreams (about skewering a naked girl at Crystal Lake, naturally) disguised as his beloved mother, and orders Jason to rise up from Hell and go to Elm Street. Soon Jason is making a killing there, with Freddy, as homeboy, getting all the credit and so regaining his stranglehold on the locals’ subconscious fears – but when Freddy starts seeing his own new bodycount being slashed by an overenthusiastic Jason, it becomes clear that neither Elm Street, nor the dreamworld, nor Crystal Lake, is big enough for the both of them – let alone for any hapless adolescents who should get in their way.

Director Ronny Yu, who has already shown with Bride of Chucky that he knows a thing or two about postmodern horror comedy sequels, is at the peak of his craft here, capturing the very different look and feel of both original series, and combining them into a new hybrid monster. Thanks to an abundance of burn-scar make-up, Robert Englund seems ageless back in his old rôle as Freddy, and although his quips are poorly written, he still delivers them with malign relish.

There is the usual assortment of harried kids, hopeless cops, inadequate parents, creepy dream sequences and highly creative murders – but the fun really starts when our two unstoppable antiheroes start taking out all their aggression on each other. Previous films have made it all too clear that no amount of slashing and burning is enough to keep these killers down, and so their clashes here set new standards in graphic dismemberment and splatter. For all Freddy’s anxieties about being forgotten, Freddy vs. Jason gives viewers something new to remember the pair of them by, and a knowing wink at the film’s end proves that neither one of these killers, or indeed their franchises, can ever truly die.

Summary: With the exception of Jason X and New Nightmare, this is probably the best sequel in either franchise. Very gory, very knowing, and very funny.

© Anton Bitel