Honest Sinner vs. False Saint: Revisiting FREDDY VS. JASON (2003)
NOTE: Originally published in THE MONSTER GOSPELS (2017). Photos added.
“We're not safe awake or asleep.”
Distributor: New Line Cinema
Producers: Sean S. Cunningham, Robert Shaye
Director: Ronny Yu
Writers: Damian Shannon and Mark Swift
Runtime: 97 minutes
Rating: R for pervasive strong horror violence/gore, gruesome images, sexuality, drug use and language
Scripture Reading: James 4:11-17
This match-up was in development for decades. At one point, Freddy vs. Jason would take place in the same faux-reality as Wes Craven's New Nightmare, a movie about Freddy coming to life and terrorizing the filmmakers who created him. It would have been about a real-world Jason standing trial for his crimes. Other versions sought to retcon the mythos and imply that Freddy is Jason's father, or that the reason Jason ran to his death in the lake as a child was because he walked in on a pre-burned Freddy in bed with his mom (a gag later used in a Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash comic). At still another point, the movie would end with the two of them slugging it out in a boxing ring in the netherworld, refereed by none other than Pinhead. The finished product is a loving tribute to both franchises, with enough nods from each to keep its respective fans happy.
The tussle was teased in 1993 at the end of Jason Goes to Hell. Jason is defeated, presumably for good and all. His hockey mask lays in the dirt, but Freddy's gloved hand shoots up from the ground and claims it. The 2003 movie opens in a limbo where Jason thinks that he is still at Camp Crystal Lake. Freddy is also stuck there, incapable of getting back into the dream world because the town of Springwood has found a way to make everyone forget him. Freddy feeds on fear, so he's impotent if no one is afraid of him. Freddy resurrects Jason and sends him to Elm Street, figuring that if kids start showing up dead they'll blame him and be afraid again. Freddy's return is hindered, however, by the fact that Jason won't stop killing, and so he has to put him down.
The challenge of a fight movie like this is that we tend to “cast” one combatant in a heroic role and one in a villainous role, but both monsters are villains. For instance, Godzilla films work because the filmmakers have him battle worse monsters than he. Freddy vs. Jason accomplishes this by capitalizing on the presumption that Jason is a righteous anti-hero (see Chapter 13). Consider Jason's targets: teenagers who have premarital sex, who drink, or who do drugs. He's a symbol of divine retribution, so the movie wants us to root for him. Freddy is the real villain, manipulating the poor, confused Jason into doing his bidding. With a little bit of squinting, we have the hero vs. villain formula we're used to. The problem, obviously, is that killing immoral people does not actually make you moral.
This brings us to the concept of Sins of Commission vs. Sins of Omission. We usually think of sin as an immoral action that we shouldn't do but do anyway. Don't lie. Don't steal. Don't have underage, drug and alcohol-fueled orgies in the woods because a zombified hydrocephalic in a hockey mask will brutally murder you with garden tools. You know, the usual. Sins of Commission are the sins you commit. Sins of Omission are good things that you should do but don't. It isn't what you commit, but omit. Omitting forgiveness, or the truth, or charity, and so on.
To illustrate the difference between the two, imagine Freddy's glove – an intentional weapon of deliberate evil. He does things with his glove. Now picture Jason's featureless, white mask. What is a goalie mask but a shield, something to hide behind. By punishing guilty teens, Jason sets himself above them as a moral authority, but his morality is based on the wrong things that he doesn't do, which isn't the same as doing the right thing. Perhaps this is why Friday the 13th movies show us his repulsive face at the end, to remind us he's a monster. Freddy vs. Jason leaves the mask on, allowing him to pose as a “hero.”
Most Christians are able to balance having morals and not condemning others, but there are Jasons stalking in our churches today, locked in tireless battle with the Freddy Kruegers of the world. Jasons rail against obvious, lifestyle sins but tend to be suspiciously silent on sins of heart, like gossiping or judging others. Behind their pure masks, they're content in a morality built solely on the bad that they've not done and forget that we're saved by grace, not an absence of sin. Freddy, on the other, knife-tipped hand, embraces what he is. One could re-title the movie Honest Sinner vs. False Saint. Being an honest sinner is no license to keep sinning (Romans 6:1-2), but, remember, “not doing bad” simply isn't “good” enough. Neither is “being good;” that's the point of grace, and it's sharper than any machete or razor glove.
- Who do you root for, Freddy or Jason? Why?
- Do you find that you've sinned more by the things you've done or
the opportunities that you left undone?
If you enjoyed this examination of Halloween, you might like my book, The Monster Gospels, a devotional of spiritual lessons we can learn from 31 of the best scary movies ever made. Get your copy here.
A Queens native, Jason grew up in Lakeland, FL and attended Rochelle School of the Arts before moving to Florida's Nature Coast, where he resides. He always dreamed of being a storyteller, and he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Saint Leo University with a BA in Psychology and a Minor in Religion. He has been a professional guest speaker for thirteen years, talking at churches, graduations, and as a guest lecturer at Pasco-Hernando State College.