There’s really no good place for a person to meet Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, but the boiler room of an abandoned Vancouver lunatic asylum is quite possibly the worst. Wet, heavy steam fills the air. The walls squirm with wires that dangle from rusty pipes. In the middle of it all, Jason stands on a slippery steel catwalk – and he does not look happy. He’s been dragged into the dreamworld by Freddy, who lurks on a platform above, taunting the hockey-masked killer.
As the camera dollies in closer to Jason, capturing his mute rage, director Ronny Yu’s voice crackles over a walkie-talkie from outside, where he’s watching the scene on a monitor.
”Yes. Eyes wide open, heavy breathing!” he commands, as Jason raises his machete ominously. ”You want to kill that motherf – -er!”
A few minutes later, Ken Kirzinger (Jason) and Robert Englund (Freddy) stand in the sunlight, watching the playback with Yu.
”Did you enjoy your steam bath?” Englund asks his sweaty costar, who’s removed his deformed-Jason-head cowl and mask.
”I know,” replies Kirzinger, a six-foot-five-and-a-quarter wall of a man with a warm smile. ”I’m dropping weight.”
What’s this? Freddy and Jason engaging in pleasant workplace chitchat, with nary a drop of blood being shed? Chilling. Absolutely chilling. Then again, the two undead serial killers have had plenty of time to get acquainted: The big-screen matchup of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th baddies has been in the works for more than a decade. (Says New Line president of marketing Russell Schwartz, ”I found a promo reel from 1995 that actually said, ‘…and next year, Freddy vs. Jason!”’) Though the project languished for so long horror fans feared it would be condemned to development hell forever, Englund never lost hope. ”Freddy vs. Jason,” he says, ”is just meant to be.”
Maybe so, but if there’s one thing New Line has learned from this clash of the teen-killing titans, it’s that you can’t fast-track fate. It all started in 1992, when New Line purchased the rights to the Friday the 13th series from Paramount. Then came the tantalizing teaser: Freddy’s claw pulling Jason’s mask into the fiery underworld at the end of 1993’s Jason Goes to Hell. Now all that was needed was a workable script. And if this story were a scary movie, here’s where the ominous music would kick in – because blending the bloody back stories of Freddy (a former child murderer who was burned to death by vigilante parents and returned to kill Elm Street’s youth in their sleep) and Jason (a summer-camp drowning victim-turned-machete-wielding punisher of promiscuous teens) was a more nightmarish task than anyone had imagined.
”When you’re [writing] a film like this you either have to have incredible inspiration or you have to put on your hack hat,” says New Line cochairman and co-CEO Robert Shaye. ”I think a lot of the writers that we brought on had less inspiration and a more ‘gimme the paycheck’ kind of approach.” Over the years, 13 different scribes offered a variety of spooky scenarios – Jason is put on trial; Freddy is resurrected by Krueger cultists – but nothing clicked. One major problem: Most chose to rewrite history by asserting that it was actually a pre-bonfire Freddy who murdered Jason at Camp Crystal Lake. (That piercing sound you hear is thousands of horror purists shrieking in disbelief.)