Remember how all of the other movies starring Freddy, the child killer with knives for hands, were R? Add a guy who murders kids with a machete and, like, snaps them in half. Still very R.
DIRECTOR: Ronny Yu
"Just when I thought I was out..." I forgot that I have one more Nightmare movie to review. If you haven't gotten a chance to listen to our breakdown of the complete franchise on Literally Anything, give it a whirl. Just click here to find links for the website, iTunes, and Google Play. I mentioned on the podcast that the word "versus" in the title means the movie is going to be bad. While I'm not the biggest fan of Kramer vs. Kramer or The People v. Larry Flint (I haven't actually seen that one), I think the word "versus" only works when it comes to court cases.
You know that song, "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor"? (I don't know if that's actually the title, but the guy screams that a hundred times in that "song.") 2003 was that song's glory year. It was the trailer music for Freddy vs. Jason, and that song oddly gives you everything you need to know about this movie. Listen, people like metal. Heck, normal folks love metal. People I admire love metal. But I also have to say that the majority of people who love that song make me a little uncomfortable. There's something just about being visceral in the whole thing. It has that Faces of Death attitude that screams, "I just want to see this person get ripped up." The premise of the movie, which isn't at all subtle based on the title of this film, is that we take two death machines and have them fight it out. Like its peer, Alien vs. Predator, the human beings are going to get slaughtered in the process. I don't know if the producers of this film have a point system awarded to these characters. While one may physically defeat the other, one of them has more kills? I don't know what the logic is, but this kind of feels like what the MCU is doing, only with horror movies. It's fun to see characters from separate franchises interact. It might be a little more odd to see horror movie monsters do the same thing, but Universal had been doing it for decades before this movie, so who am I to judge? Is it fun seeing Jason and Freddy? Even from a completely superficial perspective, it should be much more fun than it actually is. It's not like the movie isn't trying to make it fun, but it is also really concerned with being as hardcore as it can possibly be. That broey rage tone towards the film really gets in the way of actual storytelling and my knee jerk reaction is to blame Ronny Yu for taking things to the X-Treme. (Honestly, this movie is one step away from having Jason snowboarding while Freddy attends a Slipknot concert pounding a Monster energy drink.) (Pun not intended.)
That tone tries to fit as much carnage as it can in as little time as it can muster. I complimented A Nightmare on Elm Street 5 for just throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. This seems like it took that and just went nuts. The Friday the 13th franchise is big on criticizing vice. Freddy had a little bit of that going on in some of the movies in the series, but for the most part, Freddy was an equal opportunity killer. (Shy of the very racist comment he makes in this movie. You can listen to Kumail Nanjiani's bit here.) As I commented that the Nightmare movies just allowed their storytelling methods to get lazier and lazier with dumber examples of foil characters, the Friday the 13th franchise went the same way. But when characters are meant to represent vice and abstract concepts, the subtlety tends to fade after a while. Putting characters who are into vice in an extreme gorefest like Freddy vs. Jason makes it even worse because there isn't time for nuance. Almost every character in this movie is defined by his or her vices, with the exception of the two protagonists. One character is constantly drinking beers. Two characters are big fans of sleeping together. One character is abusive. One character is a fan of plastic surgery. These are the only character traits that they have. I kind of wonder why the protagonists hang out with these characters if all they can do is speak about their own negative traits so much.
This is the movie in the franchise that gets weirdly cerebral though. (Trust me, it's not a thinker. It just brings up an ambitious idea.) This is the one where the townsfolk are kidnapping kids and drugging them out of dreaming. They redact Fred Krueger from history, making him powerless. I kind of like this idea in a weird way. I don't know why this plot kept sticking with me as I watched the earlier movies in the franchise. I thought this was the plot to Part 5 or Freddy's Dead, but it apparently was stuck in Freddy vs. Jason. It isn't an awful idea, but does this idea undo the continuity of Freddy's Dead? I know, I'm waxing poetic about something that matters to no one. But I just read last night that Jamie Lee Curtis is coming back to the Halloween franchise because they are undoing all of the sequels to Halloween. I also just found out that SPOILER FOR A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MOVIE Laurie Strode dies in Halloween: Resurrection, the first movie in the franchise I quit. She died in the forgettable one! How is that possible? Anyway, does continuity help or hinder these movies? I'm a big fan of intricate continuity. Sure, it's hard to explain to your friends what happened in the previous movies, but it rewards long time watchers. I think the problem with both the Nightmare and Friday the 13th movies is that the continuity becomes a hot mess. It's odd that movies that just involve killing teenagers has a hard time keeping their narratives straight, but it happened in both of them.
I griped about this in the previous entries, but digital effects cripple scary movies. (Pun definitely not intended!) This is the first movie in the franchise that over-relies on digital effects, especially when it comes to blood. I don't know why the use of digital blood is ever an option. It seems like that might be the easiest practical effect out of the group. Perhaps its a cost issue, but there are moments where the movie is straight up a look at 2003 CG. It's worse than seeing a zipper on the monster costume. There's something so jarring about bad digital effects that the movie just gets to be boring. I don't know how this happened, but a high production value horror movie where characters are dying left and right just got to be truly dull. Remember, I kind of enjoy the Friday the 13th movies, so I should have been really jazzed to have a character I like show up for this movie. Nope. I could not have been more bored. In fact, I was so bored by digital scares and stupid tropes that I even questioned if I liked Friday the 13th. (I should watch the first one on Halloween, but I might be burned out on gore for a while. Remember, I have two more entries into The Conjuring franchise to watch this week. *sigh*) Again, if the previous entries are like watching the garage band, the later movies like the reboot and this one are like watching the same band sell out. There's something just completely corporate about these movies. I'm not saying that New Line Cinema was necessarily the voice of underground punk, but golly this movie is (I'm sorry, Ellen, even though I know you aren't reading this) paint-by-numbers. It made a checklist of things that both characters do and just did all of them,
SPOILERS FOR THIS MOVIE: Why is there a construction site for a massive skyscraper at Camp Crystal Lake? I get it. Camp Crystal Lake should have been bulldozed ages ago. It's odd that it hadn't happened yet. But there was no hint that someone was building something massive there until the fight scene required it. Dumb.
Since I'm being so negative, I will say something that gave me a little smile. Making Jason's mother Jason's internal monologue was fantastic. Mrs. Voorhees was always the most interesting element of the franchise for me. Mrs. Voorhees had to be recast, but the recasting kind of works. I was just happy to see that part of the narrative pop up. I also kind of like the reference to the fact that Jason's weakness is water and Freddy's weakness is fire. It is only slightly paid off, but I dig that it exists. But that brings up something else I should probably mention. These characters have weaknesses, but these weaknesses don't really affect them. In Jason's dream, Freddy just shows him water and he stands still behind it. But Jason is often thrown into water and he just deals. There's the flashback sequence (which is really Jason's nightmare about his young self) that is awesome and is tonally right, but it reaffirms that Jason can't swim. Did old killer Jason take swimming lessons? Just food for thought. I'd love to see Jason Voorhees sign up for a membership at the Y. (I'm a real sketch artist now, Ma!)
I don't think I'm shocking anyone by saying a pretty publicly attacked movie is bad. I think it gets worse for me because it was the end of a very long run of bad slasher movies. I hope it didn't put a damper on Halloween, but I think I want to stay away from similar movies for a while.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.