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First, a little background....

Regular visitors to this site would know that I spent some years working my way through the Friday The 13th franchise, eventually falling into a habit of starting each New Year with the next entry. Finally I put on a spurt and, after starting 2007 with Jason Takes Manhattan and Jason Goes To Hell back-to-back, I wrapped things up by reviewing Jason X midway through the year. That, I figured, was that. But no sooner had I posted than I got an e-mail from fellow B-Master, Ken Begg. "I found Freddy Vs Jason really interesting. When you review it, how about we do a mini-Roundtable?"

I pointed out that in the normal scheme of things - that is, given my usual rampant anality - that wouldn't be until I'd reviewed all seven Nightmare On Elm Street films. Ken acquiesced in this, but even electronically, the little foot shuffle of disappointment was evident. And so I proposed a compromise: I wouldn't review all seven films, but I would watch them first, just to get up to speed. And so I did. And so here we are----

 

KEN VS LYZ

Evil Will Battle Evil

 

Lyz:  You know I'd seen all the F13 films. I had only seen the first two NOES films, so I watched all seven of them over a period of about three weeks. This is all a bit weird for me, because I can't argue the fact that the NOES films are infinitely better as films (most of them), but as a whole they just didn't grab me. And the very fact that they raised the bar in the first place meant that there was some distance they could fall - and they do fall. (The F13 films set their bar so low, the worst they can manage is a bit of a stumble.)

You said in your first e-mail to me that you were a fairly big fan of Freddy, based on the three movies that you considered canon; and that Freddy is a wonderful artistic creation. I agree with you about that - at first. But the NOES films lose it for me when they become about Freddy; when he stops being a shadowy boogeyman and becomes the star; when the films cross the line between "nightmarish" and "cartoonish". I really don't like smartmouth killers - and I don't think I ever found anything that Freddy said remotely funny (so at some points I'm in your favourite realm, bad comedy).

(The fact that Jason Voorhees has uttered one line of dialogue in eleven films really does endear him to me!)

But one thing that the F13 films do have going for them is that they never play their violence for laughs. Oh, there are plenty of stupid deaths, and moments that were certainly intended to elicit cries of "KEWL!!", but the overwhelming intent is to horrify, not to amuse. And that's where the NOES films, the later ones, obviously, begin to get a bit uncomfortable for me. There's just something really icky about a child molester, a child killer, morphing into this buffoonish jester (a homicidal buffoonish jester, granted). Freddy is fine as a figure of horror; I have a problem with him as an entertainer.

And I'll just wrap up this opening by saying this: the NOES films never came up with anything so consistently bad overall as, say, A New Beginning or Jason Takes Manhattan; but although there are plenty of dumb scenes in the F13 films, there is nothing in any of them as absolutely appalling as the video game sequence of Freddy's Dead, which just made me cringe. That is my nomination for the lowest point in either franchise.

Okay, that'll do for a start! Your turn. What is your relationship with the NOES films? Which are the three that you consider canon?

Ken:  Believe me, you don't have to sell me on how bad the Freddy series got.  (And I'm not even counting the Freddy TV show--gaak.)  And you nail it exactly; in the big picture Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare was even more excruciating in a larger sense than it is alone on its own very considerable (de)merits, because it represented such a fall from the initial film.

The three films I consider canon--the three movies I have on my DVD shelf and that I consider a complete work--are unsurprisingly the trio Wes Craven had a personal hand in: A Nightmare on Elm Street (as writer/director), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (writer), and Wes Craven's New Nightmare (writer/director). All three films also feature actress Heather Langenkamp as Freddy's main antagonist, albeit twice as the fictional character Nancy Thompson, and once in the guise of her purportedly real-life self. Notably, when Craven was absent from the series, so was Langenkamp.

Lyz:  That's very interesting, because I know quite a few NOES fans who won't have a bar of New Nightmare - which I found fascinating, and quite disturbing.

Ken:  That strikes me as INCREDIBLY bizarre. But then, New Nightmare made less money than *any* of the other NOES movies.

As for my relationship with the series, I go into that at my usual boring detail in my review. Suffice it to say that I enjoyed the first film enough that the tacked-on 'shock' ending provoked my greatest fit of movie-related anger ever.

Lyz:  I HATE THAT ENDING!!!!!! And I would hope that everyone hates that ending. They just don't get it, do they? - that there are times when the protagonist has earned the right just to be left alone at the end. Seriously, I'd have gone along with it even if they had gone the whole hog and scrubbed everything that happened, so that everyone survived; that's a rare instance of the infamous re-set button having some justification.

