Winner Kills All
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"Freddy Vs. Jason" - The Script Vs. The Film
By Dayna Van Buskirk
How sad that when the two biggest icons in horror finally, after years of anticipation, meet on the big screen to do battle, their downfall is not a loss by one to the other, but the fact that neither survives the merciless cuts of the filmmakers. How appropriate that they call the Freddy and Jason franchise 'slasher' films, because there's only one way to describe what was done to the script that finally got the green light - it was butchered. Ten years in the making, over a dozen rejected screenwriters and ideas, and finally Damian Shannon and Mark Swift deliver a script that everybody likes, only to have it stripped down and sacrificed to the WWF mentality and a music-video style montage of what barely resemble the scenes as they were written. The script, as written, as it painted a picture in my imagination, was fantastic. It was on par with the best films of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th series; an homage, a real horror film with the perfect tone. In fact, it was probably more like the original Elm Street movie in pacing and in promise than anything. That movie, the one that Swift and Shannon wrote, would have been an enjoyable one. Executed as written, I'd have given it a 75% - 80% for what it managed to accomplish after so much has already been done. The Freddy Vs. Jason in theaters right now is an embarrassment to that script. My film score, a solid 55%, and only because of the make-up effects and some of the visuals. It's barely worth the trip to the theater, and a disappointment on every level, but especially frustrating when you know how much better it could have been.
I haven't read a version of the script that has David Goyer's name on it anywhere, so his contributions to the film remain a mystery. Two of the final drafts of Damian and Swift's script, one of which was to be the shooting script, were almost identical. The movie was far from it. The foundation of the story was there, but must of the sub-plots stripped down and forced into a few lines of dialogue, leaving much of the movie confusing to those who couldn't figure out what to make of the lingering remnants of a story that was once coherent. That dumbing down of the story was the first red flag that the movie had taken a wrong turn, when the film opens with a tacky voice-over by Freddy explaining exactly what's happening. A few of the opening scenes that did make sense and made for effective storytelling in the script were cut down so that instead of having a beginning, middle and end, they had a middle and maybe an abrupt end. It was just a shame to watch what was once a decent scene turned into a clip that belongs in a trailer. Director Ronny Yu chose an editing style that didn't fit the tone of the script at all, and perhaps New Line's choice to bring in a crew of filmmakers who, for the most part had no knowledge of the Nightmare for Friday legacy, was a big mistake. A slow, steady progression of scenes, time to let the words and the images sink in, is what was needed. Instead we get quick cuts a pace that belongs in a Michael Bay movie. Add to that some really poor casting and it becomes clear this movie's fate has been sealed for some time.
(Continue from this point only if you've seen the film, read the script or don't intend to do either, because spoilers await.)
The opening of the film was similar in the script, but certain scenes were longer, others not there. Freddy says maybe two lines of dialogue in voice over, compared to his monologue of exposition in the film, as he explains not only his past but his motivations for reviving Jason. The scene in which Jason is first introduced is much longer; the camp counselor we see skinny dipping in the lake doesn't just suddenly go skinny dipping in the lake. She first makes the all important mistake of neglecting her campers, sending a kid who complains of nightmares back to bed sternly just so she can meet a boy at the lake. When she tries to return to the "safety" of the cabin when Jason makes his appearance, she's locked out; the same kid giving her the finger when she begs to be let in. She gets killed, machete style, and the rest of the scene plays out like in the movie - Freddy taking on the form of Jason's mother to wake him from his sleep, send him to Springwood to kill. In the script, he had specific instructions to kill just one bad teenager, and then return to Crystal Lake.
When Jason finishes with his task, but doesn't return to Crystal Lake, of course the conflict begins. Freddy's plan works perfectly, and Jason's murder awakens a fear in the town, and the legend of Krueger. That fear gives Freddy power, and he returns to the nightmares of Springwood's young. There was a scene earlier in the film in which Freddy is about to kill Blake, but Blake wakes, only to be killed by Jason in the real world, leaving only a dead corpse in the dream world and no fun for Freddy. "This town isn't big enough for the two of us," is Krueger's response. "'Cuz Freddy don't do sloppy seconds." (One of a number of great one-liners that got cut.) Seeing that this scene was changed, and that instead of missing the opportunity Freddy simply wasn't strong enough yet to kill Blake, was a good thing. I was quite happy to see it gone, since the exact same thing happens in an even more creative scene later in the film, when Freddy is about to go in for the kill and take out Gibb, only to get a face full of her blood as Jason dispense of her in the waking world. The only problem is, the element of surprise regained by cutting the earlier scene was lost in the movie when the director chose to clearly show that Jason was watching Gibb in the cornfield. We knew the kill was coming, 2 + 2 aren't that hard to put together. This was a great opportunity wasted, one of many.
