Freddy VS Jason (2003) Review – Was It Worth It?

Short answer… no. I’ll go deeper into that obviously but for now, some context.

The year is 1987. ‘Friday the 13th’ has been established as a franchise for seven years and ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ for just three years but nevertheless, their respective antagonists; Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger have gained their own fanbases of such magnitude that the two supervillains were entered into the schoolyard question of who would win in a fight. Funnily enough, the producers of the two franchises were wondering that question themselves and driven by the huge dollar signs that represented the massive box office revenue that movie would create, they set about trying to make it happen.

However, there’s one thing that is more powerful than Freddy and Jason combined… and that’s lawyers. At the time, the two were under separate production companies, Jason with Paramount, and Freddy under New Line Cinema. Before the two could battle it out on screen, negotiations would need to take place between the two studios and it was decided that the two couldn’t agree on a story that was strong enough to support the two unstoppable killers.

Fast forward two years to 1989. ‘Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan’ is released and is a spectacular flop both financially and critically, one might think to have a film called ‘Jason takes Manhattan’ to have more than a quarter of the runtime actually take place in Manhattan but hindsight is a funny thing. Anyway, Sean Cunningham (who produced and directed the first ‘Friday the 13th’ film and then wasn’t involved in the franchise until ‘Final Friday’) decided to try and give ‘Freddy VS Jason’ another go after the rights were reverted to Phil Scuderi, Stephen Minasian and Robert Barsamianto who in turn sold them to New Line Cinema. Now Freddy and Jason are living under the same roof but there was a problem.

Wes Craven returned to New Line to make ‘A New Nightmare’ which was a huge success for the franchise. This gave Cunningham the chance to make ‘Final Friday’ which was an unusual one even by ‘Friday the 13th’s standards. Not compared to ‘Jason X’ which was another ‘intermediary’ film whilst everyone was waiting for ‘Freddy VS Jason’ to get the greenlight and it was hilarious. Three words; Jason in space. I rest my case. Although some (dare I say) fun came out of the ‘in between’ films, especially from the ‘Friday’ franchise, they were considered by most to be the both the weirdest and the worst.

Because ‘Freddy VS Jason’ was such a highly anticipated film and was in the making for over 15 years, careful consideration was taken as to who would write the script. After a lot of different combinations and writers, they settled on a relatively unknown writing duo, Mark Swift and Damion Shannon. The two would later go on to write the Friday the 13th reboot which I’m sure I have mentioned before is the one reboot I hate the least.

This is the plot that befell the long-awaited instalment for two of the biggest horror franchises.

Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is stuck in the dreamworld, but his antics have no effect since all mention of him, his victims and his previous visits are banned. You see, Freddy’s power comes from people’s fear of him and if no one knows that he ever existed, then no one can fear him, and he can’t come back. To start the fear train rolling again, Freddy resurrects Jason Voorhees and sends him to 1428 Elm Street and kill a teen or two so the rumour mill about Freddy’s past will flow and people will start being afraid of him again. This plan works like a dream but there’s one problem… once Freddy is back at full power, Jason won’t stop killing and there isn’t enough room for two overpowered supernatural psychos so the two must throw down so the winner can have their pick of the drunk, horny teenagers.

Personally, I don’t think this film should ever have been attempted. It was such a huge concept and the fans were so hyped about it for so long that whatever was produced would never live up to the massive expectations that had been placed on it for that length of time.

The timing was all wrong as well.

The 90’s was notorious for being the death of horror and specifically the slasher genre until ‘Scream’ revived it albeit temporarily. The early 2000’s was no better in terms of horror and to be frank, the identity of ‘Freddy VS Jason’ was all over the place.

First off, what should have been discussed was what this film was going to mean for both the franchises. We know now that ‘Freddy VS Jason’ was the final film in both franchises until both of their respective reboots but was that the intention? Because given the presentation, I don’t think it was. When you write something like ‘Freddy VS Jason’ you have to ask yourself, who will win? Can there be a winner? Will they both die or survive? We know that ‘dying’ is something that these two don’t know how to do so… what are we doing here? Making money? Most definitely, but it was obvious from the get-go that this film wasn’t going to greatly impact either franchise. That could have been its first mistake.

The second mistake was not having any other character from either franchise except Freddy and Jason. You can make the argument that adding in other recognisable faces would distract from the ‘Freddy and Jason’ aspect but the film follows a whole new set of characters that we’ve never seen before and their actions are significantly impact plot and indeed, the outcome.

Lori (Monica Keena) is the main character and current resident of 1428 Elm Street. She and her father have been bereaved with the death of her mother and his wife so one rainy night, Lori’s friends, Kia (Kelly Rowland) and Gibb (Katherine Isabelle) come over to cheer her up. They also invite Gibb’s boyfriend, Trey (Jesse Hutch) and his friend, Blake (David Kopp) as a potential date for Lori. However, Lori’s not interested because she’s still pining for her first love, Will (Jason Ritter) who left town and never contacted her ever again.