Ken:  EXACTLY!! That moment when Nancy announces her intention to bring all the characters Freddy has slain back to life, and upon reflection it worked completely in the context of the story (something I had never seen in a lifetime of watching horror movies), it just blew me away. When I put all the pieces together and saw that they actually fit, well, it was probably one of the top ten moments I ever had watching a movie. So you can imagine how pissed off I was a few minutes later.

For the record, I wish to avoid sounding sniffy about people liking the Friday the 13th movies. I don't like slashers even a little, and I never did. That so many of them were so awful certainly plays a part in this. However, I have enough eccentric objects of affection myself to preclude casting aspersions on those grounds.  By the way, if your Jason reviews never once roused a flicker of interest in me to actually watch the films, it yet remains a triumph that you made me interested in reading about them. (I had a similar reaction to the fine documentary Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, by the way.)

Lyz:  You're perfectly entitled to your anti-slasher bent (hell, ten years ago I would have joined you! - don't ask me how I got to this point), although I would suggest that at some point you try out the first two F13s. The rest are certainly dispensable, but there's a twisted sort of attraction about the sheer brutal campfire tale simplicity of the first one, while the second has - in my opinion - the single best Final Girl showdown anywhere, ever, as well as the most interesting interpretation of Jason. And both of them have it all over any of the glossy monstrosities that pass for slasher films these days.

Ken:  I probably should, just to maintain my horror movie fan credentials. And I must say that the poster for the first F13 brilliantly sums up exactly what you say about those two movies. The tagline “They are doomed” cuts straight to the appeal of that exact sort of horror movie in the most unequivocal manner possible.

Lyz:  I always liked the tagline on the European poster myself, which is even more to the point: "Come! Watch them die!"

Ken:  Anyway, my major concern going into Freddy Vs Jason wasn't that Krueger was being matched against such a down-market adversary. Rather, it centred on the question of how the film could possibly remain true to the aesthetics of both characters.  For my part, the picture succeeded in this beyond my wildest expectations. On the other hand, it must be said that my direct knowledge of Jason is almost entirely nonexistent. It’s thus your thoughts on that particular issue that I most look forward to reading.

Lyz:  Agreed, absolutely, which I do spend some time on in my review. I read a really interesting interview with Freddy Vs Jason screenwriter Mark Swift, who made the point that from New Line's POV, this was very much a "Freddy Krueger" film (understandably), and that he and co-writer Damian Shannon were pushed by that attitude into the position of having to "defend" Jason, to keep him an equal participant; and in fact came out of the whole experience as staunch Jason-ites. And yes, the balance of the film is quite remarkable in this respect. I think this is where it's a shame that you haven't seen any of the F13 films, because particularly in the Crystal Lake dream sequence, there are a lot of little details that won't mean anything to you, but really do illustrate the care that the writers were putting into this.

Ken:  That doesn't surprise me, because in *my* piece (and as a warning, I kind of aped your regular review format for it), I gas on about how much pleasure I got from the simple fact that the makers of FvJ actually sat down and *gasp* figured out who the characters were before they made the movie. I also note that by default, Freddy had to be the engine to get the movie going. Jason is almost completely a reactive force. Their understanding of that difference, I think, is what allowed the filmmakers to construct such a nicely convincing scenario of how Freddy and Jason would get mixed up together.

Lyz:  And the point made in the dream sequence, which is one of the endless contrasts between Freddy and Jason (really, you'd be hard put to find two franchises as philosophically distinct from one another; which is perhaps why this film actually works), is that Jason started out as a victim. He was a poor little retarded boy who was neglected by his carers and drowned as a consequence. This is underlying---well, I hesitate to use the word "emotion", but the bottom line is that you could always make a kind of case for Jason (which I do), because he was, at first, a complete victim. I find it fascinating that FvJ really emphasises that, while also reminding us that Freddy was a very bad guy. They almost make it a moral showdown between the two. (Almost. How many people does Jason kill here?? Does Freddy really only kill one person?)

Ken:  Well, Freddy’s all about the foreplay, so it takes him a while to actually move in for the kill. Jason’s more of a Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma’am sort of bloke. Again, though, I’m in complete accord with your observations. (Both in that I agree that Jason as 'hero' kinda works, and yet it really kinda doesn't.) When I saw the first NOES, I thought Freddy was simply the most evil character I'd ever seen in a movie. I again don't want to sound snobby, but origin aside, Jason never struck me as possessing enough of a personality to be evil in the Christian sense of the word, as it were. Freddy, in contrast, was always meant to be an explicitly demonic character, as indicated by the goat imagery that runs throughout the better Freddy movies, including this one. I mean, Craven *really* thought that stuff out.

