Thursday, December 22, 2011

Freddy vs. Jason: One More Time

As a kid I had always been obsessed with Freddy Krueger and to me he was the definitive serial killer because he had a face and he wasn’t just an unstoppable physical force but rather a “demon” that kills you when you at your most vulnerable. Jason, on the other hand, was nothing special but I enjoyed the first three of his movies. Later, I would see his movie again and I came to the conclusion that I was never a big Jason or Friday the 13th fan because it was all about body count and not the characters. Surprisingly, I saw more character development in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies then any other slasher. Perhaps I am missing the point but that’s one of my main arguments as to why I love the Elm Street movies.

When I first saw the previews for Freddy vs. Jason, I loved every minute of it because my favorite horror movie villain was going to be up against my least favorite horror movie villain. I was on Team Freddy from the very get go. I never saw it in theaters so I had to wait for it to come out on DVD and so I rented it from the library when it was released to home video. Upon my first viewing of Freddy vs. Jason, I hated it. There were only a few things that I liked but that didn’t outweigh the bad and so since 2003 I had never picked it up again. When asked by my friends why I hated it, I gave a number of reasons why and I feel as though I should try to summarize them and restrain myself from ranting and breaking off into a tangent.

The biggest problem I had was that I didn’t like any of the “human” characters. They were dry, stale, cardboard cutouts of typical Hollywood teenagers, they were nothing but slasher fodder and very expendable. I didn’t care about their problems and I wanted to see all of them dead because they were pests. I always commended Nightmare on Elm Street for giving me characters that I can relate to or characters that I feel sorry for but to see unlikeable characters on Elm Street seemed out of place and stupid. They felt like they would be more at home in Crystal Lake then Elm Street. I didn’t like the stoner and I didn’t like seeing Freddy take the form of a pot-smoking caterpillar. I felt like it was insulting him and I felt the same way when he became a witch or a comic book villain. I especially hated the fact that Freddy was afraid of fire and Jason was afraid of the water because if I remember correctly, Freddy used fire in many of his nightmares and never was afraid of it then. Also, I remember Jason being fine with water and never shying away from it. Additionally, I felt like the ending was a cop out because I thought they would end both franchises simultaneously but instead they show Jason walking away with a winking dismembered Freddy head. I felt like it was the last corny nail on the cheese coffin.

With all that said, I decided to see the movie again because most people I talk to say it wasn’t bad and for a “versus” movie, it’s pretty decent. I thought about it for a while and I realized that it’s going back to the old “meets” movies that Universal would produce. The movie Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man came up as being the first mainstream movie that pits two horror icons together. So, I buckled down and decided to give Freddy vs. Jason another go… this time looking at it from a fresh new standpoint since I hardly remember what happens. Now, after analyzing horror movies and broadening my horror taste, I felt like I was prepared for this movie. I’m older and not nearly as bias as I once was. My general consensus of Freddy vs. Jason after seeing it for the first time: I liked it. It wasn’t bad, pretty decent, and it has some charms that nod the original franchises.

Since I’m not a big fan of the Friday the 13th movies and since there isn’t really anything to them other than a body count and Jason, I think I should talk about the Nightmare on Street portion of the movie as there is more to them. One of the biggest things I was dreading was that they wouldn’t properly transition from the real world to the dream world; the original Elm Street movie seamlessly brought you into the dream without you knowing. As for this movie, specifically the scene where the group was thinking about sacrificing the main heroine, half the time I couldn’t differentiate between the real world and the dream world. The dreams, although surreal like they should be, doesn’t offer booby traps within the “real” home. What I mean is this: in the first movie Nancy is running up the stairs when suddenly the stairs turn into goopy liquid or when the basement slowly turns into the boiler room. Much of that is missing but that does not mean it’s bad. I’m real glad they kept the boiler room.

What I liked more than anything, and this is what made me hate the film originally, was that the movie dived into the characters of Jason and Freddy. I understand why Freddy is afraid of fire because he was burned from it and Jason drowned so he’s afraid of water. I like this aspect despite the fact that both villains encountered each element before in their own respectable franchises. I feel like giving the villains a fear of something de-mystifies them and brings them down to a mortal level; it makes them more human, which is something that really turns the tables on things but it goes deeper into that. When Freddy encircles Jason with water we see Jason backing up, Freddy smiles, then we see a trembling, half-naked boy on the floor with a hokey mask. It’s such a good yet sad scene because it shows us that inside the undead, hulking exterior of Jason lays a frightened little boy who was emotionally and mentally scarred. Freddy, in almost a childish bully sort of way, goes on to mock Jason saying that his face is something only a mother could love. Then, we flash back to Camp Crystal Lake where Jason was picked on. It shows you that Jason was once a normal person and could have led a somewhat normal life despite his deformity, but it’s because of the severe bullying that he becomes the murderous psycho that he is. But this also shows just how merciless and cruel Freddy is and that he was born a monster, whereas Jason was made into a monster.

Then there are the battles between Freddy and Jason, which were pretty damn good. There are some wonderful massacre scenes, particularly Jason breaking somebody’s back by squishing them in half by the bed. There’s also a fantastic scene where Freddy controls one of the characters by making him doze off from smoking pot. It’s a fantastic scene because, for one, I thought it was pretty cool seeing somebody attack Jason wielding two syringes of sedatives. Also, for me at least, it was the most memorable scene where Freddy controls somebody since Nightmare on Elm Street 2. I don’t really count Dream Warriors because it was too campy, whereas Elm Street 2 was sort of playing on a “duel personality” level.

I should start wrapping this up before I trial off like I so often do. I’ll admit that for a while I was acting stubborn but I think Freddy vs. Jason is growing on me because it’s not a bad slasher and I really like the ‘versus’ plot. I’m glad that Robert Englund was in it and that earned it extra points in my book, it was gory, it had some great dream sequences and Freddy seemed to be a badass. I know I am really fixated on the Nightmare on Elm Street portions but that’s because those were the scenes I was worried about the most. It was fun seeing Jason hack and slash again and it was fun seeing Freddy take advantage of his traumatizing childhood because it added personality to Jason. Seeing Freddy, and Jason, afraid of fire and water elements brought them down to our mortal level and that’s something that was risky but played off perfectly. I think now I have a new take on this movie and it holds up. Then again, this wasn’t the first time I hated a movie at first but grew to like it. Hell, just ask Jack Frost or Uncle Sam. They’ll tell you.