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Freddy Vs. Jason: The Greatest Franchise That Never Was

1993 was the year that horror films will always remember.  This was the year that Jason Voorhees would claim his last victim. After 13  years, 9 movies, and 94 brutally creative murders, Jason Voorhees’s final Friday was upon us.

Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday was not well received by critics.  Fans also failed to turn out for their favorite masked menace. The movie earned just under $16,000,000.00 and wasn’t given an international release.  Those numbers mean that The Final Friday failed to outperform its disappointing predecessor: Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan. With disappointing returns in the Nightmare On Elm Street and Halloween installments in the mid-nineties, the sun seemed to have set on the slasher genre. 

The jury had delivered their verdict.  Gory death scenes were out.  Teen Romance and madcap comedies were in.

Jason Goes To Hell Wasn’t A Box Office Success, But It’s Surprise Ending Set Up Ten Years Of Anticipation.

Yet, one small clip kept the dream alive for horror fans.  We all remember it like we watched it this morning with our coffee.  The dust blows away some dirt, exposing the iconic goalie mask that Jason sported since his second feature film.  A dog explores it and runs away in fear.  Then, Robert Englund’s sinister laugh grabs you as tightly as Freddy Krueger’s razor fisted glove grabs the mask.

The laughter of Freddy, competing with the Crystal Lake whispers to end Jason’s swan song drove fans everywhere mad with anticipation and wild theories.  Would they dare to do it? Is this why New Line Cinema bought the rights to this aging character from Paramount?

The possibilities were endless and the theories were boundless.  School cafeterias were divided on the matter.  Jason is stronger, but Freddy is smarter.  Freddy is creative, but Jason is relentlessly brutal.  There was never an end to the debate, and nobody was able to stick a good enough point to close their case. 

More civilized debates were occurring between baseball fans in Boston and New York.

The Long Wait Didn’t Stop The Fans

Ten long years went by after Jason Goes To Hell before the fans would finally get to see the battle of the two biggest names in horror go toe to toe with one another.  Each year horror fans would wait with baited breath as movies were announced for the year.  Each year was a disappointment.  We were teased in 2001 with Jason X.

Jason X wasn’t a bad movie, Lexa Doig definitely showed some Scream Queen potential.  However, the ending that Jason being ridden into the Earth’s atmosphere like a boogie-board  killed any momentum that Jason’s last original standalone entry had.  The fans had finally been fed up.  New Line needed to get Freddy Vs. Jason out of Development Hell and deliver the fans a respectable film. 

Jason X Was An Acceptable Entry Into The Franchise, But It Just Wasn’t What The Fans Wanted.

The rumors started up again at a furious pace.  Multiple scripts were written.  Joss Whedon is said to have written a treatment that involved the elevator to Hell.  Other treatments included Jason’s long lost father, Elias Voorhees resurrecting his son.

Every story you could imagine involving these two icons was committed to paper, including a bizarre parody of  The O.J. Simpson Trial.

Every single treatment was rejected.  

Then, what was previously just a pipe dream became a glorious reality.  Movie goers finally got what they wanted after ten agonizing years filled with rumors and false hope.  We finally got an official answer on the status of the film and a cool, sleek trailer

Cloud nine had been reached.  This was the real deal, not the sales pitch trailer that leaked in 1997 that led to visible frustration.

The Movie Itself

Upon its release, Freddy Vs. Jason had proven to be divisive towards fans.  While the casting of Robert Englund as Freddy was expected and lauded by the fans, the casting of Ken Kirzinger as Jason was not as well received.  Kane Hodder was a fan favorite for the role and everyone expected him to be cast. Director Ronny Yu had other plans and moved on from Hodder, which came as a disappointment.

The rest of the cast was assembled very well.  Monica Keena did an excellent job in the lead role  and was a really good choice as the final girl.  Kelly Rowland, then best known for being the best singer in the pop group known as “Destiny’s Child” was a good selection as a supporting actress and horror veterans Katherine Isabelle (A scream queen in her own right with the Ginger Snaps series) brought credibility to the film with a name recognizable to horror fans.

Kane Hodder Is A Favorite With Fans Of Friday The Thirteenth. The Choice To Replace Him Was Met With Disappointment.