Lyz:  The details of Jason's, um, "life" are contradictory to an extent that the NOES films can only dream about, ha ha, but the history pieced together after the event would suggest that Jason did not, in fact, drown; that he somehow survived that and lived feral in the woods without his mother's knowledge; that he saw his mother killed, and this pushed him over the edge into his own killing spree, which lasted across Parts 2, 3 and 4, at the end of which he was killed, but then somehow (and sometime) became both undead and unkillable. (Jason Lives, where Jason is “officially” undead, insists that he did die by drowning in Crystal Lake as a child; but it offers no explanation of how he went from a dead child to an undead adult.)

Ken:  Oh, I don't know about Jason’s history being subject to more revision. Freddy's backstory got re-jiggered in about every single movie. Remember that "bastard son of a thousand maniacs" thing? Still, I take your point, although it seems like you're putting a lot more thought into Jason's backstory than the filmmakers did. That's right, the Rule of Plot Holes.

Lyz:  This certainly has nothing to do with the writers! This is just me and other long-suffering people like me who suffer a terrible compulsion to try and make sense of senseless things. (You are, after all, talking to the person who devoted a chunk of her life to trying to figure out the backstory of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.)

The last four films, when Jason definitely is undead, have very little to do with one another and completely ignore one another's events - which is why, I think, the writers just skip over Jason's resurrection: by this stage, the details aren't that important.

Ken:  Yeah, the later Freddy movies were like that too, especially Freddy's Dead, which I still get headaches about whenever I try to think about it. Luckily, that's not often.

Lyz:  Anyway, that's Jason for you. As I said to you in the first place, I was on his side going in; how did you feel about his handling here? Did he work for you, or do you just find him boring?

Ken:  Like you, I found his contrast with Freddy to be pretty interesting stuff. Freddy is such a loathsome character that watching him take his medicine is always satisfying, and Jason certainly fit the bill on that score. I will say that maybe it is for the best that they didn't make a sequel to this film. I'm not sure how much more could be squeezed out of that particular toothpaste tube. I got extremely tired of Michael Myers as the Halloween series progressed, and I started out liking him a lot more than Jason. I mean, Jason's sheer, dogged unstoppability was pretty damn amusing here, but really, where can you go with it?

Lyz:  Uh, into an eleven film franchise?? Jason is like eating at McDonald’s: profoundly unhealthy yet strangely comforting. And really, this film sums it all up: “AND HE JUST - WON’T - STOP!!”

Ken:  Aside from Jason-as-victim, how did you feel about how he was used?  I loved the cornfield massacre, but it is a rather different, more, uh, action villainy style for Jason--a blatant public rampage--than at least in his old films, where from what I gather he tended to pick folks off from the margins.  Was this new ground for Jason, or is this where the last couple of his solo films had already taken him?  And did you enjoy them juicing up the character, or felt it took away from him?

Lyz:  I was surprised and pleased; as we've said, the balance between the two villains was critical here and they really got that right. Even though Jason is the kind-of hero, kind-of good-guy, he's still Jason, slaughtering teenagers wholesale for no good reason. I'm not sure I agree with the decision to explicitly declare his mission to be "to punish". The have-sex-and-die mentality was pervasive through the whole slasher genre, and in fact was a lot more nastily employed other places than here; here it was more that the idiots were too busy drinking and screwing to realise anything was wrong until it was too late. And possibly Jason's powers of discrimination weren't all that well-developed! To me he's a bit like Futurama's Santa - they're ALL naughty!!

The rave scene is fabulous! (I love his fire being put out by a punctured beer keg!) In fact, I think it should have gone on longer - I wonder if it originally did? Although there are a couple of scenes here and there in different films where Jason carves his way through a few people at a time, he has always been more of a pick 'em off one by one kind of guy - but he's never found himself in this sort of situation before, like a kid in a candy store!

I get into this point in my review, but just FYI, Jason Takes Manhattan is incredibly frustrating because he spends the whole time chasing down three or four people he hasn't any real connection with or reason to kill, while he's surrounded by teeming multitudes (who surely deserve to be punished!) The rave scene to me is compensation for that. We've always wanted to see Jason really go to town just once, and here he does. Ahhh....closure.

