It’s near impossible to be a horror fan without knowing who Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger are. Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street are both beloved long-running horror franchises whose big commonality is that their true stars aren’t the good guys or final girls; they’re the villains.
People didn’t go to an entry in either franchise to root for Laurie Strode or Sydney Prescott, they went to see Jason or Freddy do their thing and kill people in bloody, awesome ways. Of course Freddy and Jason would battle each other out in a crossover film, a film that’d been in the making for quite some time. The 1993 film Jason Goes to Hell ended with Freddy’s gloved hand pulling Jason’s mask into Hell, a full decade before Freddy vs. Jason would release.
However, another commonality we have to consider between the two franchises is that neither one has a particularly strong track record when it comes to the quality of their films. Both Elm Street and Friday the 13th have more bad films than good, and while I love both franchises, so much of their fun comes from how goofy they can get. The smartest thing a Freddy and Jason crossover could do is really lean into the trashy fun appeal of such a crossover — and that’s exactly what Freddy vs. Jason does.
There is not a single boring moment in Freddy vs. Jason. The film knows exactly what it is and revels in it. The story of Freddy resurrecting Jason in order to bring fear back to Elm Street so he can haunt minds again is ridiculous enough, but the movie also has this glorious self-awareness that makes it even more effervescent. So many scenes are so silly, they had to be intentional.
One of the first kills is a teenage boy being sandwiched inside a folding bed by Jason, his legs folding behind him like a messed-up Ken doll. That kill’s funny enough, but then the boy’s friends run out of the house and to a police car, and when the policeman asks them if they need some assistance, a girl covered in blood screams, “What the hell do you think?!”
It’s a hilarious scene, and thankfully not the last one: Freddy vs. Jason is filled with numerous humorous moments, and while it’s dubious how many of them are intentionally funny, they certainly make for a riot of a time. It helps that the main human characters are likable enough — they’re no Scream characters, but they do have enough personality and charm that they’re easy to root for.
However, the movie’s called Freddy vs. Jason, and the teen characters aren’t who we’re here for. The filmmakers know exactly that, and they deliver when it’s time for the villains to do their killings. Every time Freddy and Jason are on-screen, they’re impossible to look away from. Even before the two finally fight, the movie feels equal parts a Friday the 13th and an Elm Street film — both villains get their time to shine, and both are just as scene-stealing as you want them to be.
Well, not quite for Jason, as the killer wears a jacket that’s interesting to look back on in retrospect. Despite him not wearing it for the majority of the franchise, it’s become a part of his iconic look, and even merchandise has him wearing a jacket and sweatshirt instead of a long-sleeve buttoned shirt. Ken Kirzinger also plays Jason this time around instead of Kane Hodder, the most iconic Jason actor as he played the character for the four previous Friday the 13th films before Freddy vs. Jason.
Still, that’s all easy to forgive once you see Jason barging into a high school cornfield party, engulfed in flames and holding his iconic machete as dozens of teenagers run around screaming. Freddy, on the other hand, is delightfully histrionic, his haunting of dreams plenty of fun as the fedora-wearing demon torments his victims in the most theatrical of ways.
Watching Freddy’s scenes now actually feels bittersweet, as this was the last film where Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger after having played him for seven straight films. Englund has stated that he no longer wishes to play Freddy anymore as he’s “too old and thick.” Another reason for the film’s bittersweet feeling is that Freddy vs. Jason ended up being the last film released that took place in the original timelines for both film franchises.
Both Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street would get remakes six and seven years later, respectively, but since then, it’s been rather quiet for both these franchises. It’s surprising given Hollywood’s recent obsession with pre-existing IP, especially with the horror genre — Scream recently had a TV show and two new sequels, Halloween had a sequel trilogy, and even The Exorcist had a TV show and is receiving a new sequel later this year, intended to be the first of three new The Exorcist films.
However, there was a 2007 comic book sequel to Freddy vs. Jason entitled Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash — Ash, of course, being from the Evil Dead franchise. Friday the 13th has also been busy in other ways: a recently-announced prequel show called Crystal Lake is coming soon, and a video game called Friday the 13th: The Game was released in 2017, which is unfortunately slated to be delisted later this year.
Only time will tell if Crystal Lake will be successful and if Elm Street will get its own reboot in some way. Regardless, Freddy vs. Jason is a must-watch for any fan of the two characters and franchises, gifting fans with the stupefying slasher killer showdown they’ve been clamoring to see. It’s not a good film, but it’s a great one because it knows exactly what it needs to be and is elated to do so.
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