Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: FREDDY VS. JASON (2003)
[Probably some spoilers—like you give a fuck, bitch (Freddy voice)]
Okay, when this came out, I’d seen every film in the two series this was a crossover of. It would be hard to say which of the two had held up the most, and neither would qualify as serious horror properties by the time this came about. But by then that wasn’t really the point. Not for myself or most fans I knew, at least.
The first few films in each series (well, probably first one or two for Freddy) were pretty serious, dark horror films that happened to be about teenagers frolicking and getting horribly slaughtered. They both became somewhat tongue-in-cheek affairs the further they went on, then eventually each had a remake of some sort, and just before this crossover, Nightmare had what I felt was a very well done return to serious territory that was also “meta”-rrific and a step outside the canon. Craven himself directed that one, and it showed. Actually to this day the only one of these films I haven’t seen is the remake of Nightmare, but I’ve heard I really haven’t missed much. I personally even enjoyed the Friday the 13th sort-of remake reboot-ening, but only saw it once and wasn’t exactly sober, so be gentle.
So, Full Disclosure™—while I have love for both of these characters and properties, I personally would own up to landing pretty squarely in the Team Jason camp—Get It? ‘Camp’? We try to have fun here…
The real question, though, is: does this crossover live up to what people enjoy about each franchise and character and make for an enjoyable film on its own?
Well, heck-a-doodle-doo-doo-muh-bob-a-reeni—let’s find out what I thought, shall we?
Freddy starts us off, the people of sleepy little Springwood—‘sleepy’! Oh, I’m in a wacky mood today—having forgotten to be scared of him. He’s lost all his dream demon powers and he’s very sad.
He manipulates Jason Voorhees to be revived in this world by impersonating his beloved mother, and so an adventure full of fun and frivolity begins.
Freddy’s legend spreads through the teen rumor mill in Springwood again, due to Jason’s actions as the actual killer in the early parts. So there are some teens being varying degrees of naughty, check. Teens getting slaughtered, check. Freddy one-liners, check. Jason no-liners, cheeeeck. We’re doing pretty well so far, y’all.
Also, there’s pretty good setup of a situation wherein the girl that becomes the Main/Final Girl is still pining for a guy she thought moved away—but he and his friend have been hidden away by the parents and local system in a mental ward being forced to take a medicine that makes it so they can’t dream. Cute. Good stuff so far.
But I’d say the Rave Scene is where it starts to gel for me. Setup has been competent and decently nasty. This film starts to come together as a VERSUS film more quickly and actively in the cornfield rave scene.
One of the main characters gets really high and drunk (because her asshole boyfriend was fucking murderized by Jason a little earlier in the film in glorious fashion) at a little rave in a cornfield and wanders off. She passes out and this glowstick covered idiot tries to pull a Casper-From-KIDS on her while she’s out.
We zoom into her unconscious mind and low-and-behold, she enters something like a farming processing building out in the cornfield—that is totally Freddy’s infamous Hell-adjacent boiler room on the inside.
Freddy toys with the character, then just when he’s about to give her the ol’ knife-glove—Jason pole-fucks the real world bodies of the young woman and her would-be rapist. So… Jason was kind of almost an accidental hero. Except for the whole killing her too part, I guess.
So just when Freddy is strong enough to kill again because of his manipulation of Jason, Jason proves to be too effective and loses his ally status.
Aaaaaand we’re off to the races…
So, does this do the characters justice and/or do well as its own film? Let’s sift through it and analyze.
Freddy is conceptually treated with reverence and respect and the internal logic of everything that came before is in play. I feel like it was clever to treat Freddy as the urban-legend-as-demi-god-slash-demon who has no power without belief. This was why The New Nightmare was so well done in my opinion as well.
Jason is similarly presented with obvious respect to his character’s history and feel. He is used as the deathless revenant (and possible ‘Deadite’, after the 9th film, Jason Goes to Hell’s obvious implications) hell bent on killin’ all them teenagers for having too much fuckin’ fun (while he was drowning, y’all… In his feeble, decayed, waterlogged brain meats, he’s always assuming they letting him drown again; that’s fucked up (and So Relatable)).
I do really enjoy this film, truth be told.
