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August 20, 2003

Moviegoing: "Freddy Vs. Jason"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Friedrich --

I'm back in Manhattan after a media and computer-free week's vacation in mid-America. (Main reflection: Hey, America, why can't you lose a few pounds?) Many thanks for taking care of the postings I left behind, and hats off to your own classy recent writings. Lordy, you've certainly done a lot to raise the tone of this blog.

I guess it's up to me to drag things back into the mud. Have you been aware of the new horror movie Freddy Vs. Jason, the umpteenth sequel to not just one but a couple of different horror franchises? It pits two popular teen-slaying monsters against each other: Freddy (burn scars on the face; attacks you in your dreams; fingers with knives on them) and Jason (parka; hockey mask; sword). My horror-movie-lovin' Wife (raised a Catholic) dragged reluctant me (raised a Protestant) in to see the film. Surprise: we both had a great time.

Fair (if, I hope, unnecessary) warning: we loved the picture not in a deeply-moved, "Grand Illusion" kind of way, but in a giggling-and-shrieking "Gremlins 2" kind of way. It's a mischievous pop blowout, in other words, made with a lot of satirical B-movie energy, humor and flair, and burdened with none of the corporate overprocessing that makes so many pop movies these days seem like mere extensions of their marketing campaigns. The picture may be nothing but a teen-slasher action gorefest, but it's inventively performed by a cast rarin' to go to extremes, and it's written and directed with tons of surprises in the effects and pacing. (It's the rare contempo horror movie that isn't just a series of dumb climaxes.) It's something like an early Joe Dante or Brian De Palma movie, but shot and edited with a flamboyance that may remind you of Robert Rodriguez.

My language seems to want to go flat on me today, sigh, so let me try to get back on track by simply reporting that The Wife and I chuckled all the way through the movie, that we enjoyed being among a rowdy and responsive audience, and that we gave each other a lot of "Hey, this isn't half-bad" looks of surprise and delight.

Then as the credits started to roll, we gave each other another look, this one of the "Well, no wonder" sort. Why? Because when the director's credit came up, it was the name of our current fave pop-moviemaker, Ronny Yu. I'm no student of Yu's, having only seen this picture and his earlier "Bride of Chucky." But "Bride" was also a marvel; it's clear that Yu's an original and a hoot -- bursting with talent and ideas, full of fizzy glee, and up to no respectable good whatsoever, god bless him.

A few more ways of illustrating how much I enjoy Yu's work: I had a ball despite my general aversion to both horror and Hong Kong-style action. And: I had a great time even though, as far as I can remember, I'd never seen a previous Freddy or Jason movie. (Have I? Or have I just seen ads and trailers? No idea.) Despite my teen-horror ignorance, the two pop monsters felt like old, if bizarro, friends in no time, and the scrambled-up, Cuisinarted, dizzy-in-the-pop-hall-of-mirrors effects that Yu's a wizard at worked beautifully for me -- happily enough, given that I lost all track of the story's logic about 20 minutes in. At that point, I just relaxed and enjoyed watching the over-the-top pop archetypes -- the monsters, the parents, the virgins and sluts, the nerd, the stoners, the cops -- have at each other.

Hey, remember my posting about the movie exec who told me that the moviebiz makes horror movies for three audiences -- teens, black people and Catholics? (It's readable here.) Well, the the lights in the theater were down already by the time the Wife and I walked in and took our seats. We were deep in the boonies, in a sleepy small farming town out in the middle of endless John Mellencamp cornfields. When the lights came up and we finally got a look at the audience we'd been watching the movie with, whaddya know: lots of teens, of course, but also lots of black people. Yet until then, out there in the whitebread sticks, we hadn't spotted a single black face. Maybe a lot of black people really do like horror movies. If we'd asked around, we'd probably have discovered a bunch of Catholics in the audience too.

Here's a fun interview with Ronny Yu; here's a q&a with Yu and the movie's producer Sean Cunningham.



posted by Michael at August 20, 2003


It seemed unnecessary to go to "Freddy vs. Jason" after seeing the trailer. In it, Freddy mutters irritably (presumably about Jason): "Why don't you die?" That was pretty much the only thing that I would have been willing to pay to see, and I got it for free. Does it ever strike you that trailers that essentially give away the store are far too plentiful nowadays?

Or is it just that I'm neither black, nor Catholic nor a teenager. Hmmmm.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 21, 2003 1:55 PM

My wife and I went for pretty much the same reasons and had pretty much the same reaction. Our only gripe is that the other flicks in the franchises always avoided showing a little kid being harmed, and this one sloshed right into that taboo, which may harm the movie's appeal for some parents. Other than that, tho, it was a hoot. (Didn't the blonde female lead have unfortunate surgically enhanced lips, tho? In some scenes she looked like Daisy Duck.)

Posted by: Yahmdallah on August 22, 2003 11:23 AM

Fried - If you don't see "Freddy vs. Jason," how will you appreciate the parodies? "Scary Movie 3" is on its way, and what about "The Simpsons." Think of "The Simpsons," man, think of "The Simpsons."

Incidentally, I've never accepted the notion that horror movies are cautionary tales about the dangers of sex. Read this drivel when I was a horror-movie watching teenager. Why would a movie that says sex is too risky be popular with horny adolescents?

Other things are at work. Facing and defeating the fear of sex, plain ol' extreme emotions all served up together... like that.

Please do not ask me what I think of goth freaks with a fetish for dressing up like vampires. That's a stumper. Probably has something to do with being Catholic.

Yahmdallah - either those are her unfortunate lips, or she had them done several years before she was old enough to drive. They've been quite like that since the early 90s... as far as I could tell with all that pasty gloss.

Posted by: j.c. on August 22, 2003 7:35 PM

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