in The Vault

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Earlier this week, new footage was discovered from the Freddy vs. Jason weigh-in. That’s right, this match up was so hotly anticipated that to promote the film, Jason and Freddy were brought to a pre-fight weigh-in at Bally’s Las Vegas followed by a press conference. I still get a kick out of the idea, but there’s one lingering problem I’ve always had with this movie.

“Why would Jason and Freddy fight each other?”

This is the dilemma for most “vs.” movies. Usually, because two characters from the same side are pitted against each other. Jason and Freddy are both bad guys. Why would they fight each other? How about, Batman and Superman? They are both good guys, why would they fight each other?” At least AVP made sense. The greatest hunter in the galaxy against the deadliest prey? I get it. But I don’t get Freddy vs. Jason. I’m not sure the makers of this film ever came up with a good reason, but hell if they didn’t have fun with it.

I remember seeing this movie in theaters with my stepdad. We were both horror buffs (still are) and went to Wendy’s afterward. It’s a good memory. Though I find it hard to appreciate this movie as anything more than a fun summer day I had in 2003. The film doesn’t have much going for it narratively. It’s a well-made film production-wise. It’s an entertaining film too, just unnecessary.

The film begins with Freddy (Robert Englund) in a dream world—never been sure where that is… Hell? Limbo? —Breaking the fourth wall. Freddy talks about why he loves killing kids so much. Apparently, they “give him his power.”

We cut to a nice flashback of Robert Englund before he became a supernatural bogeyman and just a regular ‘ol child murderer in his abandoned factory hideout. Parents come and burn down the factory. It’s a story we’ve heard before in Nightmare on Elm Street films well visualized. This scene is followed by a montage of Freddy’s kills over the span of his films. Man, I really wish I’d marathoned that series instead. It’s a way more creative franchise than Friday the 13th in almost every way.

Freddy claims that the people to need to know of his existence again so he hatches a plan to convince Jason (Ken Kirzinger) –via nightmares–to kill kids in Springwood, Ohio (Freddy’s stomping grounds). Thus, Freddy can regain his power and become the top dog in the horror world. I have two problems.

1) Why Did Freddy lose his power?

I understand it had been nine years since A Nightmare on Elm Street film and in the last one—Wes Craven’s New Nightmare—Freddy was killed, but how did Freddy lose his powers? Freddy has died tons of times. I mean, he’s basically been a ghost for over twenty years. Why did his kill count drop? Because they hadn’t made a movie in a while? Is this film supposed to be a meta-commentary about the demise of the modern slasher film? I doubt it.

There needs to be a better reason for Freddy’s return. Couldn’t someone have conjured up his spirit through an old ritual? Or a Bloody Mary type game? I’m not buying that Freddy has lost his powers, just cause. There’s nothing as far as I know in any previous film to support this idea. Can’t they come up with anything else? Freddy escapes from Hell? Or maybe Freddy can attack Crystal Lake instead because he’s been defeated so many times in Springwood. They’re not even trying.

2) If Jason is doing all the killing, how does this increase Freddy’s notoriety?

The whole plot is put into motion when Freddy appears in one of Jason’s dreams. Jason is just minding his own business, killing a naked woman, when Freddy manipulates her dead body and speaks to Jason about rising from his slumber to kill again. He also makes Jason’s mother appear. So Jason rises from his grave to go kill teens.

Okay, Freddy is the puppet master here, but how will anyone know that? Naturally, the residents immediately gravitate to Freddy when local teens start dying (cause it’s Springwood), yet there’s little worry about Jason. This despite the fact that he is doing all the work. Freddy appears in some nightmares, but he can’t kill yet. I guess they put two and two together and realize Freddy is the brains of the operation.

If I was a dumb, sexy teen I would interpret the scenario as two random maniacs terrorizing everybody. Not, Freddy is running this show. So if Freddy’s plan was to make himself a slasher star again, he’s doing it in a confusing way.

After our villains get their moments in the spotlight, we are introduced to our protagonists hanging out and smooching. Lori (Monica Keena) is the main character and she’s fine. She has no interesting qualities and her only mood is upset, but the performance is acceptable. Her sassy best friend is Kia (played by Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child). I’m sure a lot of horror fans hated the idea of a pop singer being one of the stars of this film but I think she’s fine. If anything she adds some much-needed personality.