Ken:  Ah, I remember that in your JTM review. I'm glad you got to experience this moment, as you must have derived a level of satisfaction from it that far outstripped my "THIS ROCKS!" reaction. Aren't rare moments like that really part of what motivates us in caring for movies and such, no matter how junky? Think of it, in all the world, nobody may have gotten a bigger thrill from the shark drawing back its lips in Jaws 3-D than you did.

Lyz:  I think we can say that without fear of contradiction.

Ken:  Doesn't that make you feel special? When people ask why I ruin movies for myself (as if *I* were the problem) by picking at them so, I try to explain that what they are not getting is then how much more I get from a film that does even the small things--ESPECIALLY the small things--right. Freddy Vs Jason isn't a great film, but it is, arguably, a great achievement, because it does so many little things so right that seem entirely beyond even much more established filmmakers.

Hence my minor 'thing' about the film, and why I wished to join you here today.

Lyz:  Perfectly stated and absolutely correct, thank you. (Ah, yes: you pick at things and I think too much. Ain't we awful?)

However--- I should say, again FYI, that the film is on thin ice with its "Jason's afraid of water" bit. You could say that the child-Jason is scared of water, but adult-Jason used to lurk in the lake and kill people from there! This idea came, as I say, from Jason Lives, which suddenly decided that undead-Jason could be, not killed, but weakened and contained by the waters of Crystal Lake; he's left in the lake at the end of both Jason Lives and The New Blood, and resurrected from there at the beginning of Jason Takes Manhattan - in which, among other things, he gets from a sinking ship into New York proper by swimming ashore (or walking underwater). Having him across-the-board "afraid of water" is one of the few real cheats here.

Ken:   Again, I completely agree, and yet what the writers did was entirely necessary, so I moved on.  Of course, my stake in Jason is rather smaller.

I mention in my piece that one of the things the filmmakers did right--a sadly rare thing--is that they didn't change backstory stuff willy-nilly, either in order to put their mark on the characters, continuity be damned; or out of sheer laziness, or just flat out contempt for the audience.  However, the real trick is that they also didn't let themselves be so bound by continuity that they couldn't tell a coherent story, either.  In other words, they respected the past, and tweaked it as little as possible, but moved on when necessary.

Making Jason a punisher is part of the latter.  Freddy has to trick Jason into going to Springwood, and thus Jason has to have a motive for his killings that Freddy can use to manipulate him with.  Freddy always dicks with people's minds, that's his thing, and thus appearing to Jason as his mum is *entirely* in character for Krueger.

The thing about Jason, of course, is that he remains largely a blank slate.  They had to invent at least a bit of a personality for him if they were going to present him as a (comparative) hero. This required a bit of fudging, especially regarding his phobia about the water. I never really bought it in terms of who Jason was in my head, but the story told here actually did require this, so I kind of winked at it and let it go.  I enjoy the movie too much to want to tell the writers, "I'm not sure about that part, please go make a less entertaining film that hews closer to my own personal sense of continuity."

Whereas Freddy, of course, *is* a much more richly drawn, established character (actually, the difference is that he always was a "character," whereas Jason was more of a prop), and I felt they nailed him about perfectly, given all the background clutter provided by the lessor films.

 Lyz:  Yes, I can see the point of what they did. They needed a weakness, a fear for Freddy to exploit, and fear of water does make more sense than anything else they could have used. (Except, possibly, Fear Of Mother - but that's been done to death in horror films.) And I'll say this: the cheatiness is almost negated by how well the scene is played, with Jason's sudden backing off and Freddy's realisation of the cause.

My objection to Jason as “punisher” is more to do with the issue of why he kills teenagers; the “moral” reading of his activities is something thrust upon these films from outside, when I doubt they were meant to be anything more profound than a cheap thrill. They’d be on firmer ground arguing that POV for Mrs Voorhees. It’s hard to see Jason’s mass slaughter of everyone who crosses his path over a period of twenty years as anything other than a sort of reptilian brain response – particularly when he does things like wiping out the employees of a diner – or a whole police department!

But the thought of Jason “punishing” Freddy, now, that warms the cockles of my heart! Was there ever a greater visual than the look on Freddy’s face when he finds himself at the real Crystal Lake?? The real pleasure of this film is watching the master manipulator have his entire scheme blow up in his face.