Actually, Will and his friend, Mark (Brendan Fletcher) are being kept in Westin Hills which is a Psychiatric Hospital. Mark is there because his brother was killed by Freddy and Will was sent there by Lori’s father because he thinks that he killed Lori’s mother. The two are given a drug called ‘Hypnocil’ which suppresses dreams. Fucking hell, if they don’t want the populace to dream and risk Freddy’s return then they should be pumping this stuff into the fucking water supply.

The point is that although these characters are linked to Freddy in some way, we’ve never seen them before and therefore, have no emotional weight. Having main characters that haven’t been in any of the films before would help the people who don’t know anything about either franchises histories but honestly, who’s going to see a film called ‘Freddy VS Jason’ who hasn’t seen at least one of each story. I think it would have helped the plot to have a few of the previous protagonists or at least one from each franchise return and see that neither of their demons win the fight.

Another thing that was mishandled was the casting of Jason.

This is a sore point for a lot of Jason fans because we all know that Kane Hodder played Jason for four ‘Friday’ films and is generally considered the best of the bunch so when ‘Freddy VS Jason’ came around, Hodder was approached for the role. Sean Cunningham and everyone else thought it was a great idea since Hodder had amassed a fanbase of his own who liked his portrayal of Jason so it looked like a done deal but Director, Ronny Yu wanted Ken Kirzinger for the part and Cunningham, not wanting to ruffle any feathers, agreed to Kirzinger as Jason. Of course, this casting decision was devastating for Hodder and a lot of the fans who wanted him to return for the ultimate showdown. I personally can tell a difference between the two. I didn’t think Hodder was 6” 3. He doesn’t look that tall. Yu’s desire was to have an actor who was way taller than Englund who was 5” 9 and Kirzinger came in at 6”5. What’s in two inches? Apparently, the role of a lifetime.

It’s not really said why Freddy chose Jason to do his bidding or even why he lost control or why he needed Jason in the first place. If Freddy had enough power to bring Jason back to life, then why did he not have enough power to kill people in their dreams. Jason seems like a bit of an odd choice and the decision is made offscreen. It’s a bit of a ‘hand-wavey’ plot point to show how and why Jason is killing people for Freddy. All of this is before the opening credits.

In a bizarre turn in the plot, Jason is made out to be the ‘good guy’. Despite him having the highest body count of all the horror movie villains at the time, Jason is supposed to be the one we want to win. You could make the argument that Jason is more of an anti-hero than a straight villain since he was bullied as a child and his death was caused by negligence of his well-being by camp counsellors whereas Freddy is pure evil so if there was going to be a side to take in this fight well…  we’ve all been bullied at some time in our lives.

I find it mystifying how these teens seem to think that they can stop Freddy and Jason even though they have no power whatsoever and also, there’s nothing keeping them there. We know that Freddy can’t go beyond Springwood and once Jason has either finished killing everyone or just gets bored then he will return to Crystal Lake anyway so what is it stopping them from leaving town? All the other characters in the two franchises have been trapped with their respective villains in some way with no choice but to face them but that’s not the case here. Just leave. Nope instead, they decide to get involved and take an unconscious Jason to Crystal Lake, pull Freddy into the real world (because we’ve never seen that before) so the two can have their fight.

Although I have a lot of bad things to say about this film, the final act fight was good but even with that, we must return to the question I posed above… who will win? The answer, neither of them. Freddy gets his glove arm ripped off and then stabbed through the back with it by Jason and then Freddy’s decapitated by Lori with Jason’s machete as revenge for killing her friends and also her mother whilst Jason seemingly dies in the lake from the injuries sustained during the battle. Of course, at the end, Jason rises from the lake holding Freddy’s severed head and in the last moments, Freddy gives us a little wink to show that he’s still around.

It kind of had to be that way. The producers knew that if they showed either one to be victorious then it would alienate a fanbase. The outcome was clever because both parties can be satisfied that their guy won.

With a budget of $30 Million, ‘Freddy VS Jason’ was the highest grossing of both franchises at the time taking in a total box office revenue of $116.6 Million. Most critics were less than generous towards the film, but the fans seemed to enjoy it.

As for me, Robert Englund was the best part of the film and it would be his last cinematic outing as Freddy Krueger. Naturally, after the financial success of the movie, the question was asked about doing ‘Freddy VS Jason VS Ash’ which Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell were eager to do but once again, the issue of lawyers and rights and differences over the plot meant that the film never took place and given that Robert Englund and Bruce Campbell are already in or approaching their 70’s, it’s a film we will most likely never see. Shame, that would have been fun.

Patient 187

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