6 Days of Friday: Day 6

Welcome to the final chapter of “6 Days of Friday!”  We have finally reached the last two entries in the ongoing saga of Jason Voorhees, which include the crossover mash-up Freddy vs Jason as well as the modern reboot, Friday the 13th.  So without further delay, let’s see how his most recent incarnations hold up when compared to the classics!  Oh yeah, and unlike the film series in question, don’t expect this “final chapter” to be followed by a “new beginning”…

Freddy vs Jason (2003) ——————————————————————————————– 3.5/5 Stars

Synopsis: Powerless and trapped in Hell due to a new dream-suppressing drug called Hypnocil, Freddy Krueger enters into the dreams of a buried Jason Voorhees disguised as his mother, and convinces him to return from the grave to start a new killing spree…on Elm Street!  As Jason begins cutting up teens on Freddy’s turf, the residents of the street believe that Krueger is responsible and fear starts to spread, causing his strength and power to slowly return.  When he is finally back in full-force, Freddy soon realizes that he may have a problem getting Jason to stop killing, which prompts a brutal showdown between the two horror icons with a group of unlucky teens caught in the middle!

After sitting in development hell for several years, the Freddy vs Jason crossover finally slashed its way to the big screen, offering fans of both franchises a fun and gory fantasy mash-up to see who is the supreme killer.  This film marks a drastic (and welcomed) change in tone from the last two Jason films, which is surprising considering that New Line Cinema was pulling the strings once again for this chapter.  Thankfully it shies away from the extreme brutality of Jason Goes to Hell and the insane stupidity of Jason X to offer a better balance of fun and horror, playing very much like a self-aware homage to the slasher genre before transforming into more of a blood-soaked action film for the final showdown.  The depictions of both horror legends stay true to their popular incarnations, with Jason presented in his unstoppable zombie form by newcomer Ken Kirzinger and Freddy played with the typical humour and charisma of actor Robert Englund.

I’ve got to be honest with you, ever since seeing it in theatres Freddy vs Jason has remained a massive guilty pleasure of mine, and I honestly don’t understand why more people don’t absolutely love this movie like I do.  The structure sets up the first half as a stereotypical horror movie complete with plenty of bloody kills, each of which plays like a homage to one of the two franchises.  By the time the film reaches its second half, Freddy and Jason are just starting to clash over a bad case murder-jealousy (mostly on Freddy’s part, since Jason won’t stop hacking up “his” teens).  What follows is a supremely fun and excessively violent brawl between the two horror legends, starting in the dream world (advantage: Freddy) before finishing in the real world at Camp Crystal Lake.  Meanwhile, the film’s human stars (played reasonably well by Monica Keena and Jason Ritter) struggle to survive the onslaught of hacking and slashing between the two legends.  Eyes are gouged, bodies are impaled and limbs are even used as weapons in what I consider to be the goriest and most over-the-top showdown the genre has seen in years.  And while some may find it to be a bit excessive, I would have to argue that this is precisely what I could have hoped for in a film called Freddy vs Jason.

Friday the 13th (2009) ———————————————————————————————- 3/5 Stars

Synopsis: In 1980, a young Jason Voorhees witnesses his mother decapitated by a camp counselor.  Several years later, a group of random teens embarking on a hike through the forest surrounding Crystal Lake are attacked by an adult Jason wearing a burlap sack over his head.  They are each killed with the exception of Whitney, who is taken captive by the killer due to her resemblance to his mother.  Six weeks following this attack, Whitney’s brother Clay searches the area for clues to his sister’s disappearance, where he encounters a new group of teens that have arrived to party at their douchy friend Trent’s cottage on the lake.  In no time at all, Jason (sporting a shiny new hockey mask) arrives and begins killing the teens one by one while Clay gets closer to finding his sister and saving her from a fate worse than death!

This reboot of the Friday the 13th series effectively sums up the major plot points from Parts I-III of the original films, tracking Jason’s development from a traumatized child to an angry bag-head, and finally to his iconic hockey-mask look.  Produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes in association with both Paramount and New Line Cinema (the two Friday production companies, working together for the first time), this new take on the franchise succeeds at accomplishing it’s primary goal: to make Jason Voorhees scary again.  It has literally been decades since the masked killer has been this intense and menacing, and it’s something of a joy to see him receive the serious makeover that he’s been needing for years.  It also helps that his appearance is absolutely spot on and that he is presented in a realistic human form once again, which is refreshing after seeing so much of the “zombie-Jason” in recent chapters.

There are many great throwbacks to classic moments in the Friday series, including a fantastic retelling of Mrs. Voorhees’ decapitation during the opening credits. The cast of central characters is relatively solid and managed to hold my interest despite their uninspired writing, and there were some great moments of comic relief thanks to the talents of Aaron Yoo. The kills were all quite creative, making great use of the machete but also offering some variety (i.e. bow-and-arrow, bear trap, sleeping bag).  There is even a hilarious moment where Jason seems to inexplicably teleport from one location to the roof of the cabin, paying homage to similar moments in some of the later Fridays where Jason appeared to be everywhere at once.  But despite the fact that this new Friday holds true to the original series and brings back everything that worked best about those films, there’s really nothing new or even remotely edgy to be found here, as if the filmmakers were afraid to take any risks with the material.  Everything feels very derivative and tied to the stereotypes of the classic slasher genre, and there is also FAR too much emphasis placed on “jump-scare” moments, which work in small doses but began to feel lazy and contrived after a while.  But regardless of these problems, the point remains that Platinum Dunes have succeeded in resurrecting Jason Voorhees in a truly frightening light, reminding us why he used to haunt our nightmares in the first place, and hopefully introducing the character and his rich history of films to an entirely new generation of moviegoers.

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Well, there you have it folks…twelve films, dozens (or hundreds?) of dead teens, and multiple hockey mask designs later, we have finally reached the end of Jason Voorhees’ extensive cinematic legacy.  I hope the ride over the course of these “6 Days of Friday”has been every bit as scary, funny and ridiculous for you as it has been for me.  Please feel free to leave a comment with your own thoughts on any of the Friday the 13th films, and make sure you celebrate this Halloween season with a healthy dose of hockey-mask horror!

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~ by Mark D'Amico on October 29, 2011.

2 Responses to “6 Days of Friday: Day 6”

  1. Nice job, Mark. I completely agree with you about the remake/reboot (though it is a firm 3 stars for me). I have to say, I loved the first 15 minutes where they essentially remake parts I-III. And you’ve also convinced me to give Freddy vs. Jason another chance. I saw it when it came out on DVD but never really cared for, nor do I remember anything about it other than Freddy’s elbow-drop on Jason.

  2. Haha, that just put a great mental image in my head of that scene. It’s a film that you certainly need to be in the right mood for. Beer is recommended. I may give it a slightly higher rating than it deserves, but that’s only because I find it so fun to watch, and it consistently brings me joy whenever I throw it on.

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