Friday, April 13, 2007

Freddy Vs. Jason

(Movie Review)
Ah, speaking of movies I wasn’t allowed to watch as a kid…

If you’ll allow me the digression, I should probably explain my history with horror movies. Mostly being that I wasn’t allowed to watch them. Although, even at the private Christian schools I attended, there were always plenty of kids whose parents were a lot more laid back, so I certainly remember hearing lots about Freddy and Jason growing up. Particularly at the various Christian summer camps I attended growing up (Camp Roger and Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp) these movies were always a favorite subject of discussion around the campfire.

So like any child of the 80s, I was very familiar with the back stories behind both of these characters even though I wasn’t allowed to see their movies. And I would even have nightmares about Freddy Krueger despite never having seen a single one of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies.

Of course, for little kids, the idea of Freddy Krueger is particularly horrifying. Jason is obviously not real, but if Freddy Krueger kills people in their dreams, and I had a dream about him last night, does that mean he really exists?

Like all young boys, I had a sort of morbid attraction to horror films despite being scared by them. Who knows why. Something about that Y chromosome. Since I wasn’t allowed to watch them, I spent a lot of time reading about them, particularly the famous Universal classic monsters.

By the time I was in middle school, I had worn my mom down enough to the point that I could watch the old black and white horror films. This may have been only a partial victory, but already at a young age I was becoming a classic film buff, and I was much more interested in these old films anyway, so it was a compromise we were both relatively happy with.

Over the next few years I devoured every Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, or Mummy movie I could find rerun on cable TV or in the video store. I loved the atmosphere those old films were able to create and to this day have a special place in my heart for them but, lets face it, by the time you are in junior high, those ancient 30s and 40s monster movies are no longer scary. If I had seen them a few years earlier they might have frightened me, but by 13 or 14, it is way too late. I tried to convince myself I was being scared for a while, but eventually just learned to enjoy the films for their other qualities.

And then came college, and the loss of parental restrictions.
One day while at Calvin, Bosch and I decided to rent the first “Nightmare on Elm Street” movie, to see what all the fuss had been about. Man, what a disappointment that was. After Freddy Krueger had terrified me in my dreams so much as a child, the movie was not scary at all.

Which brings me to my paradox of horror movies (mentioned briefly in a previous post): when you are young enough to be genuinely scared by these movies, you’re not allowed to watch them. By the time you’re old enough to watch whatever you want, these movies aren’t scary any more. Gross, bloody, offensive at times, sure, but when have you ever been scared by a horror movie in your adult life?

I believe the film industry is well aware of this and, despite the R ratings on these films, their target audience is 12 and 13 year olds whose parents either don’t know they’re watching them, or don’t care. (Or did I just state the obvious?)

And there we have “Freddy Versus Jason”, which I’m sure would have been a great film if I were 15 years younger. As it was, I just kind of put up with the stupidity of it for a while, and let it kill off a few brain cells while I enjoyed not having to think.

Modern slasher films have been so excessively critiqued, criticized and parodied that now, especially after the “Scream” trilogy and “Scary Movie”, even mentioning the clichés of horror movies has become a cliché in itself. The flat teenage characters who exist for the sole purpose of being cut up, illegal drug use and teenage sex, which in the strangely conservative world of slasher films is always a pre-curser for death. Characters doing stupid things like wandering off alone and going into rooms they shouldn’t go into. Etc.

And this film follows all of these clichés with a rigidity that makes me think the film makers have jumped onto the “Scream” bandwagon and begun parodying themselves. Consider this: after a stream of killings in a small town, what do the local teenagers decide to do? Have a rave out in a cornfield, and then wander around alone in the rows of corn.

Of course the big selling point of this film is that it combines both of the horror giants from my childhood, Freddy and Jason. And it is moderately entertaining to watch them face off, although since it is clear that neither of them can really be killed, it is also kind of pointless to watch them cut each other up.

But at the very least, it does save this film from being just an ordinary slasher film. Because you have both the normal storyline of the teenagers trying to survive, and the story of Jason fighting Freddy, there is enough going on to keep the film at least interesting for the 2 hours or so you waste on it. But, like most crossover films, the script is unimaginative, and you can’t help but feel what a wasted opportunity the whole thing was.
Useless Wikipedia Fact
Today is actually the one year anniversery of the Useless Wikipedia Fact on this blog, which is as good as time as any to end it. I certainly have enjoyed finding lots of useless information on Wikipedia, and I hope you have too, but I don't envision it as something I want to do in perpetuity. Hopefully new and other distractions will follow.
Link of the Day


Phil said...

My history with '80s horror movies is similar, with me developing a morbid fascination with what I wasn't allowed to see as a kid within the past few years. (Witness my obsession with George Romero, who really is a good filmmaker.) I saw the first "Nightmare" recently and actually thought it was pretty good. Prurient--the violence against the female characters seems more protracted and dwelled-on, especially the attacks on Heather Langenkamp's character (such a charismatic actress, too, which makes it more annoying). That part bothered me, but in general, I thought it was ingenious and kinda scary.

b jeremy jackson said...

weird, just last week i had a rather long conversation with a guy at work about freddy vs jason. i was never aloud to watch these movies as a kid either. and i, too, have recently developed an interest in them.

have you seen the remake of dawn of the dead? i've heard that one has the potential to even scare adults. i've not seen it myself. too scared.

ジョエル said...

Brett, I did see the remake of "Dawn of the Dead". I thought it was entertaining, but not really all that scary. I did absolutely love the original, which, now that you mention it, did kind of have me tense the whole way through watching it. (Phil, I know you're a big fan of the original as well).