Ken:  One thing I wanted to check with you on: in Halloween, John Carpenter explicitly establishes that Michael doesn't target little kids.  (This is one reason I LOATHE Halloween 5 with a passion; as Michael spends much of the movie attempting to kill two children).  Have they ever addressed this with Jason?  I seem to remember Jason bursting into a cabin filled with tykes. Did he just ignore them, or what?

Lyz:  In Jason Lives there are actual kids at the camp, quite young kids (everyone always gasps in astonishment at that), but Jason confines his activities to the councillors and the local cops. There's a scene when he quietly enters the girls' cabin; the kid who knows he's around but can't get anyone to listen to her ("I told you there were monsters!") closes her eyes and prays, and when she looks again he's gone. Later he bursts into the boys' cabin and they all start screaming, but he doesn't hurt any of them, or try to. I'm not sure whether this is a Jason character thing or a kids-off-limits thing, though; perhaps a little from column A and a little from column B.

In The Final Chapter, though, Jason does attack a child: he smashes a window to grab Tommy Jarvis, but lets him go when Trish Jarvis hits him in the head with a hammer. When he is given a choice between the two, however, he goes after Trish rather than Tommy. The dynamic of the showdown in The Final Chapter is quite different from that of the other films because Trish is fighting back not just to save herself, but to save her brother; she’s prepared to sacrifice herself to save him. Tommy has his own ideas, of course….and it is Tommy, a kid, who kills Jason – as far as anyone ever does kill him.

Perhaps I should also say here that we have no evidence that the nightmare version of Jason's drowning happened that way, with him being tormented into the water by the other kids. As far as we know, he just wasn't supervised properly. I think what we see is exactly that, an exaggerated nightmare version; I don’t doubt that Jason might have been teased by the other kids, but I do doubt that the councillors missed it because they were humping on the verandah in broad daylight.

Now, to me the one outstanding feature of the NOES films, other than the original concept of Freddy, is that their kids are likeable and even real. They seem to me to get that right all the way through, even when the films as a whole are going off. Conversely, the F13 films are painfully filled with hateful, stupid teenagers; a few exceptions, but only a few. The characters in the NOES films are what keep them going through their tough times, whereas any F13 film that goes five minutes without a body tends to be agonising.

(When you think about it, this does give Jason a very unfair advantage over Freddy: Freddy kills people we don't want to die, whereas Jason kills people we do.)

The early F13 films - not so much the first two, but certainly 3, 4 and 5 - are pretty dreadful in this respect. Worst of all is The Final Chapter, which goes for something like 30 minutes with no Jason, and it is just HELL. In the later films, the characters tend to be just bland and generic instead of intolerable. Also, the later films, 5 onwards, developed a habit of killing someone every few minutes, just to keep the interest levels up (which is an awful thing to say, but, you know....)

Ken:  I was actually going to ask you about that. Frankly, although the characters here are OK, they definitely pale against the ones in Craven's films.  There are a lot of stock characters here: stoner, nerd, sassy black best friend, John Belushi slob partying guy, etc. (Although the nerd actually is a fairly nicely drawn character for his short screentime.) I was sure they were better characters than you get in the average Jason movie, and they are certainly more likable, I'm sure--even rote slutty alcoholic Gibb--but I wanted to check.

Did the screenwriters go largely with off-the-shelf characters because of their (oh, so blessed) urge to keep the script tight, or is it possible that that actually even strove to hit the middle mark between the relative sophistication of NOES and the more simplistic F13 characters? That seems fanciful, but not entirely beyond the realm of possibility.

Lyz:  No, I think based on everything else going on here it's a real possibility. The film moves back and forth between the two franchise universes, but although we open at 1428 Elm, it's really an F13 film at that point, and that's where those characters are drawn from; the most slasher-film-like ones, Trey, Blake and Gibb, are killed off first. The ones who come in later, Will, Mark and even Linderman, are more like NOES characters. Lori, being a Final Girl, sits comfortably in either universe. The nicer touches like Linderman finally working up the nerve to make a move on Lori just as Will shows up - and instantly backing off again with that "Aw, crap" look - and Stubbs joining up with the surviving kids, seem more like NOES details to me. The F13 films aren't generally much interested in character delineation. (And when they try it---ouch.)

Ken:  Yes, the care they take to represent the feel of both series is extraordinary. I mention that this was the sort of film going in where I felt there had to be some highly gratuitous nudity, because that was emblematic of the F13 series, even if I wasn't personally a fan.  However, I didn't want that aspect (or super-insane ultra-gore) to dominate the movie, either. And sure enough, during the Jason scenes early on we get some blatantly pointless nudity, and then afterwards, not so much. They paid due homage, and moved on.

