THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


To begin, an admission. There have been ten previous Friday the 13 movies. I have seen about half of them, and liked none. There have been seven Nightmare on Elm Street movies. I have seen them all, and liked only the last one: Wes Cravenís New Nightmare. (Although I didnít personally care for the original, I maintain some respect for its popularity and ambition.) Having said all this, I suppose it goes without saying that Freddy vs. Jason was not for me. There was certainly a curiosity factor in seeing these two famed horror villains on screen together; however, I must be honest and say that nothing led me to believe I would like this movie based on my track record with either series. So guess what Ė this is a negative review. If you are a die-hard fan of these characters, you shouldnít bother with a word I say. Go have fun. On the other hand, if you are considering the film due to that curiosity factor I mentioned, read on before purchasing a ticket.

The film begins with a recap of the life of Freddy Kreuger (Robert Englund). The child molester was burned alive by the angry parents of Elm Street. Shortly thereafter, Freddy came back and began fatally haunting teenagers in their dreams. To Freddy, those were the good old days. He has since been rendered powerless by a town that has chosen to forget him (or, more accurately, chosen not to teach their children about him). Because Freddy gets his power through fear, he cannot strike if the local teens have never heard of him. The few who do know something about him are quickly put in a mental institution and given an experimental drug that suppresses dreams. Essentially, heís been blocked out.

But Freddy has a plan. He revitalizes Jason Voorhees, the hockey-masked serial killer, to do his dirty work for him. As a child, Jason drowned at Camp Crystal Lake because his counselors were too busy having sex to save him. He exacts his revenge by brutally attacking horny teenagers with a machete. (Where is Sigmund Freud when you need him?) Freddy gets Jason to go on a murderous rampage, then uses the fear he creates to recharge his own batteries. Or something like thatÖlogic is not the strong point of this movie. When Jason starts doing too good a job of killing teenagers, Freddy gets jealous and decides to rid the world of Jason once and for all. Jason, naturally, refuses to go without a fight.

These movies always require a nubile young cast to get sliced and diced, and this one is no exception. Monica Keena plays Lori, in whose home Jason commits his first murder. Not so coincidentally, she lives in the same house where the original Nightmare on Elm Street took place. See how that works? Loriís long-lost boyfriend Will (Jason Ritter) escapes from a psych ward, where he has been held against his will for daring to allege that Loriís father murdered her mother. Kelly Rowland (member of the hot R&B group Destinyís Child) plays Kia, Loriís sassy friend, and Christopher George Marquette plays Linderman, the school geek who has a crush on Lori. Eventually, they figure out whatís going on (although how they do this is anybodyís guess) and devise a plan to send Freddy back to the netherworld of obscurity.

Iím not convinced that anyone will care about any of these characters. The supposed highlight of the film isnít Freddy versus the teenagers, itís Freddy versus Jason. This showdown between the horror legends is ostensibly the selling point. It is also the biggest cop-out of the year. Without giving away specifics, consider the fact that both the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movies always have one of those annoying ďheís still out thereĒ endings that open the door for another sequel. Freddy vs. Jason is no different. If you are expecting to see one villain declared the ultimate victor, youíre in for a real disappointment. No such thing is going to occur so long as thereís a chance to make Freddy vs. Jason: Round 2. Yes, there is a nominal winner, but donít think for a second that itís final.

The Battle Royale quite frankly sucks, and what else is there? The acting is poor, at best. The writing is sloppy, filled with the exact kind of horror movie cliches that Jamie Kennedy so hilariously skewered as the film geek in Scream. The direction is dull and uninspired. Then again, what do you expect from Ronnie Yu, the auteur behind Bride of Chucky. Oh sure, he made a popular cult film called The Bride With White Hair in his native Hong Kong, but that doesnít make his work here better. Even the leads donít work. Robert Englund is middle-aged now, making Freddy seem less like a demon and more likeÖwell, Keith Richards. And Jason has always been one-note. Hockey mask, big knife. So what?

Like I said at the top, I havenít really liked either series. Iíve always been a little queasy with the way they glamorize violence. Freddy and Jason movies encourage the audience to cheer for the ďcoolĒ ways they graphically kill the characters. I really donít go to movies to root for killers. I donít go to get off on ultra-gory stabbings, beheadings, and impalings either. This is not fun for me, nor is it entertainment. The Freddy movies at least began with Wes Cravenís serious horror ambitions. The series was then prostituted and turned into a blood-drenched freak show. Craven briefly reclaimed his creation in New Nightmare but by that point the damage was done. Audiences were so primed for a slash-and-hack that they didnít groove on Cravenís deconstructionist riffing. In short, the Freddy movies had become just like the Jason movies: all gore, no more.

Enough about this film. Itís not for me, and unless you are a serious fan of these characters, itís not for you either. In the battle between Freddy and Jason, itís the audience who loses.

( out of four)

Freddy vs. Jason is rated R for pervasive strong horror violence/gore, gruesome images, sexuality, drug use and language. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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