Freddy vs. Jason
Directed by Ronny Yu. Starring Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Katharine Isabelle, Brendan Fletcher. (2003, R, 97 min.)
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Aug. 15, 2003
If you’ve been waiting for the much-anticipated smackdown between Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger and taciturn behemoth Jason Voorhees, try walking into the theatre about halfway through Freddy Vs. Jason. You won’t miss any of the film’s exposition – one character or another reiterates it about every 14 minutes – you’ll get right to the good stuff, and you’ll be no more confused than the rest of us. To wit, did anyone realize Camp Crystal Lake is right down the highway from Elm Street? Like, it’s closer than that hick town where the campers met up with those bikers in Friday the 13th: Part 3. The workmanlike plot, cobbled together by three writers (including Sean S. Cunningham, the venerated producer of Friday the 13th), is full of narrative serendipity. We even get an ominous cornfield; regrettably, "He Who Walks Among the Rows" doesn’t show up to menace children in the corn. Per usual, the cast is working hard to make this albatross fly. Destiny’s Child songstress Rowland is appropriately sassy as one of those "go-girl" best friends whom actresses of color seem doomed to play. Keena (of TV’s fine but forgotten Undeclared) acquits herself admirably as the feisty lass who uncovers the conspiracy of silence surrounding a certain razor-fingered child murderer, who returns to lacerate his teenaged quarry by resurrecting Jason and fueling their fear … or something like that. Anyhow, Keena flings herself headlong into this lunacy with consummate professionalism; it’s unfortunate that the camera is pretty much parked in her cleavage. There are no future Johnny Depps among the guys, though the film throws a second-act curveball in the form of a Jason Mewes-esque stoner kid who shows up out of nowhere and gets the script’s one good line: "Dude, that goalie was pissed about somethin’." He’s pretty much the only surprise in the movie. Director Yu (Bride of Chucky) saturates each frame with dramatic sprays of blood and gore; the squibs are as majestic as the fountains of Bellagio. That’s well and good, but Yu’s kinetic shooting style, honed in the Hong Kong action factory, is ill-suited to the slasher sequences. Too many scenes are disrupted by slow and fast motion, montage editing, and pulsating, pimpy strobe effects. The best thing about the original films – and about so many effective horror movies, from Psycho to Night of the Living Dead – is the realism of their visual technique. The first Nightmare on Elm Street was wickedly surreal, but the wacky dream sequences were offset by the sitcomlike, almost satirical flatness of ordinary suburban life; that was the really scary part. Freddy Vs. Jason is innocent of such nuances. There are no quiet moments in this movie. Will viewers who are just in it for the inevitable showdown mind? Probably not; a smattering of applause greeted the conclusion at our screening. But horror connoisseurs should consider this one a draw.