Though it’s been tailor-made for fans of the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, New Line’s quickie death match Freddy vs. Jason still wastes considerable time on needless back story. It’s eons before Wes Craven’s razor-fingered dream master and Crystal Lake’s psycho killer go at it. Until then, an obviously bored Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund)—still entirely too amused by his witty repartee—gets to repeatedly and lazily justify the titular match-up. After mama’s boy Jason Voorhees is summoned to Elm Street for more random acts of violence directed at lascivious teens, Freddy will have mustered enough strength to penetrate the dreams of his victims. More clever than your average Friday the 13th but certainly not as meta as any Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddy vs. Jason basically comes down to just another teen horror movie. What with the endless references to memory and the past, the film plays out as a regressive fantasy of sorts—the local police station tries to hide evidence that links Freddy to a series of new crimes while unsuspecting teens struggle not to remember the child killer’s name. Director Ronny Yu doesn’t quite care for the dialectic food chain that links the film’s real world with Freddy’s Jungian fantasyland (the film is nowhere near as witty or trashy as Yu’s Bride of Chucky), merely contenting himself with sustaining the film’s required nostalgia kick and filling his frame with self-amused ganja smokers. Freddy pulls out the one-liners one after another but it’s not long before the film begins to drown in its own cheekiness. Indeed, it’s a sad day for Nightmare on Elm Street fans when a member of Destiny’s Child steals the show. As the self-loathing Kia, Kelly Rowland smiles inopportunely, references Columbine, and gets to give a comatose Jason mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The film’s teens are remarkable problem solvers and they discover a way to have Freddy and Jason meet in the flesh in order to save their own asses. Sadists should enjoy the film’s requisite death match but I can’t imagine anyone’s interest in either ghoul being so significant that the filmmakers are so hesitant to ever declare a winner. One last wink is merely indicative of the laziness of this tolerable but instantly forgotten dud. “No one is ever going to live up to the memory of your first love,” says Kia at one point. The same, of course, applies to the film.
It's always a pity when bad films look this good. This is another solid transfer from the folks at New Line Home Entertainment. Ronny Yu's ominous widescreen compositions have a luscious comic book quality to them-the deep blacks are remarkably film-like and the colors are eye-popping (from the ectoplasmic greens to the blood reds). The slick Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is a busy one. What with Jason constantly swinging his blade, a preening Freddy slashing away and the film's teens dancing into the night, it's impressive that the track can handle all this dancing and killing.
The commentary by Ronny Yu, Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger is dutifully dominated by Mr. Englund. Despite the fact that Freddy has obviously gone to the actor's head, Englund is still humble enough to let his charming fanboy shine through, and his respect for the film's young cast is admirable. Kirzinger is predictably quiet, but he does provide the single best bit of commentary. Looking at a pre-burnt Kruger lick the photograph of a small child, he tells Englund, "Robert, you're so gross." Also on disc one is a Jump to Death function that lets you do just that. Disc two begins with 20 deleted scenes. Most are disposable filler material but there are one or two excellent sequences (the original opening and a computer screen dreamscape) that show just how afraid the filmmakers are of ambiguity and how willing they are to cater to the whims of test audiences. The Production section includes a two-part Fangoria article on the film and numerous featurettes covering everything from the film's genesis (watch as the loony but obviously camera-shy Senior V.P. of Publicity explains why she loves horror films and likens the two-and-a-half-hour version of the script to American Beauty) to its stunts and make-up. Far more interesting are the 12 visual effects vignettes hosted by Ariel Velasco-Shaw and Kevin Elam. Rounding out the disc is a Promotional section that includes the film's theatrical trailers, eight promo spots, Ill Nino's "How Can I Live?" music video, publicity material from the Pre-Fight Press Conference and My Summer Vacation: A Visit to Camp Hack-N-Slash, and an extensive storyboard and photo gallery.
For Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th fans, a handsome transfer and collection of features on this Freddy vs. Jason DVD.