Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena, Kelly Rowland
Written by: Damian Shannon and Mark Swift
Directed by: Ronny Yu
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive strong horror violence/gore, gruesome images, sexuality, drug use and language
Running Time: 98
Date: 08/13/2003
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Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Slashes and Diamonds

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

How well do today's teenagers know Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees?With most of their combined 17 films coming out between 1980 and 1994,they seem a more a product of Generation X than of today's teens.

And certainly the late-90s Scream films have effectively put these kinds of cheesy slasher films to bed.

But Freddy vs. Jason has been a legendary film project for over a decade, discussed in whispers by horror fans, with little hope of it ever emerging.

And so, unless the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th movies have been enjoying the attention of late night cinema clubs for new, young fans, it seems that Freddy vs. Jason is actually a nostalgia trip for older viewers. Indeed, its adult "R" rating is further proof in this era when all summer movies are aimed at 13 year olds and "PG-13" ratings.

Just in case, the movie does provide brief origins for our two baddies. Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger, replacing series regular Kane Hodder) likes to kill teens who go off and neck in the woods; it was their irresponsibility that caused the younger Jason to drown. For reasons that have never been explained, he can't be killed.

Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is a former child murderer who was lynched and now lives in people's nightmares, killing them while they sleep. Since Freddy has been out of the picture since 1994's New Nightmare, the citizens of Elm Street have forgotten him, draining him of his power. So Freddy enlists Jason to stir things up.

But when Jason starts killing teens out from under Freddy's claws, the latter declares war on the former. And, yes, sports fans, they do fight and it is worth the price of admission, even if the actual winner is up for interpretation.

Monica Keena (Orange County) stars in the traditional role of the large-chested virginal blonde who survives. Pop star Kelly Rowland, Jason Ritter (Swimfan) and others play potential victims.

Freddy vs. Jason plays a little like Friday the 13th Part VII in which a telekinetic girl battled Jason on his own supernatural ground. In truth, nothing much is new here except for higher levels of violence: multiple stabbings and a disturbing new kind of arterial spurting.

The direction is by Hong Kong veteran Ronny Yu -- the man behind the brilliant and beautiful The Bride With White Hair (1993) -- but he rarely breaks with the series formula. You always know when the jump shocks are coming from the way the camera is positioned, from the cutting or from the music (or lack thereof).

Call it nostalgia, but there's something strangely entertaining, even comforting, about these movies. Maybe it's their hilarious and flagrant disregard for logic or the reliable way they always come through with the same old exploitation elements (chiefly the fear of sex). Or maybe it's their innocent view of horror, as a monster representing pure evil rather than real life's gray areas.

Indeed, the most disturbing thing in the film is a photograph hanging over the police sergeant's desk. But even if you laugh and throw your popcorn at Freddy vs. Jason, you still secretly want to grab your seat and scream. This film and others like it still nurture that hope.

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