Freddy Vs. Jason

freddyvsjasonAfter Freddy Kruger monologues about why people stopped believing in him (because you weren’t bringing in the bucks, sweetie), we see a beauty at Crystal Lake, taking her shirt off. Her breasts are two inches beneath her chin, so round as to be useful in scientific measurements, and when she runs, they don’t move. They are fake, removed from life, and thus devoid of emotional attachment. I’m a literary hack, so I’ll make these boobs a metaphor for the state of American horror in general, and for this film in particular: They’re a facsimile that can fool the lazy eye, but to the seasoned admirer, they’re fake and depressing. Depressing, because the real thing is better — it just takes more work (and here the breastaphor falls apart).

Like Alien Vs. Predator, Freddy Vs. Jason shouldn’t work as a movie, and it doesn’t. The reasons why it doesn’t work in the abstract are many, but the specifics are just as bad.

The problem with the premise is that it requires identification with evil. The ‘heroes’ of the film are villains in other movies, and so building an entire construct around the contest of villains is bound to fail. Because you need to sympathize with someone incredibly reprehensible, our sympathy has to be of a detached sort. The viewer, then, must belong to the Fangoria set, admiring the brutal deaths for their cleverness of staging, and the killers for their implacability and will.

Of course, as the film series grow, villains are the only item of interest. No one saw Elm Street 3-7 or Friday The 13th 3-X with the desire to see the bad guy bested. They were geek shows and funhouse rides. When something jumps out of the corner of the screen, you jump, and when the knife goes in, you scream. And when the gory part comes, you laugh — ’cause ain’t it cool?

No, it’s not cool, because the formula is broken. New Nightmare started the breakdown by turning the horror inside out, and by bringing into question the sort of people who watch and make these things. The Scream trilogy went a step further, presupposing the killers had seen the movies as well. But what could have pushed the genre into a less formulaic direction had the opposite effect. Slasher pics are just as clich├ęd as ever, but now they’re smug about it.

In Freddy Vs. Jason, you know what’s going to happen. If there’s a long shot of the heroine, Lori (Monica Keena and her body double), walking along a wall, something will jump out at the end of it. Where the heroes go, J and F are sure to follow (yet there’s no reason they should be attached to these teens). And when they find out what’s going on, their explanation is almost word-for-word Freddy’s spiel at the beginning of the film.

The plot, such as it is1, involves Freddy using Jason to go and kill kids on Elm Street, because that will make him scary. But Jason won’t stop after Freddy gets his kill on, so they have to fight. A thin premise, but the filmmakers lose every chance at satire, comedy, or cool staging. After no fashion can we deem this a scary movie. It doesn’t have the imagination to revel in bad taste (except when it lapses into complete tastelessness, like when the raver covered in glow sticks decides to rape the passed-out girl in the cornfield. Jason kills both of them). The thrills don’t thrill, the violence is perfunctory, and the movie offends when it pretends that these empty shells with fake tits are characters.

What’s equally upsetting is that ya’ll fell for it. The film made about eighty-seven million at the box office. Not uberfantastic, but horror movies never do that well. It proves that the audience for horror has lost its power of distinction — if such a thing ever existed1.

1That’s a stupid rhetorical habit to be in. You already know I hate the movie, and you know I’ve disparaged the plot. So adding in that little “such as it is” does nothing to further my discourse. I point it out to show how anyone, even your humble Kent, can fall into the black maw of bad-reviewer style, which I call Glenn Whipp Disorder.

Annoying side rant:

I read that Brian Eno doesn’t like to watch American films, but that he likes to watch the more modest output of other countries — not because of content (necessarily), but for technical production. Perfectly lit, perfectly focused, each element of production choreographed and designed to look just so. At the time, I found it a silly complaint, that technical expertise would matter most, because it communicates the craft of the story. This, of course, presupposes a story worth telling.

Watching Freddy Vs. Jason, I had the same sort of annoyance I did with Fear.com and The Ring. The production is top-notch, but the impact is reduced. Yes, the stories are stupid, but there’s a deeper problem. The purpose of a horror film is to arouse the darker feelings of an audience in a negative manner — to show them something bad, and to let them feel it is bad. This can lead to positive release (when the bad thing is destroyed) or negative disquiet (think Cronenberg, May, etc.).

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About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com