Winner kills all.
Jason. Versus. Freddy.
Just these three words had horror fan-boys drooling from coast to coast. For years, the Freddy vs. Jason concept languished in screenplay and development hell, seemingly never to see the light of day. The reasons were many: the screenplays were lacking, Paramount wouldn't fork over the rights to the Friday the 13th franchise to New Line, et cetera. It seemed as if Springwood slasher Freddy Krueger and Camp Crystal Lake stalker Jason Voorhees would never go mano-a-mano. Then out of seemingly nowhere, Freddy vs. Jason popped up on New Line's release schedule, and before you knew it, the dynamic duo were playing at a theater near you! Grossing well over $80 million at the box office (easily covering its $30 million price tag), Freddy vs. Jason makes its DVD debut in a Platinum Edition two disc set care of New Line Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
It's been a decade since Freddy Krueger (the irreplaceable Robert Englund) terrorized the teens of Elm Street and Jason Voorhees made beef jerky out of nubile young camp counselors. During the lull, the citizens of Springwood, Ohio, have figured out a way to vanquish Freddy by using a dream suppressant drug on the children of Elm Street. Since no one dreams, no one can remember Freddy, thus rendering him powerless. Shockingly, Freddy isn't happy about this wrench in his works: he needs a hired hand to strike fear into the heart of Springwood, which will in turn give him back his power ("I searched the bowels of hell…" he bemoans). Enter Jason Voorhees, man voted by his high school class "Most Likely Have a Bad Hair Day, Every Day." Freddy uses Jason's dreams, posing as his long dead mother, to rustle him out of his eternal slumber and continue Freddy's work started on Elm Street. Two teens, Lori (Monica Keena, Orange County) and recently escaped mental patient Will (Jason Ritter, Swimfan), lead a team of high school students hellbent on sending both Freddy and Jason back where they belong. As the clues unravel to Freddy's devious plan, it will take all of Lori and Will's courage to make sure the terror titans are pitted against each other in final fight to the bloody end.
Best movie of the summer! That was my cry after seeing Freddy vs. Jason in theaters this past August. Damn X-Men 2! To hell with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines! After watching it again on DVD, my opinion has changed only slightly: Freddy vs. Jason is the best movie…of the year! If you want to be a snobby film critic and say Master and Commander and Pirates of the Caribbean were eons better, be my guest. True, many contenders this year had better effects, acting, and set pieces. But did they have two of the greatest '80s horror icons duking it after a nearly two decade wait? Or Jason stalking a victim through corn rows while on fire? Or sweet Mary's molasses, a promo poster with a picture of Freddy and Jason with a big VS. between them?
I think not.
I will stake my reputation on the following statement: Freddy vs. Jason was the most anticipated movie of the year, maybe even the decade. And quite possibly the most anticipated film in the span of human history. "Okay, Naugle," you're thinking, "You've officially looked over the edge of sanity, thumbed your nose at it, and cried Geronimo!" A bigger truth has never been spoken. Yet if you're a fan of these films like I am, Freddy vs. Jason is the cinematic equivalent of a wet dream…a big sloppy slumber booger.
First off, I must give props to director Ronny Yu for making this film better than it should have been. Yu, the man behind the surprise hit sequel Bride of Chucky, has made a movie that both Nightmare and Friday fans should enjoy. He even brings a bit of Asian flair to the mix, and when I say "Asian flair," I think we're all hip to the fact that I mean lots of violence and gore. Freddy vs. Jason has all the elements one comes to expect from this genre: breasts, blood, beasts, babes, butchering, and bombastic music. Of course, there are the requisite teenagers whose only job is to either explain part of the plot, show off their breasts to the camera, or end up as grade-A ground chuck at Freddy or Jason's hand. The standouts include Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) as a pot smokin' man humper and Kyle Labine (The Perfect Score) in what is clearly an homage to Jason Mosier's foul mouthed druggie character "Jay." The rest of the cast couldn't get any more wooden if they'd been planted in Yellowstone Park—Monica Keena and Jason Ritter (son of the late John Ritter) practically read their lines off of cue cards. Then again, if a film of this nature didn't include cheesy dialogue and flat acting, wouldn't you be slightly disappointed?
And let's be honest, this really isn't their show anyhow. When you're watching a movie titled Freddy vs. Jason, it's obvious that whenever the title characters aren't on screen, the rest of the cast and plot is like a big waiting room for Jason and Freddy's next scene. When they finally do arrive the whole movie perks up—though watching the two on-screen together may be a novelty, it's one of the best in recent memory. At one point in the film, Freddy whips Jason around his boiler room nightmare in one of the largest games of pinball ever staged. Englund still has a knack for his character, and it's nice to see Freddy's cackling humor toned down a bit from the previous Nightmare entries. Many fans decried the loss of Kane Hodder as Jason (Hodder had played him in four previous films), yet Ken Kirzinger fills in nicely. Actually, since the role of Jason really only requires big muscles and slow lumbering, pretty much anyone with those qualifications could have played him with nominal success.
