There’s always at least one weekend in October where I end up having to spend most of the time doing yardwork. Guess which weekend it is this year? Usually I fall behind on reviews at this point, as I either don’t have time or energy (or both) to write something in-depth. I still plan on watching a double-feature as well, which also eats into time.
What’s this whining got to do with the price of tea in China? Well, the upshot is that I watched a couple of movies last night and am doing smaller, ‘capsule’ reviews as a way to try and get ahead/catch up – or at least not fall behind. Luckily I had two movies in a series that I hadn’t done reviews for yet.
I’ve got bare bones DVDs of both these films. Jason X isn’t streaming free on any service, but can be rented (and is shown regularly on SyFy). Freddy vs Jason is on Starz, but also shows up on cable pretty often.
If you’re one of those fans that hated Jason VI: Jason Lives because of the humor, you’re going to want to pass this one by. It’s Friday the 13th on a spaceship, and if that idea sounds ludicrous to you you’re not alone – the filmmakers understood that as well. Jason X is really a placeholder film, a way to keep the Friday the 13th franchise alive while Freddy vs Jason worked its way through development hell. Instead of trying to add to a mythology that was already convoluted and confusing (thanks Jason Goes to Hell!) director Jim Isaac, (The Horror Show, Skinwalkers) and writer Todd Farmer (The Messengers, Drive Angry) decided to sidestep that problem by throwing everything into the future.
There’s an opening sequence in the present day that’s notable primarily because it features David Cronenberg in a small role. It’s also necessary to explain why Jason is cryogenically frozen in the first place – which is because he’s an unstoppable supernatural killer and why the hell are we still talking about this? Why wasn’t he on ice to start with? Ah – because he needs to be ‘studied’ – sure, that’ll work out. Jason DOES get frozen, as does lead scientist Rowan LaFontaine (Lexa Doig), because we need a modern PoV character to do the ‘ooh, ahh, future’ stuff later on.
Jason and doctor Lafontaine are found 445 years later by a school archeological field trip to the late, great planet Earth. There are students, a professor, the ship’s crew and – for some reason – a bunch of military badasses. They bring back Jason, who could be worth significant cash if sold to the right collector, and unfreeze Rowan. Don’t really get attached to anyone – even the ship’s android, KM-14 (Lisa Ryder). Rowan is, as she was in the opening sequence, of the opinion that Jason needs to be gotten rid of- but it’s already too late, as Jason unfreezes and sets about murdering everyone in sight.
It’s low-budget cheese, but it’s so much fun I don’t care. Especially once Jason is back and rampaging about a spaceship. None of the future folks understand what they’re up against, which leads to my favorite line of the whole series “Guys, it’s okay! He just wanted his machete back!” The whole movie is full of corny-but-fun one liners and situations.
Brodski: “It’ll take more than a poke in the ribs to put down this old dog!”
Jason stabs him through the chest with his machete.
Brodski: “Yep, that oughta do it.”
They upgrade the android to a combat model to handle Jason, but that’s just an excuse to use the nanotechnology trope to bring him back bigger, badder and with the most stupid mask you’ve ever seen.
The Bottom Line
There are gun battles, android-on-supernatural-killer combat, a VR return to Crystal Lake and a spaceship crashing through a passable model of a space station and a lot more in-jokes and one-liners. Throw in some nudity and decent gore and you have a guilty favorite, a movie that’s actually one of my top 5 films in the Friday the 13th series. Set aside your expectations and you’ll have a good time with Jason X.
Freddy vs Jason (2003)
Friday the 13th producer Sean Cunningham had been trying to work out a Freddy vs Jason films since the 1980’s. Once the Friday series had been bought by New Line, (owners of the Nightmare franchise) in 1989 things looked pretty decent for that crossover to happen – but due to various reasons (including Wes Craven wanting to make New Nightmare) it took another 14 years for it to actually get made.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that a movie made in the 2000’s featuring two characters whose heyday was the 80’s would end up being a soulless cash grab or maybe a thin nostalgia trip. And there are probably a few people who think one or another (or both) of those things are true of the final product. I actually was expecting far less than what we got – which was a fairly fun trip through both franchises that manages to be fair to both characters AND be entertaining. Not an easy needle to thread.
The biggest problem that producers had in creating this crossover was finding a logical reason for both Freddy and Jason to meet. That’s neatly handled by the idea that Freddy – trapped in hell because no one remembers him – decided to use Jason to spread fear and… uh, somehow make them think of Freddy? See, the whole idea of needing a logical reason for all this is dumb. Freddy likes killing teenagers, Jason likes killing teenagers – they’re two predators fighting over the same turf. Just start with Freddy starting his usual ‘I’m in your dreams, killing your friends’ shtick and have Jason just start chopping ’em up. Instant conflict.
It DOES work, though – the police remember Freddy after all, and when a returned Jason starts his spree they’re concerned the dream killer is back. They try to repress information about it, which might have worked if it was just Freddy who thrives on belief – Jason doesn’t give a shit, however, and for him every hour is chop-o’clock. Which does bring him into conflict with Freddy, as they’re sharing the same victim pool. (And there we go!)
The Freddy vs Jason bits are fun and generally true to each character – though this is late-series Freddy, so the quips and dialogue are heavier and he’s less frightening and more funny as a result. This does run into one scene that I hate a lot, where Freddy basically ping-pings Jason around the inside of a steam factory.
The victims… er, characters, are a more relatable bunch of teens than usual, which is nice. They’re still pretty thinly written, however, and it’s hard to care too much when they’re brutally murdered. One of the number is a daughter of a previous Freddy victim, and she’s able to enter dreams to help Jason out (because Freddy has Jason’s number – dude’s still afraid of drowning despite, you know, spending years chained to the bottom of Crystal lake).
All kills eventually lead to the lake and a final, reasonably epic confrontation between our title characters. It’s well done and action packed and overall satisfying, no matter which character is your favorite. I pulled for Jason, mostly because Freddy talks too much.
The Bottom Line
Way better than we had any right to expect, Freddy vs Jason treats both characters well and all other characters like fodder – which is to be expected. There’s humor to be had – especially with Freddy, of course – but it’s not making fun of itself and that, in 2003, was kinda refreshing. A fun ride and a decent end to both series – if end it truly is…