Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
Directed by Ronny Yu

Starring Jason Ritter Katharine Isabelle Kelly Rowland Ken Kirzinger Monica Keena Robert Englund

Easily the most anticipated horror movie of the past decade, "Freddy vs. Jason" was a critical disaster, but a box office giant and fan favorite. Producers must have been somewhat nervous, because the last Jason film ("Jason X") was a dud at the box office, as was the last Freddy film ("Wes Craven's New Nightmare").

The idea of bringing these two horror icons together was a difficult one to pull off. New Line went through several scripts before they found one that came close to satisfactory. The script, by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, basically just delivers a solid "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie, while weaving Jason into the tale. After a decade in hell, Freddy (Krueger) brings Jason (Kirzinger) back to life to deliver fear into the hearts of the teenagers of Elm Street, who have long since forgotten about the glove-wearing boogeyman that once terrified generations before them. Why and how Jason was brought back are never really explained. But, somehow, thanks to the fear Jason is bringing back to the community, Freddy eventually begins infecting the dreams of Elm Street teens again.

After the postmodern cynicism of the Scream series and its offspring, it's nice, finally, to see a slasher film that stays blissfully close to formula. The movie opens with a monologue by Freddy, explaining why he's been gone so long: The kids of Elm Street have forgotten about him, and thanks to powerful psychiatric drugs, there's little hope he'll be able to haunt their dreams again. Cut to a girl a girl skinny-dipping at Camp Crystal Lake, only to be quickly dispatched by Jason, who is then treated to a vision of his mother instructing him to visit Elm Street and start killing teens there. Naturally, this visage of his mother is actually Freddy. In fact, Jason is dead and has been "dreaming" this whole time. His body is resurrected, and the hockey mask-wearing killer heads to the Elm Street suburbs to start killing there.

Jason targets a home full of Elm Street teens partying up suburban-style. (We get to see Katharine Isabelle, hottie of "Ginger Snaps" fame, nude in a shower while her boyfriend is being dispatched.) After the police arrive to survey the carnage, we discover that these teens hardly even know about Freddy, who hasn't had the pleasure of visiting the dreams of Elm Street residents in over a decade. As it turns out, Freddy has resurrected Jason to bring fear back into the hearts of teens in his hometown, so he can once again infect their sleep.

As standard Nightmare on Elm Street movies go, "Freddy vs. Jason" is the best one since Part 4. Some of the dream sequences deliver that same Craven-esque terror early of entries in the series. And as a Jason flick, it's the best one since Part 6. FvJ even feels like it was made in the 1980s, sticking to the Elm Street formula until Freddy finally declares war on Jason during the last half of the film. We get the inevitable fight scene during a dream, where Freddy has all the advantages, and finally one that takes place in the real world, where the odds favor Jason. The film even manages to humanize Jason a bit with reenactments of the taunts he suffered as a retarded boy at Camp Crystal Lake.

Not a masterpiece, but a true return to form for the slasher genre, "FvJ" was Number One at the box office two weekends in a row. Robert Englund has already said he won't be back for a sequel.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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