October Horrorshow: Freddy vs. Jason

Is there anything that can save a movie with subpar acting and a weak story? Yes. Yes, there is. And that thing is outlandish and cartoonish gore. In 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason, the two principal antagonists of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th horror franchises, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, come together in a crossover feat of mayhem and blood. The simple prospect of having such characters duke it out in a fanboy orgy surrounded by teenage cannon fodder is enough for any casual horror fan to take a look. Quite frankly, there is nothing surprising about the film, and nothing disappointing, either. The idea behind Freddy vs. Jason is the thing, the spectacular deaths of innocent bystanders is the charm, and everything else, acting and story, is just filler.

For instance, there is no reason for Kelly Rowland (Kia) to garner the amount of screen time she does. I hate to pick on someone from an ensemble cast that was so uniformly bad, but singing is her gig, not acting. The cast, mostly focusing on Monica Keena (Lori), Jason Ritter (Will), and Lochlyn Munroe (Deputy Stubbs), wasn’t given much to work with, in script, time, or budget, but it does always amaze me that with tens of thousands of would-be stars out there trolling auditions listings that any project can fail to put together at least one standout performance. And one of these people has an extensive resume as an actor. At least the two antagonists are as reliable as ever.

But I digress. Latching onto the acting in a cheap slasher flick is like complaining the corner deli doesn’t have a Michelin star. If audiences demanded perfection from horror films, and followed up that demand with attendance and Oscar nominations, then the culture would change. But that would be a tragedy in its own right, wouldn’t it? Good lord, if every horror movie was as un-fun as something like The Shining or The Exorcist (brilliant as they are), we’d have a boatload of serious fare, but then we’d feel guilty every time some poor kid got eviscerated on screen and we enjoyed it. Some douchebag gets snapped in half in a folding bed in Freddy vs. Jason, I’m free to cover my eyes and chuckle at the absurdity of it.

No one dies like this. Ever. It’s the modern version of camp. Thankfully, it keeps enough of a sense of humor about it (admittedly, a sick sense of humor), that it doesn’t repel like the torture porn that began to take hold right around the time Freddy vs. Jason came out. In short, there is a boatload of gore in the film, but it maintains a reasonable disconnect. It is so obviously fake and over-emphasized that it doesn’t cause that soft tingle to rise up the spine. You know the one. Think about your finger nails being pulled out and you’ll remember it. Even when someone gets sliced in half with a machete, it’s still easier to stomach than watching Cary Elwes take off his own foot in Saw.

My favorite death in this dog has been flipping back and forth among two candidates. The first is the death of Trey (Jesse Hutch) who was the one who got the folding bed treatment, and Freebug (Kyle Labine, channeling Jason Mewes), who found himself possessed by Freddy Krueger after smoking some serious ganja, and got chopped in half by Jason. Gun to my head, I’m going with Trey, because it got the plot going. Honorable mention goes to the asshole who was date-raping Gibb (Katharine Isabelle). I hate to see peripheral characters who are such slimebags. Gibb got it as bad as he did, but the screenwriters couldn’t have got him off the screen fast enough.

Oh yeah, the plot. Freddy’s stuck in hell, and he can’t get out unless teenagers on Elm Street remember who he is, so he recruits Jason Voorhees, also in hell, to resurrect (a unique ability he has), and go chasing down some teens on Elm Street to get people talking about Freddy, thus spreading his legend like a virus and enabling him to come back. I have no idea why the filmmakers went through such twists and turns to justify resurrecting two horror film legends, but they did. Even the folks at Toho never tried gymnastics like that with Godzilla. It doesn’t matter, though.

I don’t really need to waste any more space defending this tripe. Freddy vs. Jason is better than Alien: Resurrection, but only because Alien: Resurrection tried so damned hard. Lighten up, Ripley.