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Freddy vs. Jason: Platinum Series

In the time-honored tradition of milking erstwhile franchise cash-cows for their last spurt of profitability, New Line Cinema, after a decade of arduous development, finally succeeded in bringing together the two most prolific slasher-flick icons together with Freddy vs. Jason (2003). Now that these two maniacs have gone toe-to-toe on the big screen, the question remains: Will anyone bother to pay to see them resort to their old shtick in future solo endeavors? After all, the horror landscape has changed vastly since the 1980s; after suffering a near-death in the '90s, thanks in no small part to the slasher overkill of the previous decade, the genre has now bounced back under the commerciality of such supernatural smashes as The Sixth Sense, The Others, and the American remake of The Ring. Suddenly, the blood-and-guts gore of the stalk-and-slash quickie seems awfully quaint. This is something the filmmakers of both the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises clearly understand — the last installment in either series were, respectively, self-reflexive and self-parodying. For the most part, it's the latter sensibility that wins out in Ronny Yu's Freddy vs. Jason, though they try to play it straight for as long as they can, which, after the jokey, homage-paying Scream trilogy, proves to be a bit of a miscalculation. Given the feverish anticipation of this team-up, there was the assumption that the lengthy development period meant that the producers were attempting something far more ambitious than a joint chapter in either franchise. But that's exactly what Freddy vs. Jason is, which might account for the savagely negative response not only from the critics, but from the fans, who cluttered Internet message boards with a torrent of invective following the film's opening weekend. The premise — that a weakened Freddy has disappeared from the nightmares of Elm Street teenagers, and, therefore, needs Jason to reintroduce mortal fear into the neighborhood — isn't terribly inventive, and though the blood starts flowing fairly quickly, there's an unusually involved backstory with the tale's protagonist, Lori (a badly miscast Monica Keena), that unnecessarily weighs the film down. Had writers Damian Shannon and Mark Swift been content with setting up the usual bland relationships between their slasher fodder, they probably would've bought themselves much more leeway with audiences who came to see only what the title promised. Unfortunately, they clog up a good portion of the script with another murder mystery wholly unrelated to Freddy and Jason. But when you get right down to it, the movie does deliver on the basic genre requirements. Gratuitous gore? Check. Bare breasts? Check. One or two inventive kills that draw rapturous, bloodthirsty applause from the audience? Check (there's a nice homage to the mid-coital spearing from Part II). And, best of all, Freddy and Jason finally duke it out in a ridiculously bloody finale that, for the most part, absolves the film of its overplotted flaws. If this is the final chapter for both characters, as it probably should be, it's at least a suitably gory sendoff to these two relics of a genre trend long past its usefulness.

*          *          *

New Line presents Freddy vs. Jason in a great looking anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras on this two-disc set include a feature commentary with Ronny Yu and his monsters, Robert Englund (Freddy) and Ken Kirzinger (Jason). Rather predictably, Englund dominates the track with his corny sense of humor, which renders it all but unlistenable. Disc Two features a generous helping of deleted scenes (with optional commentary), including the original opening and alternate ending, which was wisely excised. The most interesting supplement on this disc is the inclusion of Fangoria's two-part article on the protracted development process of Freddy vs. Jason, which offers a glimpse into what could've (and shouldn't have) been. There are also lots of production and visual effects featurettes, as well as footage of the "Pre-Fight" Press Conference in Las Vegas and the film's premiere at "Camp Hacknslash" in Austin, Texas. Rounding out the disc is the theatrical trailer, television spots, a music video, galleries, and DVD-ROM features, including a script-to-screen comparison and an editing activity. Be on the lookout for two Easter eggs, one discussing Ronny Yu's idea for a hellbound finale, and another showcasing Kelly Rowland's acting prowess. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks

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