Happy Star Wars day! But let’s turn our attention to a couple of less boring franchises…
Before Freddy vs Jason, New Line had officially killed both of their bad guys off in a pair of, at best, divisive ‘final’ instalments…
Disappointing box office returns for both of the 1989 sequels (Jason Takes Manhattan and The Dream Child – $14 and $22million respectively) were the writing on the wall for cinemas biggest slasher names (Michael Myers was faring even less well at the time) and so New Line purchased the rights on Jason from Paramount and decided to lay both to rest over a couple of years.
Goodbye 80s, hello 90s: Nobody wanted a masked maniac or a quippy dream stalker on the screen anymore. Well, not for a few years anyway.
First on the chopping block was Freddy. It’s worth noting that the film was released in the UK in early 1992, a matter of weeks after Queen frontman Freddy Mercury died, so his passing was unfortunately paired with a string of TV commercials bellowing “Freddy’s dead!”
FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE
“They saved the best for last.”
A.k.a. A Nightmare on Elm Street 6
Director: Rachel Talalay / Writer: Michael De Luca / Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Lezlie Deane, Yaphet Kotto, Shon Greenblatt, Breckin Meyer, Ricky Dean Logan.
Body Count: 5
Ten years after the events of The Dream Child, Springwood is a childless burg after the relentless spate of weird deaths and ‘suicides’. Only one teenager remains, and he’s being tormented in his sleep by dreams of Freddy Krueger, who seems just a little reluctant to seal the deal and slay him.
Said teen wakes up beyond the city limits and is picked up by cops and dumped at a city juvie hall where in-house shrink-cum-social worker Maggie (Zane) works. New teen has amnesia, no I.D., and is sleep deprived. From the contents of his pockets, Maggie thinks it’s a good idea to drive him back to Springwood to jog the olde memory. It’s not a good idea at all, Maggie. It’s a bad idea.
With three juvie hall stowaways onboard, the group soon find out how weird Springwood is: Roseanne and Tom Arnold live there! Everyone else has gone loopy, there’s not a child or teenager in sight, and before long, the group are being stalked and done in by Freddy, who hitches a ride in Maggie’s subconscious (or some other unexplained shit) to escape the town where he can stalk and kill anew. ‘Inventive’ demises include a deaf kid’s head blown up when Freddy tinkers with his hearing aid and makes a lotta noise, and another is sucked into a Nintendo.
How does he do this? Well, Maggie is his daughter! Gasp! This alleged twist can be seen coming miles off, as John Doe soon suspects he is Krueger Jr., but no sooner than Maggie is introduced are her issues and ‘dreams’ are brought up. It’s pretty damn obvious it’s going to be her.
Anyway, with this knowledge, she is able to enter Freddy’s head – in 3D! – pull him out like Nancy did all those years ago, and finish him off. Freddy is dead.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey…
JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY
“Evil has finally found a home.”
A.k.a. Friday the 13th Part IX
Director/Writer: Adam Marcus / Writers: Jay Hugeley & Dean Lorey / Cast: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams, Steven Culp, Erin Gray, Kane Hodder, Allison Smith, Billy Green Bush, Kipp Marcus, Rusty Schwimmer, Richard Gant, Leslie Jordan, Julie Michaels.
Body Count: approx 23
Laughter Lines: “Looking to smoke some dope, have a little pre-marital sex and get slaughtered?”
A SWAT team take out Jason Voorhees, blowing him into numerous pieces. However, during the postmortem examination of his remains, his still-beating heart possesses the coroner, who takes a big bite out of it and becomes a vessel for Jason to use. Death for almost everyone else follows.
Meanwhile, Crystal Lake is celebrating the demise of their most notable resident, although news of the murders at the morgue and several others on a trail back to town worries local waitress Diana, who turns out to be Jason’s lil sister. Her daughter, Jessica, and infant granddaughter, are due to visit soon, but Diana fears the worst and contacts the baby’s oblivious father, Steven, to tell him all.
