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Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Rated R

Starring: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, and Monica Keena

Rating:
***1/2
out of
*****

For years, splatter film fans have been waiting for the showdown between Hollywood's two most prolific serial killers. With 17 films between them (10 for Jason's Friday the 13th series and 7 for Freddy's A Nightmare on Elm Street series), the killers each have their own dedicated fan base. Pairing the two of them against one another is like seeing Muhammad Ali fight Mike Tyson or Bruno Sammartino wrestle Hulk Hogan -- each in their respective prime, of course.

Actually, this film was supposed to happen a while ago. The final shot of Jason Goes to Hell, the 9th installment of the Friday the 13th series, shows Jason's hockey mask being grabbed by Freddy's clawed hand. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, these two slasher icons did not meet for 11 more years. Jason and Freddy each appeared in one more film following that teasing image. Jason X took the machete-wielding killer into the future and A New Nightmare rewrote the rules of the Freddy series in a vein similar to the then yet-to-be-released Scream films.

In any case, Freddy vs. Jason ignores the two newer films and picks up where Jason Goes to Hell and Freddy's Dead, each supposedly the last film in their respective series, left off. Sort of. Freddy is in Hell moping about how he's been forgotten. He needs to get the folks in Springwood talking about him again so they can dream about him which, of course, will enable him to kill again. To do this, he tricks Jason into "waking up" by posing as his mother in a dream. (I guess Jason sleeps between films and, apparently, dreams.) Under Freddy's control, Jason begins hacking up the town and, sure enough, the suriviors begin blaming the deaths on Freddy. However, as Freddy regains his strength, Jason keeps on killing people. Freddy's not too happy about the loss of potential victims and decides to stop Jason from stealing his thunder. Hence, Freddy vs. Jason. That's a very rudimentary version of the plot. Fans of the genre will enjoy a few laughs as well as a few jumps from the machinations of setting up the final showdown between the two killing machines.

Robert Englund, who's played Freddy Krueger in all of the Nightmare on Elm Street films, is his dependably "charming" self as the sweater and fedora-wearing killer. Kane Hodder, who has played Jason in the last few Friday the 13th films, is noticeably absent. In his place is Ken Kirzinger, making for a slightly thinner and shorter Jason. I think this substitution actually works to make Jason a bit less lethargic and stiff-looking onscreen and that makes the showdown look more evenly matched.

As a fan of the 80s slasher genre that spawned both Freddy and Jason, I was not disappointed with the film at all. There were some things that made me scratch my head like Jason's sudden fondness for his machete and the sudden relocation of Camp Crystal Lake to a close proximity to Springwood. Other than those minor quibbles, though, I had an excellent time watching Freddy vs. Jason. Director Ronny Yu keeps enough of the standard slasher clichés intact so as not to jar anyone into thinking too much while still offering a decent pace and a lot of reminders why we keep going to the theater to see these types of films in the first place.

Sure Freddy vs. Jason is not, in any way, shape or form, a revolutionary motion picture. It's not supposed to be. What it provides is a really good time for those who've enjoyed either (or both) of these characters' previous films. It does a relatively good job at remaining true to the timelines of both series and manages to work in some cheap scares and a few good-natured chuckles. It's a horror movie and it's also a good summer movie. It's great popcorn entertainment for those willing to stomach buckets of blood and over-the-top decapitation. Anyone who didn't know they'd get both of those elements in this film probably deserves to get sick anyway.

Trivia: The call letters of the news station shown on the TV in the hospital are KRGR, obviously a reference to Freddy Krueger. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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