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2003, dir. Ronny Yu
97 min. Rated R.
Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter.

Review by Noel Wood
The first thing I wish to nitpick today is the pronunciation of the word "Versus", generally abbreviated as "Vs.", as it is in the title of the movie I'm reviewing here. The word is Versus. It has, count 'em, two syllables, both of which need to be pronounced at all times. The word is a homonym of "Verses", the plural of "Verse". That said, the word "Versus", which means against, toward, or in contrast to, is not pronounced "Verse", and never will be, so please be refraining from using this improper vocalization of the word. K thx.

Now that that's out of the way, I shall proceed to the movie itself. For those out there who have stacks of Fangoria magazine and shelled out for every one of McFarlane's Movie Maniacs figures, there's not going to be many films that have been anticipated more than this one. This, indeed, is the dream match for horror connoisseurs everywhere; the Holy Grail of splatter flicks if you will. Hell, I'm not even the biggest fan of the genre, and I've been waiting with bated breath for this one for years. You see, this movie is a long time coming. Rumors that a movie pitting arguably Horror's two biggest icons against one another have been around as long as the franchises themselves, but nothing sealed the deal like the final shot of the ninth installment of the FRIDAY THE 13TH series, entitled JASON GOES TO HELL. The image of the clawed glove dragging the trademark hockey mask into the ground, accompanied by the familar sinister laughter, was enough to send any fan into a frenzy. Of course, that was ten years ago. The movie was originally projected to be released a few years ago, but didn't come into fruition until this year. And for many, it didn't disappoint. Before we go any further, let's take a look at the combatants in this dream match:

Freddy Kreuger
Jason Voorhees
Crystal Lake
Height (est.)
Weight (est.)
Reach (est.)
Razor Claws
Attacks children in dreams
Attacks whomever, whenever
Burned Child Molestor
Drowned Retarded Child

There are die-hard fans of both franchises, and everyone had their pick of who should win. But the question was how you set up this long-anticipated battle. The method of doing so actually makes sense and remains loyal to both series' continuities.

Freddy, as you may know, is only able to attack those who dream about him. Therefore, ignorance is bliss if you want to avoid him. In this case, the town of Springwood, where Freddy has laid claim to dozens of victims, has done a pretty good job of purging his name from the ears of its youth. This drives the burned fellow crazy, because he ain't happy unless he's killing. In order to get his name back in to circulation, he needs a patsy. He finds one in Jason Voorhees, summoning him to go to Springwood and start with the slaying so that people will think Freddy's behind it. Jason has no qualms with committing some murders of his own, so he sets out on a search and dismember mission.

Of course, as we all know, horror movie slashers are most likely to go after teenagers, generally while having sex and consuming controlled substanses. Jason shows up at the house of Lori Campbell, who is reluctantly hosting a gathering of friends. As soon as you can say "coitus", the goalie from hell has laid waste to a male chauvinist stereotype and brought the remaining teens into the street screaming. The police investigators assume that Freddy is behind it all, but mistakenly let Lori overhear his name. She begins dreaming of him, but Freddy's gonna need more than the one believer to get himself back up to speed.

Cue the sledgehammer of plot. Here we get a lot of backstory. A whole lotta backstory, at least for a movie like this. Y'see, Lori had this boyfriend named Will who mysteriously disappeared four years ago, around the time her mother was killed. Turns out he's been in a mental institution, being forcefed dream suppresant pills (which already have a trademark name yet aren't even approved by the FDA, but whatever) in an effort to keep Freddy's memory retained. However, Will escapes along with his friend Mark, whose brother (SCUT F'N FARCUS!) was also victimized by Freddy years ago. Before long, everyone in town knows who Freddy is, and he's back up to full strength.

