Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Freddy Vs. Jason
This was a great one to end on. That's right, this is my last review. My final score: Fifty-seven movies. Last year I watched forty-one more movies than that, and even just saying that right now makes my shoulders ache with exhaustion. Good gravy, the combination of glee and punishment that makes up this experience...I just can't wait till next year.
I went out with a bang; this movie completely rocks. I know that at face value it just seems like a big marketing maneuver, and that was probably why I didn't see it when it came out. But this turned out to be a really good idea. Look at where the franchises are. There's so many movies, their coexistence is already pretty clumsy. How did Jason get from being a little toxic waste-covered kid in the Manhattan sewer to the SWAT scene that opens Goes to Hell? Does it really matter anymore? And you know who else has so many stories told about them the notion of one single story is lost? Batman. Spider-man. All those guys. Treating horror icons like comic book characters is already what they're doing, conscious or not, so teaming two of them together is exactly the right move. Still, they could have screwed up, and they didn't.
This starts with something we've never actually seen: an alive Freddy Kreuger with one of his victims. No gore, just a scared little girl -- but what a punch. Then there's a fun montage of Freddy footage, as the voice-over tells us about the good old days when people feared him. Now he can't come back because nobody is afraid of him, which I think is a brilliant stroke. No more of this stuff about souls, they took a hint from New Nightmare and made him a creature of fear. He pops into Jason's dreams and, impersonating Mom, lays down Jason's new, broad rules: "You can never die. Go to Elm Street" That's it, it's that simple. Under the dirt, Jason's remains re-form, and off we go.
Another great twist is that this time, the stupid authority figures got it right. By pretending there's no such thing as Freddy, they actually made him go away. All the kids who had any contact with him are institutionalized, popping Nancy's dream-blocking Hypnocil pills. "We don't say his name!" says the older cop to the rookie. Freddy's like Voldemort, or a viral idea. This idea is pushed further when a discussion about him happens in a very crowded school hallway. You can see the fear spreading, hear Freddy growing stronger.
Then his first would-be victim slips right between his finger blades, macheted by Jason in the real world. Then another slamming thing we've never seen before happens: instead of covert killings, Jason wades into a crowd of teens, hacking away. Around this time our trusty teen troupe gets their act together, with the help of the rookie cop. With a lot of information to sift, they get through it quickly and put together something like a plan. The plan goes all wonky, Jason gets sedated and we get to the "Vs." part.
The best thing I can say about the battle is: they did it right. It starts in dream, and we get to see Freddy bring his full powers to bear against Jason's invulnerability. When the battle hits the real world, it's Jason's brute power vs. Freddy's speed and spite (Freddy reminds me a lot of Lady Deathstrike from X2 here, with the spooky-quick way he stabs and stabs). It's really clear that the writers asked themselves what a fan would want from this fight, and then stuffed it all in.
Besides the main event, the strength of this movie is the great job it does of showcasing the Big Two. Freddy's nightmares are creepy stuff indeed (including the return of that little girl), and his buzzkilling sense of humor is nowhere in sight. The shot of him ninja-jumping out of the water, with the dream Crystal Lake turning into a sea of red beneath him...it's downright iconic. Jason has that dark grey corpsey look I liked from #6, never takes off his mask, and actually gains a touch of depth in the picked-on-at-camp flashbacks (something else I can't believe we've never seen). Both characters are operating with a fresh new vibe before the first blade is crossed.
Sometimes the right people get to make their movie. This is an espresso shot of clever, scary fun.