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Ugly slasher battle

Here's the perfect movie to arrive an hour late for.

Freddy vs. Jason wastes two-thirds of its time getting to the promised battle between slasher-film giants Freddy Krueger (Nightmare On Elm Street) and Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th). The setup is bad even by slasher-film standards: poorly acted, atrociously written and unimaginatively directed. But once Freddy and Jason have at it, the movie takes on a recklessly kinetic energy that finally delivers on its title's promise.

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As the film opens, poor Freddy's in a bad way. The kids of Elm Street have forgotten all about him; they don't even dream anymore. And for a guy who kills kids by entering their dreams, that's a sad thing. But Freddy is a resourceful demon, and he hits on a plan: resurrect that uber-nasty Jason, he of the hockey mask and the machete, stick him on Elm Street and ratchet up the kids' terror quotient. That'll leave the field open for Freddy to make a comeback.

Of course, things go wrong. Jason amps up the terror all right, but he doesn't know when to stop; his modus operandi is cutting people up real good, and dead teens don't do much dreaming. It seems Elm Street is only big enough for one immortal demon.

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The first hour of Freddy vs. Jason is nothing we haven't seen umpteen times before, as scores of randy, hard-drinking teens get killed for their sins. Only the virtuous, if voluptuous, Lori (Monica Keena) and her boyfriend, Will (Jason Ritter), scamper speedily enough to survive, if not exactly prosper.

The movie has serious leaps of logic throughout, and the dialogue is especially clunky, little but a series of slasher-movie cliches (although I did enjoy the assessment of one stoner, who says of Jason, "That goalie is [angry] about something").

But the final showdown between Jason and Freddy is a hoot, as the former gets tossed around like he's in some sadistic pinball game and the latter discovers his wisecracks don't do much good against a relentless embodiment of pure evil. And thank goodness for Robert Englund, now in his 19th year of playing Freddy; alone among the cast, he understands the absurdity of the whole endeavor, and runs with it. There are times he even makes the first hour of the film bearable.

Freddy vs. Jason

Starring Robert Englund, Ken Kirzinger, Monica Keena

Directed by Ronny Yu

Released by New Line Cinema

Rated R (Language, nudity, violence, gore)

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Time 97 minutes

Sun Score **


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