Jason Ritter, Chris Marquette and Lochlyn Munroe who were all relatively well known names at the time also gave decent contributions to the film.  The only unequivocally bad choice in casting was that of Kyle Labine (Brother of Tyler, who starred in the hit film Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil). Labine played the cringeworthy role of stoner Bill Freeburg and came off as a little kid who was trying to dress up like Jason Mewes for Halloween.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  It was a throwback to the slasher films of old.  It had creative kills, campy humor and all of the teen shenanigans one would expect when going to a horror movie.

The plot was competently written, my critique would be that it was written TOO competently.  They could have afforded to go all out and take more risks.  Rowland and Isabelle turned in great performances by horror standards and Monica Keena had the chops to carry the potential franchise the same way that Neve Campbell carried the Scream series.

It’s a shame the franchise never took off.

The Sequel That Never Happened

On a $30,000,000.00 budget, Freddy Vs. Jason raked in $116,632,628.00.  The film was the most successful box office return for either series.  It seemed to be that the slasher genre was at the beginning of a renaissance and a sequel to such a success would be a no-brainer.  Alas, Hollywood is a cruel mistress.  Twenty years have passed since we got the movie we were all asking for.  That is double the wait time from Jason Goes To Hell to Freddy Vs. Jason. 

It is safe to say that a sequel won’t be happening. A number of factors at play that prevented what was once seen as inevitable.

The biggest hurdle to clear is rights to certain characters.  New Line wanted to include a third slasher in the potential sequel.  Unlike the classic movie monsters of the thirties, forties and fifties who were all owned by Universal Studios, most horror films belonged to rival companies.

Michael Myers Was Rumored To Have Been A Huge Part In A Potential Sequel. However, Negotiations With Dimension weren’t Fruitful.

Pinhead from the Hellraiser franchise was rumored to be involved, as was Michael Myers.  At the time, both characters belonged to Dimension Films.  New Line Cinema had the rights to Leatherface, but decided against entering him into the franchise most likely because he was human and it would make no sense.  Then the idea of Ash from The Evil Dead franchise came into play and fans loved the idea. It never made it to film.

Instead of giving the fans the sequel that they were clamoring for, the studios decided to reboot both franchises.  Friday The 13th would get a fresh start in 2009. A Nightmare On Elm Street wouldn’t be far behind, getting its own reboot in 2010.

Both movies did exceedingly well at the box office, tripling their budgets.  Fans however, did not seem to care for the new direction of these beloved franchises.  Not only did the reboots fail to get sequels, Freddy vs. Jason 2 was shelved indefinitely.  At least it was on the cinematic side of things.

Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash

When the reboots for both series were green lit in 2007, it became clear that a franchise centered around Freddy Vs. Jason wasn’t going to happen.  So Wildstorm (Now DC) Comics acquired the rights to the sequel and published a six issue limited series based on the screenplay by Jeff Katz (Producer of Snakes on a Plane) Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash hit store shelves in 2007.  It was wildly successful and followed by another six issue sequel titled Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash: The Nightmare Warriors.

Freddy Vs. Jason Vs. Ash And Its Sequel Sold So Well In Book Shops, to the point where New Line Almost Adapted The Comics Into A Movie.



Oddly enough, the popularity of the comics got New Line to reconsider the franchise and adapt the comics into a film. Things would eventually fall apart when they were unable to successfully negotiate with Bruce Campbell.

The Final Takeaway

The Slasher genre holds a special place in the hearts of movie goers who were able to experience it in its heyday. They were fun, gory, sexy, scary and sometimes hilarious movies that guaranteed nothing but a good time for horror fans.  We didn’t need pretentious, avant garde cinema.  We just wanted awesome makeup effects, creative jump scares, and our favorite monsters dominating the screen.

In many ways, I think Freddy vs. Jason is a fitting end to a genre that has no chance at being widely accepted by “modern audiences”.  Slasher films are too controversial and would have an artificial feel to them if they were made today. 

Freddy Vs. Jason closed out an amazing era in cinema in the best way possible. By giving the fans what they want and leaving them asking for more.

Happy 20th anniversary to the greatest franchise that never was.

Thank you for reading! When I am not writing I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my three year old daughter Frankie and my loyal hound Marbles.  Keep up to date with us and follow us here on Twitter, and don’t forget to subscribe to our new YouTube channel.  Stay Geeky Everybody!

 

 

 

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