Friday, November 9, 2018

Freddy vs. Jason (USA, 2003)

Let us pay our respects to director Ronny Yu. He, like fellow Hong Kong master stylist John Woo, is a man who knows how to make a movie. Like Woo, he is a genre master, but unlike Woo he never truly made it to the A ranks in Hollyweird. (Woo, however, fell quickly, but before returning to the Western Bs and Eastern As, he did helm Face/Off [1997 / trailer], M:I-2 [2000 / trailer], and the oh-so-serious Windtalkers [2002 / trailer].) But while Yu, like his Hong Kong colleague, did make it from Hong Kong to the sunny shores of California, his brief three-film, one-TV-movie foray remained strongly rooted in the mainstream production company Bs.
Trailer to
Freddy vs. Jason:
But Western B film or Hong Kong product, Ronny Yu has continually revealed himself as a solid genre film pro: a master of visuals, he's a director who usually knows the perfect angle, the perfect framing, the perfect dolly shot, the right place to edit quickly or to use long takes, to use neon/artificial lighting or natural, or what should happen onscreen and what should happen off — what's more, he generally also gets decent performances from his casts. He is, basically, a damn good director.
Indeed, his assured directorial style is often the best thing about the given movie project he is in charge of — see, for example, The 51st State aka Formula 51 (2001 / trailer), a totally idiotic mess that'll keep you laughing and entertained from start to finish. In the hands of a less proficient and assured stylist, even the talented cast (led by Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Carlyle, and Emily Mortimer) probably couldn't have saved that brainless piece of fluff. (What's more, in that film Yu even gets a good performance out of Meat Loaf.)
Likewise noteworthy is Yu's blackly comic Western-world debut, Bride of Chucky (1998 / trailer), which is also greatly served by a relatively coherent and tight script. The last bit about a "relatively coherent and tight script" cannot, however, be said of Freddy vs. Jason, but a coherent and tight script has never truly been a prerequisite to having a hit movie. And Freddy vs. Jason was a hit: "It grossed $114 million, making it the highest-grossing film in the Friday the 13th series and the second-highest-grossing film in A Nightmare on Elm Street series. [Wikipedia, date: 04 Oct 2018]"
To give credit where credit is due, the scriptwriting duo of Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, who subsequently went on to pen the totally misfired and boring Friday the 13th reboot (2009 / trailer) as well as the equally misfired but mildly entertaining Baywatch (2017 / trailer) movie adaptation, did a good job of working bits and pieces and references to the entire mythologies of both franchises into their script, even going so far as to strongly remind the audience at the start that everyone's favorite mass-murdering anti-hero Freddy is a child-killer and sexual deviant. (Hmm, sounds like Presidential material — or at least Senatorial.) But where in the name of Camp Crystal Lake did they come up with the idiotic idea of Jason's fear of water?
In any event, the script to Freddy vs. Jason is still a shallow fuckup and narrative mess lacking any true characterization, semblance of logic or basic realism, and with almost no true scares or real humor. More often than not — and totally unlike Bride of Chucky, for example — viewers finds themselves laughing at the movie instead of with the movie. (Not that the producers probably cared, as they surely simply laughed their way to the bank.)
Within the timeline of the two persistent original franchises, Freddy vs. Jason occurs after the second-to-last Freddy film, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991 / trailer), and between the final two Jason flicks, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993 / trailer) and Jason X (2001 / trailer).* As Freddy's rather long opening preamble clarifies, Freddy's powerless and in limbo and Jason's dead, but Freddy wants to kill kill kill kill so he enters Dead Jason's dreams (yep, the dead dream) and tricks Jason into arising from the dead and go on a killing spree in Springwood, Ohio, so as to make the kids there scared again. Their fear should somehow bring Freddy back — a plan that ends up working only because of a policeman's slip of the lip and the extremely contrived escape of two Elm Street kids, Will Rollins (Jason Ritter) and Mark Davis (Brendan Fletcher of BloodRayne: The Third Reich [2011 / trailer]), from the Westin Hills Psychiatric Hospital (see: Nightmare on Elm Street III: The Dream Warriors [1987 / trailer]), two things that suddenly bring the forgotten name of Freddy Krueger to the mouths and minds of the kids on Elm Street, most of whom must have failed a several grades to be still stuck in high school. (Dunno why they have to know of and fear Freddy for him to enter their dreams, actually, seeing that none of the kids in the first film, the classic Nightmare on Elm Street [1984 / trailer], knew anything about Freddy before he started killing them. In that film, he simply had the power.)
* The latter of which, in space, joined such illustrious company as Critters 4 (1992 / trailer), Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996 / trailer), Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996 / trailer)... and Moonraker (1979 / trailer), for that matter.
Freddy vs. Jason opens in true, traditional exploitation film style with naked boobs, something sorely missing from most contemporary trash cinema. (One wonders, however, how any ditz who has to work as a summer camp counselor would be old enough, much less manage to scrape together the money, to afford a boob job, even a cheaper one for unmoving boobs.) Topping off the wonderfully hilarious gratuitous nudity of the bimbo's midnight swim, she even runs barefoot into the forest to escape Jason, so of course she dies at his hands. (An unused scene in the DVD extras reveals that the girl — "Heather" [Odessa Munroe] — does indeed first try to return to her cabin, but when unsuccessful doesn't have the brains to simply break the window and chooses instead to run through the woods because, well, that's what one does.) But wait! The kill isn't real: it is, one might say considering the midnight swim and naked half-melons, Jason's wet dream — from whence Freddy awakens him. From there on, it's " Hi, ho! Hi, ho! Off to kill, Jason does go!"
According to director Ronny Yu, the special effects team used three hundred gallons of fake blood in Freddy vs. Jason. The amount is believable: people — mostly over-aged high school students — die and blood flows, mostly due to Jason. His harvest in greatly simplified because, after the first bodies drop, the over-aged high school students all react in a totally realistic fashion by throwing a midnight cornfield rave that, realistically, no adult (i.e., figure of authority) finds out about. From thereon in, Freddy starts getting both more powerful and pissed at Jason for robbing him of all his kills…. All of which leads to the eventual big showdown of the movie's title.
As to be expected of a Ronny Yu movie, the flick looks good. But for the average Joe, it also makes absolutely no sense, though if you know the mythology you can probably convince yourself it does, as enough lip service is given to past conventions — including, for example, how the film's spunky Final Girl Lori (Monica Keena of Snow White: A Tale of Terror [1997 / trailer], seen below not from the movie) brings Freddy over to the real world — that rhythm and reason can be inferred. But there isn't any, really.
One or two scenes, like the one with the brain-dead kids in Westin Hills, are even mildly unnerving, while others are really stupid — again, like the one with the brain-dead kids in Westin Hills, whenever the crappy-looking CGI hookah-smoking caterpillar shows up. (Aside from the obvious literary reference, possibly also a faint reference to the much more effective non-CGI Freddy-snake found in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare.) In general, however, and as is always the case with slasher films, it is less the chills than the kills that count, and in Freddy vs. Jason they quickly get relatively mundane: even the dream-world demise of Gibb (cult-fave babe Katharine Isabelle of Bones [2001 / trailer] and so much more) lacks the surreal terror of vintage Freddy.
But all the obvious flaws of Freddy vs. Jason are pretty much aside the point. There is basically only one reason to see the movie, and that reason is used as the movie's title. And the title will either make you hard/wet or leave you limp/dry, and that in turn is the decisive factor to whether or not the film is worth your precious time. We here at a wasted life, who went in only semi-tumescent, feel we wasted ours.

Freddy vs. Jason 
Kill Count:

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