Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Freddy Vs. Jason

[Full disclosure: Friday the 13th 1980 is the only film of that series that I know I’ve seen. I may well have watched one or two of the sequels but I can’t place them. Though I vaguely remember a lunatic going mayhem on a spaceship… Surely not?]

King Kong Vs Godzilla 1962. Alien Vs Predator 2004. USA Vs USSR. I haven’t seen the first one but the other two were disappointing. When Freddy Vs Jason 2003 was released I ignored it and avoided it until one day Channel 4 interrupted my surfing on the couch. If it hurt I always had the commercials to entertain me.

The notion had been pandered for years and New Line resurrected it for the fanboys. It’s the first film in the franchise Robert Shaye didn’t produce but he made sure he had his customary cameo in it. Sean S. Cunningham[1] did the honours. He had also produced (and directed) Friday the 13th.

To watch Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film 2006[2] is to enjoy Cunningham’s affability. Friday the 13th started with a marketing campaign. There was no script. There was no story. There was no money. Despite its exploitation origins the film had a coherent story. It also has the best ending in horror.
Although Cunningham has directed a number of features[3] his day job is producer. Indeed one of his first gigs was The Last House on the Left 1972 directed by Wes Craven. They would work together again (uncredited) on A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984 and again on The Last House on the Left 2009.

Wes Craven was not involved with this sequel.

In a break with tradition the director of this film is Ronnie Yu. The tradition of Elm Street  is  hiring new and young directors. Yu was neither new nor young. He was a Hong Kong action cinema veteran when he directed his first American feature. At 48 he shot Bride of Chucky 1998 – the most successful film of that franchise[4]. At age 53 he helmed Freddy Vs Jason.

make money now – apologise later

Friday the 13th shows that Cunningham has form. Sell the idea: sell it to investors. Sell it to the public. There may well be a screenplay to this film but there’s no story. There’s not even a plot. There’s a concept – and that’s in the title. To try to understand this movie is to throw away the mythology created in the previous seven films – as risible as some of them were. This film stands alone – despite and not because of Jason – in its own carpetbagging avarice fantasy.

In 2003 Kelly Rowland was a bigger star then than she is now. Destiny’s Child, the biggest selling all-girl group, was on hiatus and Kelly’s solo album was an international hit. Someway somehow she did not negotiate top billing in a horror movie. That prize went to Monica Keena.


The lead actress. Something Heather Langenkamp didn’t receive in 1984.

Kelly’s positioning in the film is inexcusable. Her role is that of mammy[4.5] complete with ghetto name and accent. She’s the hottest chick in the film - she’s the hottest chick in the franchise – yet she’s the only girl not to have a boy slobbering after her. In the opening scene after the credits she sets up two white girls with two white boys while she feeds her face riding the fifth wheel.

In a later scene she complains about her nose. She wants a nose job. Fact: no black person complains about their nose. The only race that is obsessed with rhinoplasty is whites (Michael Jackson, La Toya Jackson and Janet Jackson haven’t been black since the 70s).

There’s more; at the party scene Kelly gets lambasted by the school nerd. Her pal laughs at her. Kelly doesn’t mind though. She starts dancing with nerd. All she needed was a good put down. Then of course if anyone hitherto missed the point even Freddy becomes racist. He describes Kelly as “dark meat”. Not a phrase he used to describe Kincaid, Sheila, Yvonne or Doc. In the 21st century even dream demons lurch to the far right.

I’ve written before how I’ve grown to trust the Elm Street series for its abstinence of racism. This film is an anomaly. It’s an anomaly in continuity, in narrative, in concept, in tone. There is no irony in that the only non-white to helm an Elm Street film directed this picture of hate; Cunningham greenlit the script.

Kelly Rowland deserves the harshest sentencing. In 1987 Robert Townsend directed Hollywood Shuffle[5] precisely aimed at her type of behaviour. For Rowland – a huge star – to submit to this type of portrayal sent a message to every young African-American female actor.

It was ignored[6].

apology pending

Given the state of the script the actors made chicken vomit out of chickens hit; there wasn’t much else to make. Robert Englund cell phoned in his now typical mooning performance. The signal was all pantomime and gurning. The kills were more Jason than Freddy and the dreamscapes were hackneyed. The trick ending gives resonance to how prostitutes use the word.

Freddy Vs Jason is the most box-office successful movie of the franchise[7]. The good news is they didn’t make another. Even more good news; after only one other movie Rowland’s Hollywood career is over.

Regardless of its financial success most fanboys rate it 8th out of 8. Though I must disclose my man Reznor over at Koopaskeep[8] differs. Read his take to end this on a high note because as far as I’m concerned this film is best expunged from memory. It should be expunged from the canon. The first time I saw Freddy Vs Jason was on television. At least I had the commercials to entertain me. The second time was for this critique.

Never again. .
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