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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Movie review: Freddy vs. Jason **

BY CHRISTOPHER BORRELLI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Destroy all monsters.

Please.

And yet monsters can be so darned durable, and icons of low-rent Hollywood slasher cinema even more so. Freddy vs. Jason, a routine slasher movie you would think would play more like When Icons Collide, is a movie people tell me they've been waiting a decade for.

I listen to them say this and I smile weakly and back away, wondering how fast digits can dial 911. But I do understand why they've looked forward to this inevitable artery-snipping smack-down between a deep-fried, dream-catching Don Rickles in a clown sweater and a tall, dark, and silent type with a goalie mask and a single poig-nant Meryl Streep wisp of hair.

Never mind we're talking a slicing-dicing lollapalooza between contenders who can not be killed, which renders any possible outcome moot (and sure enough leaves room for Freddy vs. Jason vs. Dracula vs. Ice Cube vs. Seabiscuit).

Since the dawn of recess, schoolyards have been psyched. At some point, your father's argument over who would win in a brawl, the Hulk or Superman, King Friday or Lady Elaine, was replaced with who would win in a splatter fest: knife-fisted Freddy from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies or machete salesman Jason of the Friday the 13th series?

But because a negative review of a slasher film is a vote of confidence to its core audience, I'd like to try something different and bring in two veterans of big screen monster mashes to lend this review some credibility: Godzilla, nice to have you. King Kong, it's been too long.

Kong: “Hakuna Matata.”

Thank you two for coming, and let's get right to it: Being contenders yourselves in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963), you come at Freddy vs. Jason from a knowing perspective. What exactly is the appeal of the cross-movie monster brawl?

Kong: “Well, it's the appeal of the idea that when a film clicks off and everyone goes home, on the other side of the screen, our movie monsters know each other and barbecue together and sometimes one monster asks the other to mow his lawn and the jerk ignores you and you know, you mix it up. Did you see The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - worked off the same idea, but with Tom Sawyer and Dorian Gray. Bad movie, and I was in King Kong Escapes. What I don't understand is why monsters in movies run into each other and just go at it. That's not how it happens. The thing between G here and I had to do with a lady: Mothra.”

Godzilla: “It's always about a lady, isn't it? But Kong, you have to give this Freddy vs. Jason yawner some credit. They bend over backwards to explain that Freddy is losing his power, and revives Jason to jump-start the scare machine on Elm Street, but Jason is too efficient, and Freddy gets jealous or whatever - it's tortured, but it's more backstory than we got.”

Kong: “Oh yeah. But you did you notice that Freddy and Jason aren't so much horror movie characters anymore as super villains from a deranged comic book lacking a super hero? That's why we get all that backstory at the beginning of the movie: Comic book flicks are all about establishing the mythology, who got his power how, who stepped on whose tail. Freddy is like the Joker, mugging into the camera, always good for a one-liner. Jason is Dr. Doom with that mask. It's a super villain movie, but it takes too long to get to the fight.”

Godzilla: “I'm glad you said that. The reason I didn't like it was the reason I hated entire chunks of my own oeuvre: too much story, not enough monster beat-down. If you recall, before they let me chew gargantuan lobsters or take a swing at anyone, there was this dopey story about Japanese mobsters to wade through. It was worse than Tokyo Bay at low tide. People pay to see the title! They pay to see the title! You have no idea how often I have to tell producers that, and still, like Freddy vs. Jason, we sit through 80 minutes of the usual, then get a fight.”

Kong: “When they do scrap, there are severed limbs, but it's pretty Itchy and Scratchy. I mean, you know each jerk will get his blows in, but who do you root for: the child murderer or the hockey nut? I rescued Faye Ray. You saved Japan from a 900-foot rhododendron. Who cares who wins here? There's no suspense or scares and who's this director - Ronny Yu? Ronny Who? - Ronny is more interested in a go-nowhere plot about how the Elm Street teenagers are too medicated to have nightmares anymore. Wasn't that a Newsweek cover?”

Godzilla: “Still look, when they finally get to it, the movie lightens up, don't you think? Freddy drops a huge drum on Jason, and you expect Jason to slide out from underneath it flattened like a pancake. Which strangely doesn't happen, so you got nothing but time to make fun of very bad actors. There's what, like 30 of these movies, and every cast approaches its film as if it's Brando on opening night of Streetcar. It's touching if you think about it.”

Kong: “Especially that kid who sings, `One, two, Freddy's coming for you,' and then says, `You know what that means, don't you? It means Freddy's coming for you.' I mean, Duh. I also like the girl who asks her crazy dad to prove her mother was killed in a car crash. Incidentally, I haven't seen many slasher movies - I'm a Meg Ryan fan myself - but when you name a character Linderman, that's an assumption he'll die violently, am I right? One more thing: Do you notice how the screenplay suggests that Jason can be stopped by water and Freddy's kryptonite is fire - ”

Godzilla: “I know where you're going with this. You saw Gigli, huh? And Freddy vs. Jason reminded you of how Ben Affleck's Gigli turns J. Lo's lesbian into a heterosexual, meaning ...”

Kong: “Yup. Affleck's Gigli is lesbian kryptonite. Now there was a horror movie.”



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