Geoff T’s review published on Letterboxd:
Geoff T's Hoop-Tober 6.0 Challenge
Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
So here it is, my journey through all the original Friday and Nightmare films is finally at an end. Feels like a long time since I started with both all the way back in 2015.
But here is is. After numerous rewrites, delays and legal issues regarding both franchises, the showdown between two of the slasher genre's biggest icons finally arrived. I imagine expectations for this were extremely high for this back in the day, and while it was going to be nigh impossible to please everyone, I'd say Freddy vs. Jason is as good as it could be.
The residents of Springwood have forgotten (or tried to erase evidence) of Freddy Krueger's presence, leaving the latter powerless in Hell. Freddy however is not going to stand for this, so he recruits an also-deceased Jason Voorhees, and resurrects him on Earth with the intention of setting him loose on the teenagers of Springwood, so he can be remembered and reborn once again. However, Jason unexpectedly steals Freddy's thunder with his own bodycount (much to his anger), and the two are set to embark in a battle for the ages, while Lori Campbell and her boyfriend Will attempt to put a stop to both killers.
Taking place after both Freddy's Dead and Jason Goes to Hell, to best describe Freddy vs. Jason would be as a typical entry in the Nightmare series but with Jason as a guest star, though traits from both franchises are pretty well-realised here. I do like the numerous callbacks to previous films, with the Thompson household from the original Nightmare used as a prominent location, as well as a sequence that depicts young Jason's Crystal Lake drowning in more detail. Bringing Jason's mother back was neat, though not bringing Betsy Palmer feels like a missed oppurtunity.
This also marks Robert Englund's swansong performance as Freddy, and I'd say he goes a pretty great send-off here. I liked how the comedic side of him is significantly toned down in contrast to the later Nightmare sequels, which although do have their moments tend to remove the terrifying sadism the character is known for. In a most controversial decision however, Ken Zirzinger replaces Kane Hodder as Jason in this one, and while I feel the latter is more fit for the job, Zirzinger doesn't do a bad job either, giving him a good degree of hulking menace (even if he seems a little slow).
On a less positive note, I feel this one gets somewhat bogged down with too much exposition involving the central teenage characters. While they're no more or less likeable than in your average Friday/Nightmare entry (except for Kelly Rowland, she's absolutely awful here), they're somewhat hard to care about when the battle between evil and evil is part of the bigger picture here. The direction by Ronny Yu is also a bit of a mixed bag to me. While he often gives the film a very slick and energetic feel, the computer effects and nu-metal music out the ass date things worse than they should.
I'll say however that this one definitely delivers on the gore factor, delivering a series of bloody and brutal kills (including a particularly gruesome bed kill), mostly at the hands of Jason who gets the vast majority of the kill count here. The real attraction of course however is Freddy and Jason themselves facing off against each other, who turn out to be quite evenly matched as they bloodily hack and slash at each other. Seeing these two duke it out is generally fun for the most part, though I don't understand how Jason is suddenly afraid of water (though I guess he had to have some kind of weakness).
So as a fan of both franchises, what are my thoughts? Eh, pretty good. I do think it takes a while to get going and the teenage drama makes things drag a little too much. However, once the two start getting into battle, this becomes quite satisfying. It’s not all that noteworthy, but it's an enjoyable enough send-off for both Krueger and Voorhees. It was fun while it lasted.