As a horror genre nutball, there were two films — held high above all others — whose statuses still remain as my top two most anticipated releases of all time. The first was Halloween: H20, released when I was a wee 14 years old. The second was Freddy vs. Jason, the ultimate mash-up dream movie combining the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street series' boogeymen. Unlike the former, an idea that came together pretty quickly, the genesis of Freddy vs. Jason, released in 2003, dates back to the late ‘80s, when both franchises were starting to suffer from box office fatigue and needed a shot of adrenaline. I even had in my possession, for a long time, a very small newspaper clipping announcing the film’s pre-production, then called “Jason vs. Freddy,” due to be released in “the summer of 1997” and would be directed by none other than special effects maestro Rob Bottin (The Thing).
This, obviously, did not happen — along with many other iterations which included different cast members, writers, and directors. Names like the departed Brad Renfro (The Client, Apt Pupil) and a pre-career revival Jason Bateman were once mentioned. Established characters from both franchises were to appear — Alice from A Nightmare on Elm Street Parts 4 and 5, along with Steven, Jessica, and a grown-up version of baby Stephanie from Jason Goes To Hell. That latter portion, especially, makes sense, given that Jason Goes To Hell’s shock ending included Freddy Krueger’s infamous glove pulling Jason’s mask down, essentially, into Hell. That’s how quickly New Line Cinema believed Freddy vs. Jason would come together, rather than the decade it actually took.
So, after all its false starts and legendary production hells, how did Freddy vs. Jason fare? Well, it lit up the box office opening weekend, and accumulated $115 worldwide by the end of its theatrical run. It was so successful that a sequel called “Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash,” which would have brought The Evil Dead series’ Bruce Campbell into the fold, was seriously discussed. Not bad for a very R-rated horror film consisting of franchises whose previous solo trips to theaters resulted in pitiful returns. Critics (genre ones, anyway) were split, but fans were mostly happy with the final product. Personally, I loved it, warts and all — and, holy shit, are there some warts. Kindly, and like Halloween: H20, the version of it that lives in my memory plays a lot better than on the flat screen of my present, but it still offers bloody violence, a reasonably clever plot, and a winking/knowing sense of fun. The creative talent behind the cameras of Freddy vs. Jason took the concept just as seriously as it deserved, and it shows (which is not a slight at all).
Not long after its release, Fangoria dedicated two whopping issues to feature a very long article about all the different iterations of Freddy vs. Jason that had been discussed over the years, along with interviews of those involved. It was reasonably in-depth for what Fango’s page count would allow, but was retold in an anecdotal nature. The morsels that were shared by previous screenwriters of unmade scripts hinted at far larger and more wild stories, some or most of which seemed destined never to have their stories realistically told.
From Dustin McNeill (interview here), author of Phantasm Exhumed: The Unauthorized Companion and Further Exhumed: The Strange Case of Phantasm Ravager comes Slash of the Titans: The Road to Freddy vs. Jason, the definitive look at the crazy-long and very troubled production history of not just the film Freddy vs. Jason, but the idea of “Freddy vs. Jason.” For those familiar with McNeill’s previous literary examinations of the Phantasm series, it comes as no surprise to hear that Slash of the Titans is a meticulously researched tome on the culmination of fandom’s favorite franchises. Some of the rejected concepts were admittedly nutty and ill-advised (Jason is arrested and goes to court; Jason and Freddy box in hell, refereed by Ted Bundy, and many more) but some of them make for some pretty interesting what-if concepts, such as Freddy having been a janitor at Camp Crystal Lake who had actually been the one to kill Jason as a young boy to keep him quiet…after having molested him. What’s interesting about the many different concepts is that they all seemed to share one thing in common: the screenwriters’ inherent bias as it pertained to either Freddy or Jason as characters. Much like how the final version of Freddy vs. Jason is more Freddy centric, each screenplay showcased a preference for one over the other — from their screen time to what they were given to do.
McNeill has done his due diligence, interviewing as many screenwriters of the many unused Freddy vs. Jason iterations as he could, as well as leafing through all the scripts and providing his own detailed breakdowns of their plots. Though the topic being discussed is light, it’s not exactly a breezy read. Small font covers nearly 250 pages, and it jumps back and forth between these script breakdowns, interviews, and the author’s own musings piecing together a timeline. It’s a dense book and there’s a lot of information to take in; as you read one plot breakdown after another, which particular detail belonged to which script starts to get hazy. Mainstays will remain in your brain (the kind of wacky stuff one might not forget), but some of the smaller details will fade. The book is best consumed in multiple sittings and consuming one unique script-dedicated chapter at a time. (Put it this way: the author’s previous book, Phantasm Exhumed, focused on four Phantasm films, as well as earlier films from director Don Coscarelli. And it’s only 20 pages longer than this one, a book that focuses on one film.)
Fans of the film that eventually came to be, or even fans of either franchise but not necessarily their long-mooted team-up, should absolutely snap up their own copy of Slash of the Titans: The Road to Freddy vs. Jason. It’s easily the most comprehensive source that will ever exist on the subject and will keep you busy for quite some time.
Official book stuff:
From the author of Phantasm Exhumed comes Slash of the Titans, a revealing look at why it took New Line Cinema nearly ten years and four-million-dollars to find the right screenplay for Freddy vs. Jason. Featuring new interviews with the original writers and filmmakers, Slash details the production’s troubled history from the surprise ending of Jason Goes to Hell all the way to the crossover’s red carpet premiere. Read about the many rejected storylines and learn how the project was eventually able to escape from development hell. This is the story of one film, two horror icons and seventeen screenwriters!
SLASH OF THE TITANS includes:
- Comprehensive looks at ten different versions of the screenplay
- Info on early crossover attempts by Friday the 13th filmmakers
- Exclusive details on the never made Freddy vs Jason: Hell Unbound video game
- Insights from producers, executives and developers including Sean Cunningham
- An examination of why the Shannon/Swift script was finally greenlit
- Summaries of the four endings considered for the 2003 film
- Coverage of the never made Freddy vs Jason vs Ash sequel
- New comments from the titans themselves Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger
- Appendices full of story details including the outcomes of all ten versions