Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees just aren’t scary anymore. The filmmakers of Freddy vs. Jason get the point, and given the film’s throw-it-against-the-wall hodgepodge, it’s both a blessing and a curse.
A Hong Kong director known for his action epics, Ronny Yu has a stateside career relegated to surgery on seemingly dead horror franchises. He made 1998’s better-than-you’d-think Bride of Chucky, which features one of the most memorable slasher-movie deaths of all time.
Here, he brings his fight-scene expertise to what the title suggests, even if it is grossly over-exaggerated. The two don’t even really scrap until the final 15 minutes. By then, the movie has waded through a sea of convolution, involving a town doping up teens to prevent them from dreaming and the female lead’s father being a maybe-murderer of her mother.
The terrible two’s actual grapple, though, is brutal, a B-movie version of a Terminator battle complete with whacks, thuds, blood and catapults of flesh. And there are some inventive moments of random weirdness, namely a hookah-smoking, worm-like creature with Freddy’s face inspired by Alice in Wonderland’s Caterpillar.
Inventive is the last adjective applicable to the narrative notion that drives these horror icons together. It seems poor Freddy (Robert Englund) is trapped in hell, unable to regenerate because the children of Elm Street no longer remember his gruesome legacy. Explaining neither how he does this nor why he didn’t do it sooner, Freddy enlists Jason (Ken Kirzinger) to slaughter children on Elm Street to get the town talking about Freddy.
In the way Beetlejuice would show up if you said his name three times, I guess that’s how Freddy’s power increases and he will again be able to infiltrate the dreams of the Elm Street crowd and kill them as they sleep. But Freddy is irked by Jason’s inability to control his bloodlust, which sets up their antagonistic showdown.
A scene with teens in a drug coma, huge cotton balls taped over their eyes, is intriguingly gruesome. But Freddy vs. Jason works best when Yu brings the same comedic touch to this film as he brought to Bride of Chucky.
There are so many volcanic geysers of blood in this movie that it becomes comical, namely during Jason’s attack on a cornfield rave party. (Try not to laugh at the way Jason deals with a smart-mouth or tosses a gutted partier into the evening air, glow-sticks and all.)
Oh, yes, we’re also sort of rooting for Jason, thanks to his psychological baggage about deformities, water and his mother. He’s as sympathetic as a guy who cuts people down with a machete can be. That he gets such mileage without making a peep is especially effective when compared to wisecracking Englund, who laughably resembles Darth Maul in a hospital’s burn unit and lifelessly works through his silly one-liners.
The rest of the acting is like watching C-level versions of B-level teen actors, particularly Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland trying to one-up Beyoncé in the independent women quotient by dropping the F-bomb so authoritatively.
Given much of the film lumbers along slower than Jason on a good day, it’s no surprise that it builds to an anti-climactic finish. That the scene, apparently showing the victor in the fight, was withheld from advance reviewers to save the surprise is shorthand for “It’s really, really stupid.”