Knows its chops
Fans of neither the Friday the 13th nor Nightmare on Elm Street series will not be converted by this long-awaited crossover, but it delivers the bloody “goods” for the Fangorian faithful.
Effectively forgotten by his home town of Springwood via a complete cover-up involving the institutionalization of all witnesses – and dosing the remaining population with “Hypnocil” – dream demon Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) seethes in some unnamed netherworld, unable to continue his reign of terror. He revives immortal man-monster Jason Voorhees (Ken Kirzinger, who had a bit part in Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan) and sends him to Elm Street to covertly slaughter a few teens and bring back bad memories. But Jason refuses to slow down once Freddy’s name starts being bandied about once again, mowing down youngsters at a rural rave in an orgy of blood and fire. When Jason begins poaching Freddy’s targets, this dispute over turf leads to an inevitable and satisfyingly gruesome showdown.
F Vs. J is at its bloody best whenever its monsters are on screen – with cackling Englund not above addressing the camera and massive Kirzinger managing some pathos from behind his spattered hockey mask. This comic-book inspired thriller from Hong Kong director Ronny Yu (Bride of Chucky, Bride with White Hair) loses energy whenever it concentrates on the dumb teen protagonists, with a script that faithfully wallows in ridiculous clichés so thick that they sometimes border on Scary Movie territory. Buxom Monica Keena is stuck with the poorly written virgin heroine role, accompanied by pop star Kelly Rowland as her cosmetics-obsessed pal, as well as Katharine Isabelle (of the Ginger Snaps werewolf series), who provides some of the required drinking, smoking and nudity. Following the slasher movie formula, the “sinful” teens are prime targets, but the film gives a solid wink in the direction of drug culture. The kids are protected by downing the fictional (and illegal) drug Hypnocil (introduced in Nightmare on Elm Street 3), and a few funny bits contributed by a Jason Mewes clone named Freeburg (Kyle Labine, a veteran of Halloween: Resurrection). In one of many f/x highlights, Freeburg has an encounter with Freddy transformed into a hookah-smoking caterpillar.
But this monster rally overcomes the relentless stupidity of the teen character’s dialogue when the focus shifts back to its killer stars, who eventually hack their way towards each other for an extremely violent confrontation at Camp Crystal Lake (which happens to be within driving distance of Springwood). (The lakeside climax may echo the fate of Keena’s Dawson’s Creek character.) It’s one of those movies you forgive for its own stupidity because it joyfully gives its target audience the kicks they demand – the last few entries in both series seemed hesitant about their horrors, pulling back from hard shocks. Here, Krueger is the snarling devil that springs from the shadows once again, and Voorhees is the unstoppable death-dealer lopping off heads right and left. When they come at each other, the blood flies in earnest, which is just as it should be.