12 Days of Friday, Day 11: Freddy vs Jason

Editor Alex Vo watches a Friday the 13th movie daily until the reboot.

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Day Eleven: Freddy vs Jason

Freddy Krueger -- stuck in Hell, long forgotten and thus no longer able to infiltrate dreams -- resurrects Jason in the real world. Under disguise as Mrs. Voorhees, he sends Jason to Elm Street where he chops up a few residents. The town is convinced that Freddy has returned, and some teenagers to investigate who Freddy is and how town residents were able to cover him up. Meanwhile, as Freddy re-gains the power to enter dreams, Jason goes on a killing rampage, setting up a turf war between the two horror icons.

It's discovered that the adults have been administering a dream suppressant to children and teens as a means to defeat Jason. But as fear spreads and Freddy gets strong, the heroes devise a plan to bring Jason back to Crystal Lake, and pull Freddy into the real world, where Jason can kill him for good. While this isn't the goriest of the Friday the 13th movies (Jason Goes to Hell takes that honor), it is the bloodiest, and Freddy and Jason shed gallons of Karo during the climatic fight at Crystal Lake. I loved this fight: it's well-choreographed, integrates plenty of set pieces (the dock, a cabin, a construction), and the way Jason and Freddy use their own iconic weapons (the clawed hand and the machete) against each other is quite genius.
Director Ronny Yu keeps the plot moving while maintaining a consistent tone, a real challenge considering he was combining the pensive moodiness of Elm Street and the simple slasher tropes of Friday the 13th, while making sure it made sense in a real-world setting. Yu is primarily an action director and his sensibilities work well in keeping the movie in high tension.
This has become my favorite Friday the 13th movie after The Final Chapter, and it's no coincidence that both have compelling characters and stories inserted between the murders. While a lot of Final Chapter's fun was watching the soapy teenage comedy/drama, Freddy vs Jason is more about getting wrapped up in its mystery plot: What are the adults covering up? How was the town able to keep Freddy Krueger out of people's dreams? It's not exactly Hitchcock, but it gives the characters more than enough to work with as Freddy plots his next move or until Jason's next random appearance.
People have noted this feels more like a Freddy movie than a Jason movie, but I think it's more that screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (who also wrote the reboot) pinpoint the strengths and weakness of each series. The Friday the 13th  movies were always about bodies stealthily piling up, with nobody realizing it until the final act. Fun stuff, but there's not exactly much to keep the plot going. Freddy vs Jason is structured like an Elm Street movie: the plot flows from murder to murder, building the tension and fear of the characters as they scramble to find a solution. Manipulated by Freddy, Jason is essentially a sad, misguided fool. When he gets double-crossed by Freddy and comes to his senses, it's the only time I have ever felt like cheering for him.
Freddy vs Jason made $80 million domestically, and far be it from me to use profit as an indicator of quality, but I think it does speak well of what this movie ultimately is: an accessible action/horror flick that appeals to people beyond Friday the 13th and Elm Street fans. This was, in fact, the first Jason movie I ever saw (in theaters, on a double bill with Once Upon a Time in Mexico) and it never lost or alienated me as it forced these two worlds together. As a teen, this was a slick, entertaining monster mash. Years later, it still is.


Freddy vs. Jason Vital Stats:

  • Body Count: 19. Counting only Jason's.
  • Survivors: 2.
  • Number of Kruger kills: 1.
  • Number of Jason-approved weapons: 5. Machete, pipe, steel door, open electricity box, Kruger's claws.

Memories of Crystal Lake:

  • Steve Barton of Dread Central: "Fans waited years for this one, and again the studio in charge found some way to f--k it all up. No slight against Ken Kirzinger, but after years of anticipation he was not the one we wanted to see behind the mask. All anybody wanted was Robert Englund vs. Kane Hodder. Instead we got vintage Freddy versus a psychopathic mama's boy who now has an irrational fear of water despite that fact that he's spent most of his life in it. According to this absurd logic if Jason didn't have an umbrella, everyone in Crystal Lake or Elm Street would be perfectly safe. What did we ever do to deserve this? Sigh."
  • Luke Y. Thompson of LYTrules.com: "Okay, we're in outright parody territory here, but the thing is that slasher franchises in general get the audience to root for the killer, who frequently offs the beautiful, promiscuous, stuck-up high school/college crowd that we always wanted to be a part of but never were. So the fans identify, and usually pick a favorite. Think how lucky we got with this -- Paramount will NEVER make a movie called "Kirk vs. Picard." New Line made this for fans to pick a favorite and cheer; I loved it, but then I also watch WrestleMania every year. I guess after this one, the only way forward was to reboot and get scary again, but I admit to some major disappointment that the studio didn't wait to get to part 13 first. When I was in film school, my dad used to joke that I'd make part 13, and my idea was for Jason to stalk the survivors of a nuclear war, finally killing every last human being on Earth. The remake makes 12, and I guess if only one more happens that sort-of counts, but I was really hoping the franchise could hold out."

Tomorrow: It's the end (and a new beginning). The Friday the 13th reboot!

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