At one time, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and FRIDAY THE 13TH were two of the most popular, well-known staples of the horror genre. While the quality of both film franchises certainly ebbed as they continued through the years, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger remained household names – iconic figures in the slasher genre. It was inevitable that, eventually, the two characters would eventually meet. It took a decade to develop FREDDY VS JASON, which ultimately served as the swan song to both horror franchises.
Part of the beauty in FREDDY VS JASON is that you don’t need to come into the movie with encyclopedic knowledge of all the other films that have come before it. The film offers a short and sweet origin retelling for both Freddy and Jason, and then it dives right in. The motivations of the title characters are simple and easily conveyed, and the film also does a great job of being self-aware. It’s a film that takes place in the slasher genre, so there is a cast of high school kids (all of whom are most assuredly played by adults) that serve to anchor the story.
Of course, the film isn’t without its flaws. As a product of the early 2000s, it suffers from an overabundance of jump scares. At times, it’s almost too self-aware. A lot of the characters are walking tropes – the stoner, the jock, the heroine. FREDDY VS JASON certainly doesn’t break any ground with its characterization. But it also doesn’t have to. While the film has all the trappings of a slasher film, the buildup isn’t seeing the horrific title characters butcher every cast member. Instead, the buildup is to see Freddy and Jason go toe-to-toe. The film makes the choice to deal in archetypical characters because the audience of slasher movies doesn’t care about the cast of future victims – and keeping the characters simple allows the film to move at a brisk pace.
Freddy and Jason come from two very different backgrounds. The A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series is more cerebral in its horror, whereas FRIDAY THE 13TH is more gratuitous in its bloodshed and nudity. Director Ronny Yu does an admirable job in marrying the two franchises and making sure that the feel of both films pervades FREDDY VS JASON. Freddy manipulates his victims in the dreamworld with manic glee, and Jason slices and dices his victims with an almost comical amount of bloodshed. When the titular characters finally come to blows, the film is respectful of both characters and comes to an ending that will ultimately please fans of each series.
Ultimately, FREDDY VS JASON is a goofy movie. It has to be – teaming up two iconic, psychotic villains and then pitting them against each other. The film absolutely delivers what the title promises, and it’s just self-aware enough to exist comfortably in the slasher genre. It’s a fun ride, with just the right amount of scares, laughs, and action to please on repeated viewings.