But there's a monkeywrench in Freddy's plan. Jason was supposed to draw some ire, but he's managed to amass a bodycount that makes Freddy's work pale in comparison. Freddy ain't too happy about his thunder being stolen, so he diverts his attention away from the kids and toward taking down Jason. Of course, with Freddy living in the dream world and Jason in the physical one, it's going to take some tricks. After using a Jason Mewes wannabe as a vessel, Freddy knocks Jason the fuck out and battles him in the dreamworld. Of course, Jason's no match for Freddy here, and the teens get the bright idea to even up the score by dragging Jason back to his home front: Camp Crystal Lake. Here, the two compete in what will be the battle of the ages.

The movie really delivers on all the promise that this type of movie can have. I've seen a ton of bad reviews, but they tend to be from reviwers who aren't fans of the genre. Those who "get it" seem to love it. If you go in to FREDDY VS. JASON expecting high art, you deserve to be one of the victims that get splattered in their path of destruction. The movie starts out with some clips of previous films, including some of the best death scenes Freddy ever produced, and then gets into the suspense-laden first act. Once we really get in to the meat of things, the suspense is tossed out in favor of big action scenes. Suprisingly, this movie doesn't rely on gore nearly as much as some of its predecessors.

The buildup to the climactic battle is fun in itself, but the actual confrontation between the two kings of killing is worth the price of admission alone. The action borrows a page from the Hong Kong action movie, but unlike THE MATRIX and others in this vein, uses it as an inspiration rather than a template. The battle is pretty evenly matched as well, with neither one showing a clear cut advantage. The different fighting styles come through, and it feels like you're watching a 1998 WCW match where a luchadore takes on a superheavyweight. Sorry for the wrestling analogy, really.

Robert Englund, of course, reprises his part as Freddy, and there's even some footage of him without the makeup on in the earlygoing. Unfortunately, however, Kane Hodder, who has played Jason in the last several installments, was ousted from the role of Jason because they wanted someone who was closer to Freddy in size, and also wanted "sympathetic eyes". Really. To use pro-wrestling terminology, Jason is played up as the babyface in their battle, while Freddy continues to be the heel. Sure, Jason just got done killing dozens of high schoolers at a cornfield rave, yet we're supposed to have sympathy for him. However, even when you think he's going to be the good guy, he still manages to gut somebody for old time's sake, such as the scene where he kills off the loudmouthed Kia, played by Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child. Then again, in my theater, that made him a hero. But my theater was an experience all unto its own.

I saw this on opening night in a packed house at the North Dekalb Mall in Decatur, GA. Those who live in the area know what that connotates, but others might need an explanation. We'll just say my theater was vocal. Most people will know that normally I have no tolerance for people talking int he theater, but in this case, where it's all reaction, I'm all for it. Every suspenseful jump got the theater going. Every time someone onscreen was doing something stupid, my audience did their best to let them know. And nothing got more cheers than the death of the poor-man's Beyonce Knowles. The theater experience in itself probably made my enjoyment of FREDDY VS. JASON increase twofold.

I went in to the movie not as a critic, but as a fan. Yeah, I know, I'm supposed to be all objective here, but in this case I say fuck all that. I've been waiting since my childhood to see the Springwood Slasher take on the Crystal Lake Killer, and I wasn't disappointed in the results. Unlike the STAR WARS prequels, which felt like they had to insult my intelligence by throwing in a whole lot of stupid stuff, this movie relied on what made the others work so well in the first place. To sum up that ideal, I remember hearing the obligatory rhetorical question afterward from my girlfriend, asking if it was necessary for all the girls in the movie to have such huge breasts. Well of course it was. This is FREDDY VS. JASON, after all. My only complaint, if any, is what I mentioned earlier: there was almost too much plot (Well, that and the fact that the virginal lead character, though barely eighteen years old, has a tattoo on her lower back; but I can let that slide) But the backstory they threw in, while a bit contrived and predictable, still managed to stay true to the feel and stories of both series.

Is this a good film? Nah. If I were a critic in the vein of most out there, I'd be pissing on this movie. Fortunately, I have more soul than that, so I can see this movie for what it's supposed to be. And that's a whole lotta goddamn fun.

Want a second opinion of this film? Take a look at theJK's review over at Living Corpse dot com!


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