No matter how you feel about Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, the final moment which sees Freddy Krueger’s glove burst out of the ground to retrieve Jason Voorhees’ mask and bring it back down to hell was an all-timer. With the two horror icons dominating the ‘80s and taking their final bow in the early ‘90s (well, until Jason X in 2001), with The Final Friday releasing in 1993 and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare in 1994, the idea that these two horror juggernauts would be hanging out in hell together was a fitting end to their reign. That was something fans really wanted to see. The idea to bring these two together in a crossover event had already been tossed about for years by the time The Final Friday released, though.
It wasn’t until 2003 that fans finally got their wish, for better or worse, with one of horror’s biggest events in Freddy vs Jason.
The road to getting this crossover film made was hell. Navigating the treacherous waters of licensing was arduous and long, with New Line owning the rights to A Nightmare on Elm Street series and Paramount owning the Friday the 13th franchise. Both tried to work together to make a Freddy vs Jason movie in 1987 but couldn’t come to an agreement. When license rights lapsed on Friday the 13th, New Line acquired them. While a major step in the right direction, that was only the beginning. New Line still had to find an exec that was interested in producing horror, which wasn’t an easy task at the time. Enter New Line senior VP of production Stokely Chaffin, who’d previously produced I Know What You Did Last Summer and was a huge horror fan. Rights and financial backing in place meant the next big hurdle to cross; settling on a script and a director. Both proved to be just as daunting as the long years it had already taken in the journey to bring Jason and Freddy together.
Chaffin agreed to meet with anyone interested in the project, resulting in 60 different meetings in the search for a director. She either found directors who were qualified but had never seen any of the franchise films, or super fans who had zero experience. She sought out director Ronny Yu, who had helmed The Bride with White Hair and Bride of Chucky, twice before he accepted. The script was an entirely different story, with around 12 different writers and 17 drafts in existence at various points. And boy were there some wacky story ideas involved. Eventually, screenwriting duties fell to Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, and David S. Goyer was brought in after to condense their two-and-a-half-hour feature into something much tighter and brisker in pace.
Yu’s approach to Freddy vs Jason drew from unexpected inspiration; Rocky Balboa’s fight with Apollo Creed. He wanted to recapture the rawness of that epic battle and unleash Jason and Freddy on each other. The more blood the better, which is the best possible approach with these two horror titans. This really was the long-awaited, main heavyweight event between two beloved horror icons, and the climactic battle mostly ignores the fresh meat in favor of Freddy and Jason trading blows.
The weak spot of the film was the narrative involving the teens, and some of the kills were downright goofy (Freddy possessing stoner Freeburg as a caterpillar?), but they were all second fiddle to the true stars of the film: Freddy and Jason. Yu never lost sight of the film’s purpose, and that was to deliver on horror’s biggest sporting event ever. Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger (the tallest Jason ever at 6’6”) received top billing. The original ending focused on Lori (Monica Keena) and Will (Jason Ritter), but Yu didn’t like it because it wasn’t focused on Freddy and Jason. Trimming that out was a smart move. This was Robert Englund’s last performance as Freddy Krueger and having him close out the film with a wink to the audience was a perfect final bow.
In the 15 years since Freddy vs Jason made huge waves at the box office, a few have tried to capture the same success. Alien vs Predator followed a year later and tried again with their sequel in 2007. Alien vs Predator didn’t reach the same heights because they spent too much time with the human characters, involving them directly in the battle fans really came to see. Even Japan’s Sadako vs Kayako, while successful, took too long to get to the main event.
It’s now been 15 years since the biggest horror crossover event arrived in theaters. It didn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s okay. Because Freddy vs Jason is exactly what the title suggests; a major sporting event between two titans maiming, filleting, and slaughtering each other, spilling gallons of blood in the process.
That’s all it needed to be.