Discussed and rumored for many a year, it was inevitable that the two titans of terror, Freddy and Jason, would eventually meet up in a film. A success and something of a revitalization of the franchises, there's even been rumors of future installments (maybe this film's success is what got the long in-development "Alien Vs. Predator" going again at Fox). As the picture opens, Freddy has been banished to hell and remains deeply ticked off about his punishment. What to do? He searches through hell and finally finds Jason, resurrecting him via a nightmare. Jason goes about his business on Elm Street, bringing back memories of Freddy in those who made it through his reign of terror.
Freddy eventually finds enough fear in the kids of Elm Street to return to their nightmares, but it's still a while before he finds enough strength. When he finally does, he realizes that Jason isn't willing to go anywhere, and to have the power all to himself, the two terror icons will have go to battle. Remarkably, the movie spends a great deal of time providing exposition about the past history of F & J, along with what's happened since then. Characters even discuss, in great depth, the "adult cover up" of Freddy, which includes a literal "quarantine" (read: mental hospital) for those who were believed to know about the killer.
Given that the characters are about as one-dimensional as most characters in this genre, it's a little difficult at times to sit through the first half of the picture, which is a series of stops-and-starts that has the characters discussing what's currently going on in the film. The performances aren't half-bad considering - I liked Monica Keena in the little-seen TV series "Undeclared" and she's good as the lead here - but the opening half of the picture occasionally seemed like an awfully long wait to get to the inevitable battle.
I also found some other things to like about the film. Although some of the effects are a little primitive (if creative), "Freddy Vs. Jason" is beautifully shot by veteran cinematographer Fred Murphy ("Stir Of Echoes", "The Mothman Prophecies"), who uses the 'scope framing to the film's best advantage. Veteran Hong Kong director Ronny Yu, no stranger to horror films or action movies, also handles the action nicely. There's little in the way of humor, unfortunately, but a couple of amusing moments (after Jason breaks up a party, a stoner remarks, "Man, that goalie was pissed about something.") are scattered throughout.
Overall, I found this to be a decent diversion for 90 minutes and change; while that doesn't sound like praise, it's not a bad comment coming from someone who was never a hardcore fan of the films or the genre in general to begin with. Given that the film's financial success will likely result in another film, I can only hope that the rumored "Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash" (Ash being Bruce Campbell's character from the "Evil Dead" films) will go forward.
VIDEO: "Freddy Vs. Jason" is presented both 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan on this release. The anamorphic widescreen edition is another stellar New Line effort, really capturing the film's sleek, slick appearance in all its glory. Sharpness and detail are marvelous, as the picture looks crisp, clean and three-dimensional, with excellent depth and definition to the image. Despite the dark nature of the film, the picture never appeared soft.
Deep, well-saturated colors are visible throughout the transfer, yet the presentation offers them superbly, with no smearing or other concerns. A tiny bit of edge enhancement was present in a couple of scenes, but this was hardly an issue. Light grain was also noticed, but the print remained in excellent condition, with no scratches, marks or other debris. Despite the fact that two versions of the film (ws/fs) are present on the first disc, the picture still looked smooth, with no compression artifacts. This is another winner from New Line.
SOUND: "Freddy Vs. Jason" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1-EX by New Line. The film's soundtrack is a highly aggressive affair, using the surrounds for voices, discrete sound effects, music and general ambience. Rarely are the rear speakers not in play, and they really get going intensely during the action sequences. Those who have the ability to engage a rear back surround channel will also find that it adds greatly to the experience. The score remained crisp and clear throughout, while dialogue was natural and easily understood. To no surprise, the soundtrack also packs some hefty low bass during many scenes.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Ronny Yu and actors Ken Kirtzinger ("Jason") and Robert Englund ("Freddy"). This is an informal, funny little discussion that has the two terror icons joking around about what happened on set and sharing some information about the history (although Kirtzinger is new to playing Jason) of the characters. Yu discusses some of the technical and production issues that went into the main scenes. The commentary does have a few slow moments and a few that go too deeply into praise, but I thought it was an entertaining time.
Production Featurettes: "Genesis: Development Hell", "On Location: Springwood Revisited", "Art Direction: Jason's Decorating Tips", "Stunts: When Push Comes to Shove", and "Makeup Effects: Freddy's Beauty Secrets". The first featurette is the most interesting, as there are some great discussions of how long the film was in development - star Englund talks about meeting a TV producer on a plane who'd happened to take a try at a script draft for the film. Producer Stokely Chafin, director Ronny Yu, New Line President Bob Shaye and others offer their thoughts in interviews throughout. The remainder of the featurettes are more informal, as the camera follows along cast and crew members going through and preparing for their scenes. Interviews with cast and crew - some fun, many informative, a couple quite amusing - are occasionally edited in.
Visual FX featurettes: This 34-minute set of featurettes goes through each of the film's major effects sequences, with the visual FX supervisors discussing each of the elements that went into the scene and showing each of the elements that constructed the sequence.
Camp Hackenslash: A promotional event in Austin, TX, this event had fans from all around gathered for a day before the actual premiere. Nothing much to see here, although sheer goofiness involved is somewhat fascinating.
Deleted Scenes: 19 deleted scenes (including an alternate opening and ending) are included, with optional commentary. The alternate ending is terrible and most of the scenes seem like unnecessary extensions or deletions wisely done to keep the pace up.
Also: "Freddy and Jason go to Development Hell", a reprint of a magazine article; a pre-fight promotional event in Vegas; the film's original theatrical trailer (in 5.1), TV spots, a music video, the trailer for New Line's upcoming "The Butterfly Effect" (in 5.1), a trailer for 2003's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (which has quite the spooky 5.1 soundtrack), a trailer for "Jason Goes To Hell", a trailer for "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare", image galleries and DVD-ROM material, including an "enhanced viewing" mode w/trivia, an editing featurette, sound bites, web links and more.
Final Thoughts: Silly, mindless entertainment, "Freddy Vs. Jason" will appeal to fans of both franchises, but others interested may still find it a decent rental. New Line's DVD provides quite a few bonus features, as well as excellent audio/video quality.