Lyz:  One thing I need to make very clear to you here is that the "girl running through the woods and getting killed" scene is the Friday The 13th equivalent of "Play it again, Sam" or "Elementary, my dear Watson": it never actually happened like that - although that's certainly how people think of these films. The only place there is a scene like that is the opening of Jason Goes To Hell, where like here, it's used to pull the rug out from under viewer expectations.

Ken:  Wow!  I never would have guessed that.  I swear that in my head I can picture scenes like that (and I've never seen any of Jason Goes to Hell).  How entirely weird. 

Lyz:  Highly gratuitous nudity was sadly lacking in the later films, Jason Lives onwards, really. (Although there's an amazingly explicit sex + violence scene in Hell that is there specifically because the preview audiences complained about the lack of sex scenes.)

Ken:  Also weird, although you do see less of that across the board now than in movies from the '70s and '80s.

Lyz:  Now, I haven't had time to digest the various Freddy histories and formulate a unified theory [sic.], so I thought I would ask you what you made of the subplot of Freddy killing Lori's mother? At the time it seemed to me like an unnecessary addition, but later I concluded that it was there to shift the balance; to make it personal. "Hey wait a minute! Freddy hasn't personally killed anyone, while Jason is killing all her friends; so why is Lori on Jason's side?" "Beeeeee-cause, um....Freddy killed her mother?"

But what, if anything, are "the rules" about Freddy's killing? Does he choose to kill young people because they give him more power, or are adults actually out of his range? In this sense, what constitutes "an adult"? And how, then, did he kill Lori's mother? And why would he kill her instead of Lori?

Ken:  I don't really think they are 'rules' about who Freddy kills, it's more that he's well developed enough as a character that he has actual motivations for who he targets. The thing this film gets *exactly* right, and what ultimately makes Freddy quite arguably the most evil film character ever (certainly major one), is that Freddy is a bully. He killed children in real life because they were easy prey; and then, when he gained god-like powers in death, he still targeted children.

The mom thing is a bit out of the ordinary, but since the film offers so few plot holes, I don't mind expending a minimum of effort to fill this one (especially since, again, I admire the filmmakers' drive to keep things moving):  It's possible that some of the adults also had a strong enough awareness of Freddy that they also required doses of Hypnocil. Mum merely went off her meds and presented a target of opportunity.

Conversely, if Freddy was planning to eventually target Lori (and he would be; he had a place of especial power in Nancy Thompson's old house), then it would be entirely in character to mess with her mind and make her even more vulnerable by killing her mom. In fact, arguably he even was multi-tasking; messing with Will by making it appear he saw Lori's dad committing the murder, thus screwing Will up, and making him (and later Lori) suspicious of someone they may otherwise have gone to for help when Freddy at some point later eventually reared his head.  Say what you will about Freddy, he puts his work in.

Taken from that standpoint, the plot device was entirely valid and not a bit of fudging.

Lyz:  The other curious thing about the killing of Lori’s mother is the role it plays in the Springwood conspiracy. I wanted to ask what you thought of that part of the film? To me it seems to get bigger and deeper and scarier the more you think about it - the moral complexity of it all, and the role played by Dr Campbell - there's enough material there for a whole other film!

Ken:  I love the conspiracy!  It may in fact be my favourite aspect of the film; a major part of my review is dedicated to it. As you know, horror films tend to make their conspiracies both utterly incompetent and completely malign, whereas this one a) works (at least for several years), and b) actually is well-intentioned. The fact that it works (and that what they were trying to avoid is so dire) definitely forces the viewer to *gasp* make some judgments about whether the conspiracy was the right thing to do. And think about this: the film doesn't 'punish' either of the known conspirators by killing them. That's possibly unique right there.

And again, it works from a pure plotting angle. It explains why Freddy's been off the scene for years, and why he must bring Jason into things. Better, they don't simply forget what could have just been a MacGuffin, the Hypnocil, once it's been introduced. It remains a factor, and both sides naturally seek it--which also gives a valid motive for the trip to the mental hospital, etc.

Lyz:  What really struck me the last time was Lori's situation. I mean, she's standing there in the coma ward, still believing her father killed her mother, having to confront the fact that he is also responsible for all this - with no way of making any judgement of his actions. It's just devastating.

