It sounds like a smackdown from the bloody bowels of hell: Freddy vs. Jason. Finally, these horror icons have been allowed to go after each other, some two decades after making their debuts in Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. And although neither of them is as young as he once was (slasher movies are so '80s), the match-up has a certain inevitability about it, evoking previous championship bouts like King Kong vs. Godzilla and Dracula vs. Frankenstein. Just the thought of Freddy Krueger running his steel-talon fingers along Jason Voorhees' hockey-mask cheek was enough to scare up $36.4 million at the box office during the movie's opening weekend. Fresh from its own Middle East smackdown, America wants blood.
And blood is what it gets ' pools of blood, buckets of blood, rivers of blood, oceans of blood. Director Ronny Yu, who ushered Bride of Chucky down the aisle, has an aficionado's delight in the various ways blood can exit a major artery. Sometimes it spurts. Sometimes it gushes. And sometimes it forms a fine mist, like perfume. Perhaps the biggest fear generated by Freddy vs. Jason, which otherwise isn't particularly scary, is that the filmmakers will run out of blood. When Freddy and Jason finally hook up, two-thirds of the way through the movie, it's like a pair of rats tossed in a Cuisinart. Actually, it's like a pair of legendarily indestructible rats tossed in a Cuisinart. You can press "Puree" all you want; they still won't die.
That's a problem, narratively speaking, albeit a problem that Freddy and Jason have faced many times before, in movies with subtitles like The Final Nightmare and The Final Friday. (They're always preparing for finals.) But when they face each other, when an immovable object meets an irresistible force, you get...well, a boring movie. Freddy vs. Jason wisely keeps our killer-dillers apart as long as it can, dividing the movie between them while hacking its way through a jungle of hot and horny teens. The premise, which is too contrived to be called clever, has Freddy stuck in bimbo/himbo limbo, unable to haunt the dreams of Elm Street's pacified youth until Jason, risen from the dead (again), gives them something nightmarish to dream about.
Okay, works for me. What doesn't work for me is that the whole movie seems to be taking place inside a dream. Yu doesn't ground it in reality. And because Freddy and Jason, between them, have asleep and awake covered, there's no place to rest our weary souls. Another problem: Freddy and Jason don't really match up very well. Freddy's an extrovert ' a rampaging id. Jason's an introvert ' a lumbering superego. Dramatically, it's no contest. In fact, when I read that a new actor is playing Jason (Ken Kirzinger), I could have kicked myself for not auditioning. Anybody could play that role: You just stand there in the hockey mask, contemplating lunch, and every once in a while the director yells "Cut!" and says, "That was fine, but next time give me...less."
That's my advice to New Line Cinema as it puts together the inevitable sequel: Fine, fine, but next time give me less.