Lori and her friends are smooching up a storm when Jason shows up and gets a little stabby. Freddy appears in some dreams, but can’t do anything but say “Bitch” because his killing power is too low. The cops are quick to realize that Freddy is back… somehow and want to make sure no one outside the town (like FBI) gets involved. I think they want to keep the problem self-contained. That seems smart. Then again, I could be misremembering something. They are probably dumb. When are horror movie cops ever smart?

Everyone at the local high school is pretty bummed about Lori’s friends getting all chopped up, so some Jay from Jay and Silent Bob knockoff named Freeburg (Kyle Labine—Tyler Labine’s brother) decides to throw a rave party in a cornfield. I love everything about that sentence. We are also introduced to a nerd named Charlie (Chris Marquette) who has the hots for Kia. I like this character. I kind of wish him and Kia were the main characters, but alas, it’s a sad white girl instead.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to two teens, Will (Jason Ritter) and Mark (Brendan Fletcher) who are living in a mental hospital after a string of Freddy related deaths. The train of thought, I think, is that since they were the last to be involved with a Freddy incident the police decide to quarantine them in one place and make them take a drug called “Hypnocil” that suppresses dreams. Okay, so maybe that is the reason Freddy can’t come back… But he does. So this plan makes no sense. Also, I’m not sure it’s possible to not have dreams. Everyone dreams. Even if you don’t remember them. Nonsense aside, I like these characters. I mean, of course, I love Jason Ritter. He was the star of one my all time favorite cartoons, Gravity Falls.

Will and Mark catch wind of the recent murders on TV and conclude Freddy is back, so they break out. How does everyone know this is Freddy’s doing? Not sure. Jason did the killing. Whatever. It’s also around this time we learn Will is Lori’s ex-boyfriend. I guess she broke up with him because she thought he was too crazy. But not for long because soon she starts having her own Freddy Krueger nightmares.

I’m going to skip to the end. People are killed in hilarious ways. Blah, blah Freeburg swallows a Freddy caterpillar after getting high and becomes possessed, Kia is smacked twenty feet into a tree, so on and so forth. Eventually, the teens learn the only way to stop Freddy is by convincing Jason that Freddy is bad for manipulating him. So they make Freddy kill Jason’s mom in a dream. I think I’m remembering this correctly. I have no interest in reading the Wikipedia page.

Lori pulls Freddy out of dreamworld… somehow. Then Jason and Freddy do battle. It’s a good fight. Which isn’t surprising considering the director is Ronny Yu, who directed tons of Hong Kong action films in the 80s and made the Jet Li movie Fearless not long after Freddy vs. Jason. It’s a fight that satisfies the fans, even if it does feature the shittiest metal music ever. Freddy stabs Jason in the eyes, Jason chops off Freddy’s arm, Freddy gets his hand torn off and rammed into his own chest. It’s great.

The battle ends with Freddy being decapitated and then a post-credits scene of Jason emerging from Crystal Lake with Freddy’s decapitated head. Freddy winks at the camera and the movie ends. It might seem like a cop-out to have neither character die, but what did you expect? Both of these characters have died so many times. The outcome didn’t matter. The fight mattered. Even though it makes no sense for them to fight. As long as somebody was happy.

Watching this movie after watching ten Friday the 13th films was strange. This film feels far more like a Nightmare on Elm Street than a Friday the 13th movie. Which makes sense considering it was made by New Line Cinema, and Freddy has always been their top priority. Nightmare on Elm Street saved the studio in its early years. Friday the 13th was a later acquisition from Paramount for a few extra bucks. Overall, it’s a very watchable movie, but completely unnecessary. It kind of feels like 90 minutes of fan service, but I’m glad they got it made. Otherwise, we’d still be putting up with horror nerds complaining about it not existing.

I’m nearing the end of my Friday the 13th journey, which I’m super stoked for btw. I’m so sick of these movies, but I’ve got one more. Next week we’re going back to the beginning… Yes, the beginning of the end.