Sadly for Diana, “Jason” gets to her first, now bodyhopping at will. Steven is found with blood on his hands and arrested for the murder. In jail, he meets bounty hunter and Voorhees-expert Creighton Duke, who tells him that Jason can only be stopped by one of his bloodline and needs said family member to regain his usual form. Save Jessica and the baby, save the world. Well, Crystal Lake anyway.
Jason hops into the body of Jessica’s TV anchor boyfriend, killing half the cops in town, rampaging through a restaurant, before switching again for the big confrontation at the Voorhees house. Needless to say, Jessica is successful in killing her uncle and he is sucked into hell for good.
* * *
Both films are objectively bad, more so within their respective franchises. One the one hand, Freddy is presented in an even more watered down, high-comedy, low-scare way, with more jokes than kills, some cringey quips, and a whole lotta scattergun efforts to pad out his swan song.
Jason’s treatment is a severe retconning of what began as a B-movie about an axe murderer, now there’s not only the body-jumping mini-demon, but all manner of lore, magical daggers, and a sub-Evil Dead How to Kill Jason book in the mix. It’s barely a Friday the 13th film at all.
Next to one another – and I watched both over two days – Jason’s adventure is that tiny bit more enjoyable, BUT solely down to a couple of very good scenes, the rest is an undeniable suckfest. Freddy, on the other hand, has a good first ten or twenty minutes and some interesting origin tale stuff (undermined by the dismal 3D dream creature things), but it all seems so forced in. And at least The Final Friday doesn’t shy away from pushing it’s R-rating to the hilt, although some of it is too gooey.
Peter Jackson wrote one of the many scripts considered for The Final Nightmare, but the production team steered away from darker themes – possibly having been stung with their ill-conceived attempt to make The Dream Child a back-to-basics affair – and opt for a lighter route, which resulted in a very dry, low-body count film, where the chintzy 3D final ten minutes or so were pushed heavily in the TV spots, but ultimately are inconsequential and cheap looking. Freddy had ceased being scary after Dream Warriors, as his series outperformed the competition in bounds, but the bizarrely adopted concept of an undead child molester and killer had just become too big for its boots and no power in heaven or earth would ever make it scary again.
The film has a few cameos: Johnny Depp appears on TV frying an egg, and Alice Cooper is drafted in as Fred’s foster-dad. Breckin Meyer also marked his big screen debut here, and possibly regrets it. But if you’re going to end a film with a Greatest Hits compilation of highlights from the previous instalments, it’s going to make said movie look rubbish in comparison.
The Final Friday was shot in 1992 and shelved for almost a year, originally clocked in at two-and-a-half hours, and didn’t feature the best scene: This is, of course, the teen-campers aside. Test audiences complained there were no teenagers, so the genial little sidebar tale of two girls and a boy camping at Crystal Lake was added. All three are summarily slashed up (see this earlier Icky Way to Go), but it – as well as the opening seven or eight minutes – really recaptures the stalk n’ slash ambience of the 80s movies. After that, it’s downhill fast, although during this re-watch, I noticed the subtle (and not so) homoerotic nuances lurking beneath a few scenes; Adam Marcus allegedly ‘made up’ for the girls-only nudity rule of the previous eight movies with more naked guys and the very obscure shaving scene. Maybe Jason is gay?
Of course, both characters were revived to duke it out ten years later in the phenomenally successful Freddy vs Jason, mercifully putting this pair of duds in the shadows, and both have since seen remakes that all but halted the franchises again.
I wouldn’t choose to watch either of these, and probably won’t for another decade or so, by which time I hope both will have seen at least one new film each.
Blurbs-of-interest: Beyond his Krueger role, Robert Englund was also in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Hatchet, Heartstopper, The Phantom of the Opera, and Urban Legend; Breckin Meyer was in Stag Night; Kane Hodder played Jason in Parts VII – X and was also in Behind the Mask, Children of the Corn V, all three Hatchet movies, and Hack!; Leslie Jordan was in Madhouse; Steven Culp had a cameo in Scream Queens; Adam Marcus later co-wrote Texas Chainsaw 3D.