#7 in my ranking of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.
The two horror titans fight! And…then there’s a bunch of boring teenagers trying to figure out if they’re in a Nightmare on Elm Street movie or a Friday the 13th movie. I’m somewhat a fan of the Freddy franchise, enjoying the imagination that tends to go into the kills and, especially, the endings. I’ve never really been able to get into Jason’s movies, though. I’ve watched the first three and barely made it, never deciding to go further. So, when I come into this showdown, I guess I’m rooting for Freddy to some degree, at least hoping that the dream sequences are fun and imaginative like some of the best in Freddy’s films. I didn’t get that. If I had to guess, I’d say that Ronny Yu is more of a fan of Jason than Freddy.
A lot of the previous Nightmare films got retconned here to change a fair number of the rules, and I’m largely okay with that. The franchise was always picking and choosing what rules to follow up on and invent in each new entry, so saying that Freddy operates on fear of his name to get into teenaged dreams might not gel with anything in the previous films. However, it works enough, and I’m okay with it. So, he decides to infect the dreams of Jason Voorhees, who is in Hell, bringing him back to the undead and sending him to Elm Street to begin a reign of terror that will, somehow, bring Freddy’s name back into the public consciousness of Springwood, Ohio. Sure. Whatever.
We meet a group of teenagers, mostly Lori (Monica Keena), Kia (Kelly Rowland), and Gibb (Katharine Isabelle), three female friends who bring over a couple of boys including Gibb’s boyfriend to stay with Lori on a dark and stormy night. Jason sneaks in like a ninja, kills Gibb’s boyfriend brutally without being seen by anyone, and the police let slip the name of Freddy Krueger in front of the kids on accident. This brings Freddy into Lori’s dream at the police station, pretty mundane dream stuff with a couple of nice moments like pictures of missing children coming alive and watching Lori as she passes. There’s a warning about Krueger, but when Freddy discovers that he’s not strong enough to kill in another teen’s dream (followed swiftly by Jason appearing right there and killing both that teen and his dad), things are going to go south.
There’s a big party in a remote cornfield (because dumb kids in a Friday the 13th movie), and both Jason and Freddy show up. Gibb falls asleep and she ends up in the industrial hellscape that is Freddy’s home in dreamworld, but before Freddy can kill her, Jason kills her sleeping body, robbing him of his prize. Now, this was where the movie was, perhaps, at its most interesting. A competition between Freddy and Jason to claim teenagers before the other was kind of intriguing, but it goes nowhere. Freddy just simply decides that it’s time to kill the immortal Jason. After the massacre in the cornfield, our core group of teenagers including Lori, Kia, and Will (Jason Ritter), an escaped patient of the nearby mental institution that works at trying to suppress the dreams of teenagers who know about Freddy, head into the mental institution to get helpings of Hypnocin, the drug introduced in the third Freddy movie as a dream suppressant.
Things come to a head, and Freddy gets Jason to sleep by a mixture of possession (he did do that in the second one) and a heavy application of drugs in syringes, and we get our showdown!
Now, I’ve said that I enjoy the Nightmare franchise largely because of the dream sequences. I was expecting something along these lines during the Freddy vs. Jason showdown in dreamworld, and I was disappointed. It’s all on one set. There’s no play with physics or anything, and Freddy just acts like a scary Jedi, Force-pushing Jason around after they get into a fistfight, that ends with Freddy capturing Jason in the middle of a bunch of water that turns him into his quivering, younger self. Is it canon in the Jason movies that he’s afraid of water? I don’t know. Maybe. It’s a decent enough idea, but the near complete lack of imagination around this showdown was a real disappointment, although I do really like the look into Jason’s psyche represented by a broken down house in the middle of a lake where he takes and deposits the bodies of teenagers. It’s the most imaginative thing in the film, and it’s Jason’s, not Freddy’s. I swear, in a Freddy vs. Jason movie, Jason should not have the most memorable kills, but he does.
Freddy can’t finish his task, and the kids decide that in order to deal with the conflict of two behemoths, they will take Jason’s sleeping body to Camp Crystal Lake which could possibly help in the showdown somehow. Through a series of events, Lori ends up pulling Freddy into the real world at the camp, and we get out big second showdown between the two, and it feels more fully like a Friday the 13th movie than the dream sequences were ever part of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.
I can get why big slasher fans would get into this. There’s a good amount of splatter spread throughout, punctuating the action every few minutes while being largely over the top. It should satisfy their cinematic bloodlust. I was mostly bored, though. The teenagers are dull and dumb. There are a handful of small subplots with the teenagers that the movie never bothers to actually finish (Lori thought her dad killed her mom and accused him of her murder at one point while we never get any sort of reconciliation by the end). The nightmare sequences are bland. I suppose it’s best when Jason is doing his killing, but that’s honestly not all that much. I also don’t like the redesign of Freddy, especially his teeth, and Englund feels largely wasted in the role that he was able to make more of his own in previous entries.
I didn’t hate it, but I’m convinced that there was a more effective and enjoyable way to put the two horror icons into the same slasher film.