By the time it hit the big screen in the summer of 2003, Freddy vs. Jason had been stuck in development hell for well over a decade before it was finally dragged across the finish line by director Ronny Yu. A crossover between the two slasher icons was first mooted as early as 1987, but the declining box office returns that plagued both the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises saw the studio wary of giving it the green light.
Naturally, it turned out to be the highest-grossing installment that either of the long-running horror properties had ever seen after earning over $116 million at the box office on a $30 million budget, even if reviews were mixed across the board. While the titular showdown lived up to expectations, on the whole, Freddy vs. Jason wasn’t that good and eighteen years later its audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is a bang average 50%. Which isn’t great when you consider that movies designed to appeal to longtime fans generally tend to fare much better on the review aggregator.
As a true legend of horror and the creator of A Nightmare on Elm Street, there was hope in some quarters that Wes Craven could end up involved in Freddy vs. Jason during its early days, but he ended up distancing himself from the project instead. In fact, as early as 1995, the filmmaker said he had no interest in a crossover, and couldn’t think of a concept to make it work without tarnishing both main characters and delivering something like the old Universal crossovers where Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein and the Wolfman.
“I frankly could not come up with an idea that I wanted to do,” he said. “I feel like I drew my own personal closure to the series with New Nightmare, but New Line is going to do whatever they decide they want to do with it. There’s a certain market inevitability that dictates they will squeeze every dime out of it that they can. I wish, in a sense, that they would let it have its dignity and end with New Nightmare. Now it’s sort of like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Freddy vs. Jason is taking something that had a lot of impact and dignity and dragging it down to another level. But who knows? Maybe they’ll come up with a new direction that will make it work.”
Freddy vs. Jason was largely predicated on fan service and still failed to deliver, so you can’t say that Craven didn’t make the right call in distancing himself from the monster mash.