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Freddy vs. Jason   B-

New Line Cinema

Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Ronny Yu
Writers: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
Cast: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Kenna, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Katharine Isabelle, Brendan Fletcher, Christopher George Marquette.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

With Freddy vs. Jason, razor-gloved dreamstalker Freddy Krueger of the often-clever Nightmare on Elm Street saga is pitted against hockey-masked slasher Jason Voorhees from the terminally uninspired Friday the 13th series. So what we've got here is a movie that's a hell of a lot dumber than your average Nightmare, but more imaginative than your average Friday. Picking up where Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday left off, the two horror titans are wasting away in hell, but Freddy (Robert Englund) is getting antsy. It's been so long since he last terrorized the kids of Springwood that the current teen residents don't even know his name. Since he needs their fear to build up enough strength to murder them through their dreams, he sends mama's boy Jason (Ken Kirzinger) to instill fear into the heart of Springwood. Jason will get the action, but Freddy will get the credit and he'll soon be powerful enough to get back to work. That's the plan, at least. But even once Freddy is strong enough to resume his old gig, Jason won't stop knocking off Freddy's prey, which leads to the climactic battle we've all been patiently waiting to see.

Before the main event, though, we have to wade through all the cardboard characters and stupid plot mechanics it takes to get us there. Monica Kenna and Jason Ritter are serviceable as the virginal heroine Lori and her madhouse-escapee boyfriend Will, respectively, but Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child fame doesn't fare as well. Then again, it's not Rowland's fault that she got stuck with some of the most ridiculous dialogue in the movie; most actors would stumble over those lines. Freddy vs. Jason only springs to life once the two title characters really start wreaking havoc. The fun starts when Jason fatally impales a girl in her sleep right as Freddy is closing in on her in dreamland, which angers Freddy something fierce. Shortly after that comes one of the film's best set pieces: Jason catches fire and, like a samurai with a flaming machete as his sword, proceeds to hack and slash his way through the scattering teenagers at an all-night rave. The film is never frightening (a few good jump scares notwithstanding), but its half-winking sense of humor is pretty infectious. The film definitely has madcap energy to burn and impressive visual flair thanks to director Ronny Yu (the Hong Kong vet behind The Bride with White Hair and Bride of Chucky) and cinematographer Fred Murphy (The Mothman Prophecies).

Robert Englund still seems to be having fun as everyone's favorite hideously scarred, wisecracking child-killer; his ghoulish charm hasn't dried up yet, even if some of Freddy's one-liners fall flat this time out. And though it may be stuntman-actor Ken Kirzinger's first time behind the mask, he makes a strikingly imposing Jason. In one of the film's best moments, Freddy is pulled from Lori's dream into the real world and he slowly turns to see Jason's massive, hulking figure looming behind him. The look on Freddy's face is priceless. When they finally duke it out, it's great fun, and the blood-soaked final moments of the battle even achieve a graceful, poetic elegance that evokes Yu's Bride with White Hair. Ultimately, though, Freddy vs. Jason isn't much more than an amusing trifle that exceeds most of Jason's escapades but doesn't live up to the best entries on Freddy's resume. Pretty much as expected, really, but I must say: If the cerebral, brilliant meta-horror of Wes Craven's New Nightmare had been the last word on the Nightmare series, at least Freddy would have went out with dignity.

Review published 08.24.2003.

For another opinion, read Rob Vaux's review.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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