DIEmonds in the Rough: Freddy Vs. Jason (2003)

freddy-vs-jason-posterWelcome to another installment of DIEmonds in the Rough, where we search for the bloody nougat center of awesomeness inside a hard shell of mediocrity. This week’s installment takes a look back at the slasher showdown that was Freddy Vs. Jason.

The year is 1993. The movie is Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday. After sitting through a movie in which Kane Hodder’s Jason is only onscreen for about ten minutes (which should be a crime), fans are treated to arguably the greatest ending scene of all time. As Jason’s mask lies half buried in the dirt, the famously-clawed hand of Freddy Krueger reaches up from the depths of Hell to drag the mask down into the abyss. Fans like me lost their minds when we saw that scene, as we knew that the showdown between two of the genre’s most iconic characters must surely be right around the corner.

TEN YEARS LATER, we finally got Freddy Vs. Jason. I could write a whole series of posts about why the movie took so long to finally get made, but it’s really just a bunch of boring studio crap, and the delay allowed for Jason X to me made (which is one of the best of the series and a movie that will definitely get it’s own DitR post in the future).

The premise of Freddy Vs. Jason is this–It’s four years after the events of The Final Nightmare and Freddy’s power has disappeared because no one remembers him in the real world. No kids are having nightmares, as the adults in Springwood have conspired to remove him from the public consciousness. In an effort to make people fear him again, he recruits Jason Voorhees from the depths of Hell to go and terrorize the kids of Springwood in his name. Jason gets the kills, but Freddy gets the glory. When the nightmares begin, Freddy will get his powers back. There’s just one problem–Jason is really good at killing people. So good, in fact, that he’s killing all of Freddy’s victims before Freddy can even get to them. Freddy manages to use his limited powers to get a stoner kid to sedate Jason so Freddy can confront him in the dream world.

Then it’s on.

So, before we talk about what is awesome in FvJ, let’s talk about what’s not so great.

  1. The story is little more than a premise, but I can totally overlook that, because the whole idea of this movie is one big gimmick anyway. The problem is that the filmmakers actually spend way too much time trying to tell the story, when absolutely no one cares. Too much talky-talky, not enough killy-killy. They dedicate too much time to whole “make people forget Freddy” setup, when they could have just left it at “Freddy’s been gone for a while and people forgot about him.”
  2. The stoner character of Freeburg (played by Kyle Labine) is such a blatant rip-off of Jay the Kevin Smith movies that it’s painful. There is a CGI scene with him in the middle of the movie that’s just awful. Luckily, a few minutes later Jason literally chops him in half, so things ended up okay.
  3. The biggest sin Freddy Vs. Jason commits by far is the exclusion of Kane Hodder as Jason. Director Ronny Yu and company opted for the slightly taller Ken Kirzinger, who does an admirable job as Jason. BUT, fans of these two franchises wanted to see Robert Englund and Kane Hodder. This was a real missed opportunity.  

Problems aside, there is a lot to like about Freddy Vs. Jason. Let’s get to the good stuff:

  1. There are some spectacular kills in this movie. Jason folds a dude in half as he’s lying in bed. Jason is set on fire and then proceeds to slice his way through several partygoers in a cornfield. As mentioned above, he cuts a guy in half. Almost every kill in this movie is great, and they’re delivered in brutal ways, with maximum force and geysers of blood. Ronny Yu did not skimp when it came to the kills, and the bodycount in FvJ is over 20.
  2. Robert Englund a really had fun playing Freddy again, and his performance holds the entire movie together. He delivers his one-liners with glee, he oscillates between funny and truly scary, and he provides the perfect villain for the film, as the audience is meant to root for Jason. It’s a fantastic performance all-around, and doubly so because he didn’t have Kane Hodder to play off of.
  3. We actually get to see some of the backstory for both Freddy and Jason. Their flashback scenes are really well done and contribute to the lore of both characters. This alone makes FvJ worth seeing.
  4. Katharine Isabelle is in it! She hadn’t quite achieved full Scream Queen status when this movie was released, but the Ginger Snaps and American Mary star was well on her way.
  5. The final showdown between Freddy and Jason is both epic and blood-soaked. The fight takes them all over Camp Crystal Lake, and fittingly ends with the lake itself claiming both of them. Robert Englund is fantastic during this whole sequence and really goes for it. The whole movie would have been a failure if they didn’t nail the fight scene, but thanks to Englund, it really is satisfying.

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So, was it worth the ten-year wait? No, but Freddy Vs. Jason is still pretty awesome, it’s definitely worth your time, even if you’re not big into either franchise. It was the last time either character was in a film worth watching, as both the 2009 Friday the 13th remake and the 2010 Nightmare on Elm Street remake were garbage. And not fun garbage, like some of the sequels in each of these series, just flat out garbage.

But let’s end on a positive note, shall we? The bottom line is that Freddy Vs. Jason is a ton of fun, and you should totally check it out if you haven’t yet. I’ll be revisiting these two franchises several more time for this blog series in the future.

Pay your respects.