Friday, March 13, 2009

Film Review--Freddy vs. Jason

Freddy vs. Jason
directed by Ronnie Yu
written by Damian Shannon, Mark Swift
based on characters created by Victor Miller and Wes Craven
starring Robert Englund, Ken Kerzinger, Monica Keena, Jason Ritter, Kelly Rowland, Chris Marquette, Brendan Fletcher, Lochlyn Munro

From the bowels of Hell, Freddy Krueger (Englund) fears his ability to terrorize the dreams of the unwitting is fading so he turns to Jason Voorhees (Kerzinger) for help. Unfortunately, he fails to acknowledge that Jason’s fundamental purpose, that which gets him out of the bed in the morning, is to kill as many humans as possible before sundown. Jason simply cannot be shut off on a whim and kills just as naturally as another man brushes his dog’s teeth.

From the beginning, it’s not a particularly square arrangement. Freddy simply wants Jason to do all the work so he can take all the credit. He imagines that he can control Jason but this proves to be a most unfortunate miscalculation. So, Jason returns and starts killing as if he never let off. He butchers a couple of kids and a parent leaving Springwood utterly beguiled with fear and anticipation.

One of the most satisfying Jason moments takes place in this film. A group of kids all attend a rave in a cornfield and as they get plastered on whatever’s most readily available, one cannot possibly wait for what happens next. Right on cue, Jason comes a swingin’ his machete and manages to take out nearly a dozen drugged out kids before he’s done. It’s truly as glorious as it sounds and fits nicely into Jason’s fundamental moral outrage toward those damn kids and their rampant sexuality and drug taking.

But, Freddy is not pleased. His charge is threatening to usurp all his glory and this troubles him immensely. His sole purpose for tricking Jason into working for him is becoming unraveled at the seams.

The kids, led by Lori Campbell (Keena) and Will Rollins (Ritter) soon become aware of what is happening and take measures to protect themselves from Freddy’s dream land. They try to get their hands on an experimental dream-suppressant drug called Hypnocil and are attacked by Jason but not before one of them injects him with two massive syringes that temporarily knock him out. They cart him back to Crystal Lake to “send him” home but he escapes. Meanwhile Lori also in injected with the tranquilizer in order to pull Freddy out so that Jason can deal with him.

We learn through Jason’s dreams that he is indeed mortally afeared of water. He and Freddy battle to a standstill before Jason wakes up setting the stage for the final, epic battle.

Freddy has an ability to “possess” certain individuals and convince them to do his bidding. This is most readily apparent at Westin Hills Asylum where the kids travel to procure their medication. A stoner named Freeburg (Kyle Labine) finds the medication but is forced to dump it all out when taken over by Freddy. By this stage Freddy is enraged that he is losing so many kills to the unstoppable Jason. He wants nothing more than to ensure that fear will reign in the community so he can once again wreak utter havoc and satisfy his insatiable lust for blood.

There is a ward of patients in the asylum who appear to be sleeping but they are actually comatose from taking too much Hypnocil. Apparently, there is a citywide structure in place to reduce fear so Freddy doesn’t return to torment anyone else’s dreams. It’s not precisely clear why so many healthy, seemingly normal kids are being locked up at Westin Hills. It has something to do with Freddy’s appearance four years back when he went on his most recent killing spree.

The battle sequences between Freddy and Jason are all handled relatively well. They go at each other as one would expect and the tenacity of their fight is readily apparent throughout. It’s a lot of quick editing, and great lighting that changes from red (fire) to blue (water) once Jason becomes faced with his gravest fear. It feels like clash of the titans in hell which is precisely what the film makers are going for.

Lori and Will are two star crossed would-be lovers who dated when they were fourteen. When her mother was killed, he disappeared and spent the next four years at Westin Hills. He claims he was locked up because he saw Lori’s father (Butler) kill her mother. Apparently, Dr. Campbell is the man responsible for keeping all of the kids doped up on the dream suppressing drug. Again, we only get a hint about what happened four years ago. We know that Freddy was active and that the town reacted very strongly in order to eliminate the threat of his returning again. This has something to do with suppressing fear amongst the population which explains why Freddy Krueger had felt compelled to summon help in making the townsfolk terrified again.

One of the most fascinating sequences occurs when Jason and Lori are both dreaming at once. Lori is at camp Crystal Lake the day Jason drowned. She sees a group of kids taunting Jason, driving him onto the dock. Lori runs up to two counselors who are fornicating to draw their attention to what is happening at the dock. One of them morphs into Freddy and Jason is thrown into the water. Lori runs to save him but he is pushed down by Freddy who holds him underwater until Jason awakens and boy Jason disappears. It’s some well-needed back story that helps explain some of the mystery that has always existed in the series regarding Jason’s death. It creates a portrait of a child with a misshapen head who is cruelly teased without as much as an attempt at intervention. It explains his mother’s rage and much of his subsequent behavior.

Overall, this film is a consistently entertaining cross fertilization of the two franchises. It provides the best of both characters and brings to light significant aspects of both narratives. The performances are all effective for the genre and the story has a logical thrust that it maintains over its duration.

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