Ken:  Yes, Campbell made a tactical blunder when he panicked and tried to keep Lori in the dark past the point she could be. He should have sat down with her and Will and laid out the whole thing, and explained about the Hypnocil.  On the other hand, one can see how trying to keep his daughter from sharing his wife's fate would weigh upon him.

Lyz:  And again, we have the writers coming in and showing their predecessors how it's done. Compare this to Freddy's Dead, which comes up with its own incredible nightmare vision of Springwood, with all the children dead and all the adults insane - and then forgets about it.

But how about this for a kicker: is Freddy dead? Where do the people of Springwood go from here? Do they dare assume he is dead? Or do Lori, and Will, and anyone else who survived now join their brethren…?

Ken:  I think the final shot suggests pretty clearly that Freddy isn't dead, although they will have to deal with the Hypnocil angle if and when they make another movie.  (Unless they reboot the series; or the people making the next film are typically lazy.) 

Lyz:  God forbid! One thing I can't quite decide about is Lori's situation at home: I can't make up my mind whether she should, in fact, have been banished to Westin Hills with the rest, except for Dr Campbell using his position of power to keep her at home. She didn't seem to have any knowledge of Freddy, and Dr Campbell banished Will so that she didn't get it that way; but there must have been a risk.

Of course, Mrs Campbell must have died before the conspiracy was put in place - her death was, perhaps, the catalyst for it - so Will's banishment takes on a particularly sinister tinge. After all, what Will "saw" was Dr Campbell killing his wife; he didn't have any real knowledge of Freddy; and yet he was institutionalised anyway. So, was Dr Campbell secretly doping Lori with Hypnocil all along to keep her safe, just in case, or did he only start doing that when it looked like Freddy was back?

Ken:  Yes, you really have to think out all of the ramifications of the conspiracy, because again it's not one-note. I'm assuming that not every kid in town knew about Krueger, since a lot of them aren't institutionalised. Of the ones who were, though--and that includes the ones in the coma--I reflect in my piece that their parents must be in on it, which is pretty horrible, but again, possibly even justified given the stakes. Even moving wouldn't really be an option; you dream wherever you go.

Lyz:  The role of the town parents in this is something I look at in my review, too, and not just them. Have you thought about the spectrum of parental action explicitly or implicitly present in this film? Yes, you’ve got the parents who must have acquiesced in their children’s institutionalisation; and you’ve got Dr Campbell in his double role, running Westin Hills and doping all those kids (leaving some of them in comas), while at the same time protecting Lori at home – is he doing this to protect Springwood, or just her? Behind all that, though, you also have those very first Springwood parents, burning Freddy Krueger to death; and Pamela Voorhees, committing mass murder to avenge her son’s death.

Think of the children, indeed….

Ken:  I mention the possibility that Will was institutionalised to keep him from accusing Campbell of murder, although personally I think not (barring further evidence).  And I like the fact that Mark and Will have a fairly nice room at the institute. What's done to them is terrible, but not motivated by malice. Mark has always known about Krueger; was he Will's friend before Will went to the institution, or did they meet there? If the former, that's another reason Will would have to be locked up. Finally, the cover up of Mrs. Campbell's death involved everyone reporting it as a car accident. For that reason alone, Will's seeing that she was actually murdered, and in THAT HOUSE, meant he had to be quarantined.

It is a question about how widespread the conspiracy is. How many kids are given Hypnocil; how many parents take it? Freddy generally targeted kids; did he attack Mrs. Campbell because the kids had started to take the drug, and the parents hadn't thought they needed to? If that's the case, then presumably all the town's parents in the know started self-medicating after that. Also, it's hard to believe that anyone from Springwood would buy Nancy Thompson's old place. Maybe the Campbells were recent arrivals?

Lyz:  The other point about all this is the way it separates the kids from the people who could help them. The kids are (rightly) suspicious of the police, and that they are somehow "in" on what's going on, so they keep away from them after the rave slaughter. (This also has a positive effect, inasmuch as the same mindset leads Stubbs to join up with the kids and share his information about Jason with them.) But the other aspect of this is that Will tells Lori what he thinks he saw, she runs from her father as a consequence - when he has the Hypnocil that could save them all. They don't know that, of course, and the circumstances ensure that they don't find it out, instead doing a dangerous (and in some cases, fatal) run to Westin Hills instead.