If I have an issue with it, it would be how silly it gets in certain moments. Silly isn’t new to either of these series by the time this comes out. I get that. It’s more that there’s only so much of it that’s needed and some of it in this is across the line.
After a drunk brobro splashes Jason with Everclear in the cornfield and sets him on fire with a tiki torch (shush…), he runs away, then toward the camera—in the last shot, it’s obvious his mouth has been full the whole time, so when Jason’s blade flies into his back and sticks out of his sternum and he spits out thick, syrupy red fluid, it’s just a stupid shot. That’s a combo of a badly done filmmaking trick and a silly moment, but it’s pretty stupid.
There are scenes where it’s more of a melee, ‘mano-y-mano’ kind of fight closer to the end, and Freddy is using like Matrix-light wire-fu moves on Jason. There are a few attacks Freddy uses that are like this, and they have always bothered me. If I want to watch Iron Monkey or Drunken Master II style fisticuffs, I’ll just go do that. So to see Freddy jump-kicking and punching away at Jason in a similar way was pretty goofy.
Freddy has better luck using compressed air tanks like missiles and raining construction materials down on Jason. Jason just keeps coming, as Jason does.
I’m not feeling as Excited-To-Spoil as usual, so let’s just say there’s a lot I haven’t touched on, as far as details go. It’s a fun mash-up that shouldn’t (and can’t) be taken too seriously. I won’t say who wins, but even after watching it, it’s hard to say. It fit the tone of both series at that point and was thrilling and visceral enough to be what I’d call a successful crossover.
Okay one spoil: for my money, the scene in which the stoner character—who survived the rave and tagged along after, basically as a setup for a fun, dark Alice in Wonderland inspired Freddy scene—is possessed by Freddy is the most successful moment of using what makes the characters work together. The teenagers snuck into the mental ward the characters I mentioned before had escaped from to steal the drug that made them not dream. After the stoner is taken over by Freddy and pours all the ‘hypnocil’ down a drain so they can’t be safe from him in sleep, he readies two huge syringes behind his back as Jason storms after them. One of teenagers tries to pull him away with them to escape Jason, but he gets to say a possessed-by-Freddy “bitch” line in response. Freddy uses the stoner guy to pump the big tranquilizer syringes into Jason—who cuts him in half before losing consciousness.
Moments like that keep me watching this one.
On its own, I don’t see it being as well received. It’s very much a product of slapping and stitching two series together and trying to lean on their strengths. If you aren’t a fan of either series or character, I doubt it would have much to offer you.
WHAT I LIKED:
- This shot of Freddy realizing Final Girl pulled him back into our world…and Jason is fifteen feet from him with a weapon:
- This shot of Jason looking at his newly fingerless hand right after Freddy cut said fingers off:
- Freddy gets to say bitch even more than usual
- Jason wasn’t played by one of the classic actors who’ve done it, but the actor (Ken Kirzinger) does a good job, having beat out Kane Hodder (one of said classic Jason portrayers) due to being taller apparently, because they wanted him ‘tower over Freddy’
- The other actors are decent. Kelly Rowland does pretty well in one of her few film roles (and this was her first one, I believe). The most fun to watch is probably Brendan Fletcher as Mark Davis, one of the hypnocil drugged, then escaped teenagers. Just really intense when he has to be
- The climactic battle (while also containing the most cringe-y chop-socky Freddy moves) is overall fun and satisfying
- Playfulness about who may have really won 😉
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
- Cornfield rave bloody spit take
- Not enough ridiculous demon arms pulling at Jason or sleeping bags around (for the Jason fans)
Fun and messy
I’ll give Freddy vs. Jason………………..7/10.
PATRICK LOVELAND writes screenplays, novels, and short stories. By day, he works at a state college in Southern California, where he lives with his wife, young daughter, and a cat so black he seems to absorb light. Patrick’s stories have appeared in anthologies and periodicals published by April Moon Books, Shadow Work Publishing, EyeCue Productions, Bold Venture Press, Sirens Call Publications, Indie Authors Press, PHANTAXIS, and the award-winning Crime Factory zine. Patrick’s first novel, A TEAR IN THE VEIL, was published in June of 2017 by April Moon Books.
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