Saturday, August 28, 2010

Freddy vs. Jason

Dude, seriously, how excited were you when this movie came out? I couldn't even believe the universe loved me enough to let this movie exist. After a dozen years and thousands of rumors, the cinematic showdown between my man JV and that punk pederast Fredrick K. was finally a reality. Like many awesome individuals who grew up in the eighties, these two stabby motherfucks provided my gateway into the horror genre, laying the foundation for an obsession that would follow me into my thirties, stealing all of my expendable income and robbing me of an entire wall of my apartment. They're at least partially responsible for turning me into the unboyfriendable man-child I am today. I should probably want revenge, but if there's anything that these two have taught us, it's that vengeance is a closed circuit from which there is no escape. The world could learn a lot from Freddy and Jason.

Anyway, that's a lot of baggage for a movie about two ugly guys who put metal objects through each other. And while I can't say that Freddy vs. Jason is the definitive Freddy and Jason movie, it does enough things right that I can't help but love it. Bride of Chucky director Ronny Yu makes everything bright and shiny without going into full-on McG sugar rush mode, and the script stays on just the right side of the line dividing a stupid movie that knows just how stupid it is from a stupid movie that's pretending not to know how stupid it is. We'll call it "The Renny Harlin Line."

The actors certainly help set the tone. You can't fake bad acting of this caliber. Every single word that comes out of Kelly Rowland (hardly recognizable when not standing immediately to the left of and slightly behind Beyoncé Knowles) is an amazing display of computerized speech simulation. You can practically hear the gears turning in her head as she struggles to remember and enunciate the inhuman dialogue that the screenwriters (clearly deaf-mute shut-ins who have never had a conversation with another human being before) have concocted. Hers is the very special brand of terrible acting that makes you visualize the words on the page, where they're even funnier in stark black and white. It takes an actor of grandiose awkwardness to make these words, perhaps tapped out at random by a barn full of woodpeckers, truly sing. Luckily, Freddy vs. Jason is populated almost exclusively by such guileless anti-thespians.

The story, I have to admit, could be better, but I like the set-up, that Freddy brings Jason back to life to make people remember the legend of Freddy, which gives him the power to invade kids' dreams again. One thing I like about the script is that it's very old-school comic book, in that characters explain their motivations to no one in particular while looking straight at the audience. But then they have about 60 scenes where the plot gets re-explained over and over again. The first two-thirds of the movie is much more Elm Street than Friday, which means a whole bunch of backstory and strategizing that you don't find in Jason's minimalist solo adventures. There are way too many scenes focusing on the victims and not on the monsters, who are clearly the stars of the show. It reminds me of King Kong vs. Godzilla, where you had to sit through an hour and a half of baffled scientists before the climactic dust-up. The people scenes in FvJ are much more involving, though, thanks to the inventive cinematography of Fred Murphy and the bulging cleavage of Monica Keena.

The one thing that I was highly skeptical about before I saw this movie for the first time was the recasting of Jason. Stuntman Kane Hodder had played the venerable Mr. Voorhees a record four times, starting with Friday VII, and I felt that he was the definitive Jason. Whereas previous Jasons had played the character as a mindlessly murderous mongoloid who commits mass slaughter because that's just the way he's wired, Kane brought a certain malevolence to his performance. Just the way he cocked his head or rolled his shoulders told you that this was not just a character driven by violent impulses he doesn't understand, but a snarling engine of death that exists only to eradicate all human life in its path. With very subtle body language, Kane gave Jason a will and a soul. Without him, those last few Friday movies would have been nearly unwatchable, and it broke my heart a little when I heard that his services would not be required for Freddy vs. Jason.

But after I saw the movie, I could see why they recast him. To make the plot work, Jason had to be somewhat sympathetic to contrast with Freddy's mean-spirited nastiness, so they picked a stuntman with sluggish, dopy body language to make him more of a Frankensteinian misunderstood monster. That's why I've always preferred Jason, honestly. Both of them will kill you for no reason, but only Freddy's gotta be a prick about it. He's a racist, misogynist pedophile who likes to toy with his victims first, digging into their subconscious to bring their deepest fears to the surface. He's gonna make it hurt. Jason's much more Zen about the whole thing. He sees. He kills. It's nothing personal. I'm not saying he's the nicest guy on earth, but he'll do his best to make it as quick and painless as possible. He's not gonna call you a whore or make you endure some elongated torture sequence ironically referencing your favorite hobby. He'll just walk up and impale you on something. Done.

I think this has to do with their differing M.O.'s. Jason's killing sprees generally take place over the course of one or two nights, so he's got a lot of work to get done. He doesn't have time to dick around with elaborate production numbers involving claymation snakes and doppelgangers of his victims' loved ones. He's just gotta stab and move on. Freddy, on the other hand, usually only kills one victim per night, so he has to make a meal of it. Also, he's kind of a dick, so he enjoys his victims' torment. That's why Kane's Jason really wouldn't have worked. He's almost as malicious as Freddy, so the audience wouldn't have had anybody to root for. The FvJ Jason is too dumb to understand what's going on, so you kind of forgive him. He really doesn't know any better. He's sort of like Cujo in that respect. It ain't his fault he got the rabies and tried to eat E.T.'s mom. Metaphorically speaking.

What I always found strange about the movie is that even though Jason's body count is way higher than Freddy's, he still comes off as the lesser of two evils. If you really pay attention, you'll notice that Freddy only kills one person in the whole movie, while Jason hacks up like 35 teenagers just in that one scene at the kegger in the cornfield. I guess this says a lot about us as a culture. It doesn't matter how many innocent people you kill, just as long as you don't use any foul language.

Anyway, Freddy vs. Jason may not be everything it could have been, but it's a hell of a fun flick that I revisit a couple times a year. I love how deliciously squirty all the wounds are, as if all the victims are so hypertensive that their veins were about to burst. I like Freddy's stupid kung fu moves in the final battle, which is I guess what you get when you hire a Hong Kong action director to make your horror movie. I love all the Looney Tunes-style banging and bouncing as these two indestructible icons hack away at each other. I love that Camp Crystal Lake has enough propane onsite to create a small nuclear explosion. And I love that my man Jason walks away with that peckerhead Freddy's head as a trophy. Some say there's no definitive winner, but answer me this: Who's gonna get up tomorrow and continue his good work of enforcing teenage abstinence with whatever edged weapon God has placed in his path, and who's gonna spend the day on a mantelpiece, chatting with Mrs. Voorhees' rotting skull?

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