‘Freddy vs. Jason’ an average horror flick

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 21, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Well, it’s finally here. On one side: Evil, in the form of Freddy Krueger, the burned demon that haunts the dreams of unsuspecting, often hormonally driven teenagers.

On the other side: More Evil, played by Jason Vorhees, who returned from his watery grave at Crystal Lake to don a hockey mask and machete and hack his way to redemption. &uot;Freddy vs. Jason (FVJ)&uot; has hit theaters, and, judging from its $36.4 million opening weekend, horror fans were ready and willing to scream their lungs out.

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The best thing about FVJ is that it keeps things simple. Freddy can only kill children that are afraid of him. They’ve killed him seven times, why should they be scared? So he resurrects his new buddy Jason to whip, slice and chop up some fear. Unfortunately, the Crystal Lake killer gets a little too in character, knocking off kids before Freddy can, which naturally inspires jealously in the charismatic killer with knives for hands, forcing the battle (&uot;I want to kill the kids!&uot; &uot;No, me! Me me me!&uot;). Midway through the film, the alliance changes to combat, and the two indestructible icons find out just who is the toughest. Freddy yelling &uot;Why won’t you die?&uot; is worth the price of admission. As the movie winds down, the battle moves from Freddy’s Elm Street house to Crystal Lake, where it is, quite simply, on, complete with fire, water, and, of course, lots of spattering of blood.

The problem is, who do we as the audience root for? The film tries to steer us toward Jason in the last reel, as we see his troubled past, his fears and emotions, and his sort-of-legitimate reasons for being so pissed off. Freddy’s a killer because he likes it, because he simply is evil. That’s great for a horror villain, but we have to remember his opponent has killed just as many, if not more, people than him. This puts director Ronny Yu in a Catch-22; he can’t create a hero, or even a &uot;non-evil&uot; competitor, because the audience and the film’s characters have spent the past hour seeing both Freddy and Jason literally rip through several dozen victims. Not that horror filmmakers should worry about credibility (when did Wes Craven ever complain about not getting an Academy Award nomination?), but a film needs a bit more substance than what a story such as this could conceive. Not to worry; no matter who wins, Round Two will be here quite soon, as the ending makes very clear. And since when is storyline important to horror fans? The more outrageous, the more enjoyable!

&uot;FVJ&uot; is a decent horror film, make no mistake about it. It’s got the requisite violence, jump-inducing moments, and even the humor that helped the Nightmare flicks along when Freddy was between victims. Friday the 13th never really had that, which is one reason why the series started outliving its usefulness after, oh, the second film.

But it is only an average film. Whether it lives up to the billing of 10 years (or almost 20, depending on how long you’ve been a horror fan) is up to the viewer, but the film will be satisfying for all fans of death and mutilation.

Grade: B-