Some other changes from the script include the character of Mark, Will's pal from the mental hospital. In the script his name was Carlos, though he played pretty much the same part. The kids do a lot more of the speculating and discover who Freddy is, who Jason is and why one is using the other over time. A lot of this was just skimmed over in the final film, though I'm not sure I would have bought this particular cast doing to much additional thinking.
After Lori goes into her dreams to bring Freddy into the real world, the fight between the two killers was to be quite different. First of all, it is introduced that Crystal Lake is under redevelopment, and Lakeside Resorts is going up. As our heroes and the villains (who are really the heroes, right?) show up at the lake, an executive meeting is in progress, and a Crystal Lake cop is patrolling the area. This gives Freddy and Jason a whole new buffet of victims to get in the way as they duke it out, so consequently there are a lot more deaths. Jason seriously give Freddy an ass-kicking in the real world, and Krueger must use his brain to outwit his much larger, stronger opponent. This leads to some great stuff, but then again there's some great fighting in the movie, which is visually more interesting than anything in the script. However, I just don't buy, given the rules that have been established, that Krueger could possibly hold his own that well in a physical fight with Jason Voorhees. Ronny Yu sure likes his blood, and the climax that was filmed is much more graphic and filled with gore than anything in the script. But what was written really had you wanting to see what happened next. There was something missing among all the special effects and stunts in the climax of the film.
Kia's death was also a lot funnier in the script. In the middle of the battle between Freddy and Jason she comes face to face with the hockey masked killer, and promptly confronts him. She claims that she's not afraid of him, remembering what her friends had said about the legend, and that he cannot hurt her without her fear. Freddy is there just in time to remind her as she stands there confidently that she's got the wrong killer. She's promptly beheaded by Jason, and the fight continues.
The way these two unstoppable forces take each other down in the end, in the screenplay, is roughly the same, but in some ways the exact opposite. Getting hacked to pieces, ending up on the dock, Freddy makes a desperate move and does the eye-gouge thing with the glove. Jason reacts by shopping off his hand, and the two stumble around on the dock, virtually impotent. As Jason blindly makes his way toward Freddy, Krueger goes bare handed, in through a wound in Jason's side, between his ribs, and rips out his heart. Just as Jason falls into the lake, and Freddy raises his vanquished foe's hart in victory, Lori and Will hit him with the ignited propane, and blow Krueger into the lake. Then a strange thing happens, a portal of sorts opens in the lakebed, and the water drains, neither Killer anywhere to be seen.
In the end Deputy Stubbs (who doesn't die in the script) and Lori's father show up. In a split moment that doesn't really work, but does mirror the original Nightmare on Elm Street, as Lori's father picks up Krueger's glove, Freddy's hand comes out of the ground and him beneath the earth, in an act of revenge that leaves Lori an orphan. Remember, Freddy already killed her mother.
The screenplay ends in hell, Krueger slipping on his glove, already on his knees as Jason swings a battle axe. Freddy squares off against Jason in a deep, dark pit, as an unseen crowd cheers. They are "surrounded by the eyes of a thousand dark demons and a million tortured souls."
Whether any of these individual scenes that were altered or lost sound like a missing ingredient or it seems like material you're glad didn't make the cut, it's just part of what made Damian Shannon and Mark Swift's screenplay far different from the movie it was turned into. The script truly was an entertaining read, and had a lot of promise. For a moment it looked as though Freddy Vs. Jason was going to combine the best of both franchises. It's just that far too much of the important aspects of the script were abandoned; much of the successful formula that made a good Nightmare and a memorable Friday was tinkered with to the point where not enough remains. A little too much video game influence made its way into the mix, far to much WWF, MTV and numerous other initialed influences plague this movie, making it one big wasted opportunity. I recommend tracking down the script once it's available online, it's worth the read, and victorious in comparison.