Ken:  Stubbs joining the kids is another thing the writers get right, in a way that seems elementary but which still eludes most filmmakers. I'm glad they didn't rely overly on the Internet for characters to get information, which would be boring (and who knows, Crystal Lake may have been engaging in as much of a cover-up as Springwood). Yet then the question is, how do the kids learn what they need to know about Jason?  Well, Stubbs is a cop, he could gather the information. But why wouldn't he just use that information in an orthodox police manner? Because he was blocked from doing so by the Sheriff. But still, what would be his motivation for seeking out the kids? Because he was frustrated at the way he was being yanked around back at the office. These are not terribly sophisticated answers to these questions, but here's the thing:  The writers actually bothered to ask them, so that they could make things hang together as logically as possible. Wow, what a concept.

One thing I found was that I kept writing, "The film does something here that shouldn't be extraordinary, but sadly is..."  It's depressing that people get into the film business (out of millions who want to be--and I'm not talking about myself) and are often handed tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, and then their movies are just shoddy. Freddy Vs Jason is not a great movie, but it is reasonably well written, has reasonably good characters who are reasonably well acted and who have reasonable motivations for their actions...why the hell are these such rare things?  This is a film made by people who never said, "Well, that doesn't matter," or "Who cares?"  Sometimes you can see the caulking, but only when it was unavoidable, and even then they made it blend in as well as possible.

Lyz:  YES!! I was looking back over my review last night and worrying that it was actually far more positive than the film really deserves - I mean, it's hardly great film-making we got going on here – there must be thousands of films better than this one, as films – and yet I've been much less critical here than I have been in the past about much better films. Why? Because you can feel the effort. Because they really tried. Because they had every temptation in the world to slap together one more stupid "Oh, who cares?" script - and they didn't do it.

Ken:  You know that scene where the kids all sit around the table and hash out what's happening, and what to do about it?  Making reasonably intelligent (but not too intelligent) guesses and trying to come up with a strategy to save their lives, instead of wandering off to have sex or whatever? Damn, shouldn't people who watch as many horror movies as we do see scenes like that *all the time*? Because, really, we don't.

The reason I go easy on the filmmakers here on a couple of other minor points (the admittedly humorous proximity of Springwood and Camp Crystal Lake, etc.), when I don't with other movies, is that here they really strove to not go afield when they didn't have to. Shannon and Swift didn't change anything for purely arbitrary reasons, or to “make it their own,” or just out of contempt.  Superhero movies are notorious for this.  In the first made-for-TV Captain America movie, they changed his then 40 year-old costume for no apparent reason. In the Albert Pyun movie, they didn't want to have him in costume at all. And they made the Red Skull Italian...well, that sort of crap. It's not so much that they changed something, it's that you can't figure out why the hell they would.

On the other hand, when attempting to stitch together two universes like this, much less such intrinsically disparate ones (and ones that in terms of the actual films in each series didn't always hang together that well to start with), it can also be as deadly to be afraid to change what you need to.  In other words, if you respect continuity too much, it can bind you to the point where you can't get anything done.

Every suspect thing in the film--and there's an amazingly small number of them, considering--you can look at and see why they did it.  And since they deliver the goods, I was more than happy to go along with them where they choose.

Lyz:  What’s incredible to me about all this is that you and I, two of the most notorious nit-pickers in the business, have made so little headway! We’ve attacked this film from every angle, prodded and poked it, pulled it all apart – and it has resisted us all the way. There are a few cheats here, but they are all apparent at an initial viewing. They are there, as you have said, because under the circumstances they were unavoidable. We’ve turned up some ambiguities, but not a single other really weak point. I find that remarkable.

And – I’m speaking for myself here, but I think also for you – this is one of those films where doing this kind of dissection leads you to like it better, appreciate it more. I really enjoyed this film the first time, but now it’s won a real place in my heart.

How’s this for an analogy? Freddy Vs Jason is like a Final Girl. We’ve done our worst, you and I – Mr Pick-At-Things and Ms Thinks-Too-Much – we’ve picked up our machete and donned our razor glove – we’ve chased it through the woods and cornered it in a cabin; and it’s turned on us and fought back and defeated us; and right now it’s staggering triumphantly into the daylight, somewhat the worse for wear but still in one piece….

Finally, I just want to thank you for pushing me into this! Otherwise I might not have gotten around to seeing this film for ages, and I’m very glad I did. So – thank you!

Ken:  I assure you, the pleasure was all mine.  (Certainly the relief was all mine—what if you hadn’t liked the movie...?)

Read Ken's review here.


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----19/01/2008