It’s Nightmare in Crystal Lake in Freddy vs. Jason

Freddy vs. Jason

Monster mash flicks have a mixed track record, ranging from truly innovative (“Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein,” which arguably launched the horror comedy genre) to truly terrible (“Van Helsing,” which arguably wrecked Stephen Somers’ career). The best monster mash flicks are the ones which weave together competing continuities to offer up an entirely new mythology. Though squeezed between the self-awareness of “Scream” and the revisionist reboots of both its franchises, the underrated “Freddy vs. Jason” has little trouble achieving this point with plenty of stabbing and slashing.

By 2003, Jason Voorhees has been to Manhattan, Hell and space, while Freddy Kreuger has actually broken the fourth wall to plague his own filmmakers. So, at this point, there was nowhere else for them to go except to cross paths – especially after fans were treated by the image of Freddy’s claws dragging Jason’s hockey mask to the grave in “Jason Goes to Hell.”

Set some time after this foreshadow, the film has the population of Elm Street finding the perfect weapon against Freddy – medication. With specialized pills to prevent their kids from dreaming, parents have effectively blocked any escape route from the dream-bound Freddy Kreuger. But that’s where Jason Voorhees comes in. By impersonating his dear mother (the killer from the first “Friday the 13th”), Freddy is able to enlist the devoted serial killer to bypass the community’s pill-popping defenses and wreck havoc on the combined locations of Elm Street and Crystal Lake. That is, until Jason discovers Freddy’s deception and sets out to have his revenge – with an expendable list of teenagers caught in between the battle royale.

Aside from the absolute thrill of seeing these two together in one movie, “Freddy vs. Jason” successfully toes the line between guilty pleasure and underrated horror classic. Of particular interest is the way the film builds upon the narratives of both franchises. It’s especially interesting to see the community adapting to the serial killers (a possible by-product of post-modern flicks like “Scream”), further warranting the presence of both monsters to overwhelm the stats quo. And if that weren’t enough, the movie features Freddy himself – Robert Englund – in what is ultimately his last role to date as the sarcastic serial killer (before the reboot cast “Watchmen” alum Jackie Earle Haley in the role). While there are better “Friday the 13th” movies as well as better “Nightmare of Elm Street” movies, “Freddy vs. Jason” is outstanding simply for the sheer enjoyment of watching the two killing machines rip into one another.

With plenty of homages to the source material along with enough twist and turns to build on the mythology, “Freddy vs. Jason” is ultimately the pinnacle of the franchise, as reboot-fever gripped the studios shortly after. Like all great monster-vs-monster movies, the winner is open to debate, but at the end of the day, there’s no debate how much of a treat this movie is for horror fans.

Own it on DVD for $5.97 shipped at Wal-Mart.

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