The whole movie becomes one big set up for the final showdown between Jason and Freddy, and no, I'm not going to spoil the fun by telling you who wins. That's what the fans have been waiting for, and Yu doesn't disappoint. Heads roll. Arms roll. Legs roll. In a sudden flash of effects ecstasy, the whole thing becomes one big horror bowling alley. It's a classic showdown that will be cherished by generations of fans who snuck into their parents' basement as children to watch these types of films.
When all is said and done, Freddy vs. Jason is something of a miracle for horror fans: a movie that (mostly) lives up to the anticipated hype. Could it have been better? Oh, I suppose…but keep this in mind: it could have been a heck of a lot worse. Freddy and Jason prove that they can still pack in the crowds, though from now on they may have to work together to stay on top. And what true blue genre fan could complain about that?
Freddy vs. Jason is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. These two relics have never looked so good! The colors and black levels are all solidly rendered without any bleeding in the image. Detail is excellent, along with a total lack of any edge enhancement, grain, or any other major imperfections. Many scenes are set in the dark, or tinted with red, green, and blue hues (especially in Freddy's dream world). I have no complaints about this transfer—it's definitely top notch. There is also a full frame pan and scan version of the film, though it's not recommended.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 EX sound mix in English. Much like the video transfer, this mix is excellent. Front and rear speakers are engaged thoroughly and often. Graeme Revell's music score (which nicely incorporates both the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street themes) is prominently displayed, along with the gurgles and death cries of the teenagers. This 5.1 mix is an all around great job by New Line and works best for those in possession of a surround sound system. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles, as well as a Dolby 2.0 Surround mix in English.
New Line has produced a killer two-disc set for Freddy vs. Jason's DVD debut. Starting off on Disc One is a commentary track by director Ronny Yu and actors Robert Englund (AKA Freddy) and Ken Kirzinger (AKA Jason). Fans of either series will surly enjoy this meeting of great minds (or something like that) discussing how Freddy vs. Jason came into being. Englund is especially chatty as he discusses and comments on just about every aspect of the film (even a nubile teenager's erect nipples). Yu and Kirzinger jump in now and then, but this is really Englund's finest hour. This is a great commentary track crammed with lots of stuff that will make fans drool (including a minor touch upon why Kane Hodder was asked to step aside in the role of Jason). Also included on Disc One is a "jump to a death" feature that allows the viewer to go to a specific death scene.
Disc Two is where most of the meaty supplements are located. The first section includes 19 deleted scenes, as well as an alternate opening and ending to the film, all of them presented in anamorphic widescreen. These deleted scenes were a bit disappointing—I was hoping for a far more interesting alternate ending than what's included here. Most of the scenes are really only extensions more than full-blown scenes. However, the alternate opening is a nice homage to the Friday the 13th series. I guess something's better than nothing.
Next up is a section of publicity materials. Included here is the original theatrical trailer, eight TV spots, a music video for the song "How Can I Live?" by Ill Nino, and two very strange promo featurettes: "My Summer Vacation: My Visit to Camp Hack'n'Slash" and "Pre-Fight Press Conference." The "Camp Hack-n-Slash" feature is about a weekend long festival Alamo Drafthouse put together that includes arts and crafts (don't ask), a wet T-shirt contest, and a screening of Freddy vs. Jason. Funny stuff. The "Pre-Fight Press Conference" is even sillier as the two terror titans, Freddy and Jason, face off at Bally's in Las Vegas. The fight is pretty goofy but entertaining—don't miss it!
Five production featurettes are included—"Genesis: Development Hell," "On Location: Springwood Revisited," "Art Direction: Jason's Decorating Tips," "Stunts: When Push Comes to Shove," and "Make-Up Effects: Freddy's Beauty Secrets." Though these are all fairly short featurettes (most clock in under ten minutes), there is some intriguing behind-the-scenes production footage from the making of the film. "Genesis: Development Hell" is the best of the lot, a great look at the history of the film's production that includes interviews with Englund, Yu, New Line president Robert Shaye, and others. Also included under this section is a reprint of a great Fangoria magazine article chronicling the Freddy vs. Jason struggles, and for fans of the series it's a must read.
Finally, there are six storyboard sections ("Opening," "Trey's Death," "Grain Silo/Boiler Room," "First Battle," "Freddypillar," and "The Dock"), five production archives ("Behind the Scenes," "Concept Art," "Freddypillar," "Locations," and "Make-up Design/Models"), some visual effects vignettes narrated by visual effects supervisors Ariel Velasco-Shaw and Kevin Elam, and DVD-ROM content for a PC.
I'll readily admit it: I loved Freddy vs. Jason. It's not great filmmaking, but it is a great concept and a better-than-expected execution by director Ronny Yu. New Line's work on this Platinum Edition two-DVD set is excellent—fans will be more than happy with the way the film looks and sounds, and the nice array of extra features New Line's included.
What's next? Freddy vs. Jason vs. Michael? Freddy vs. Jason vs. Pinhead? Only time will tell…
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
• Commentary Track by Director Ronny Hu and Actors Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger
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