Freddy vs. Jason is an absolute blast, as stylish as it is silly, and at the end of the day is probably the best version of that movie we could have seen. But it took over ten years to actually make the leap to the big screen. The earliest discussions began in the mid-eighties when the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise was just taking off. After New Line acquired the Friday the 13thseries, discussions of the potential crossover started in earnest. Sean Cunningham came back to produce Jason Goes to Hell mostly because he was really invested in the idea of Freddy vs. Jason because he knew that there was no way that match-up would not be a crowd pleaser. After Freddy’s gloved hand burst up through the earth in Jason Goes to Hell and pulled Jason’s mask under, fans truly began to get excited about the prospect of the two horror icons going toe-to-toe.
That’s what kicked off ten years of changes of hands from several screenwriters, potential directors and even producers. And those scripts, at least the ones that have leaked online over the years, range from good to bad to ugly. Most of them follow a basic story of a girl dreaming about Freddy who is targeted by a copycat killer attempting to bring Freddy back to life, with Jason showing up much later. Some versions include a literal boxing match in Hell between the two maniacs. As a kid, I would read all of these scripts endlessly, dreaming about what the movie could have been, wondering which one of these would be the one to make it to the screen if they ever got the movie off the ground.
I’ll even fully admit that I taught myself screenplay format at the age of ten by reading rejected scripts for Freddy vs. Jason. In fact, at the same age, I very badly attempted to use what I’d learned to write Scream 4 and The Faculty 2. But of all these rejected scripts, I had a very clear favorite, without a doubt. And even though I’m grateful for what we got, I think the Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore script attempted a lot of really interesting things. Even more than that, though, it had a dynamite third act.
Known for Star Trek: The Next Generation, Braga and Moore had a very different approach to the crossover than had been attempted in previous drafts, most of which were working from the same initial script. Gone are Dominic Necros and the Fred Heads. Instead, we have this film in which Jason (who is now a real-life killer upon whom the movies are based) arrested in the opening moments and subsequently taken to jail, where he is introduced to our heroine, Ruby Jarvis, who is also going to serve as Jason’s lawyer. I’m not sure anyone hearing the title would have expected Freddy vs. Jason—although it’s worth noting that this particular script is actually titled Jason vs. Freddy—to be a courtroom drama, but that’s kind of what makes it so weird and unique.
I’ll admit, not everything about the premise works. Part of what plagued so many drafts of Freddy vs. Jason was the fact that they always tried to bend over backwards to find a way for the two killers to co-exist in the same film. Damien Shannon and Mark Swift eventually succeeded by just finding a way to find a story that didn’t contradict the continuity of either franchise and that clearly felt like a part of both. Most scripts didn’t do that. Some were set in the continuity of only one franchise and found a way to try and introduce the other, many were set in a reality where neither character actually exists and saw them let loose on the “real” world. Jason vs. Freddy is no different, in that respect.
This script seems to be for the most part based in the continuity of the Elm Street saga, which is interesting as it puts much more of the focus on Jason and tries to examine what makes the masked psychopath tick. Again, though, this isn’t quite the Jason we know, though the backstory isn’t changed all that much. This is a real, not undead (but at least somewhat supernatural, clearly) version of Voorhees who was the inspiration for the movies, which are noted to be very exaggerated versions of those events. It’s a fun, post-Scream meta approach to Jason, and not nearly as over the top or obnoxious with its meta commentary as some of the other scripts had been.
Jason vs. Freddy really plays on the success of both franchises, especially commercially, poking fun at the very idea of something like Jason Takes Manhattan and even accidentally predicting the future in some ways. During the big showdown between the two monsters, Jason sees a standee for his latest upcoming feature, a futuristic movie featuring a cybernetic new version of Jason. It was meant to be an absurd gag—Freddy even brings the standee to life to fight Jason, confronting him with his own consumer popularity—but obviously is only funnier in retrospect as this obviously came to pass in Jason X.
That whole showdown is what I really want to talk about, even though there’s a lot in this script worth talking about. The Freddy vs. Jason we got absolutely delivered on bringing the two monsters together in an extremely satisfying fight. Most of the scripts didn’t feature much showdown between the title characters at all, and when they did, it was in weird ways like the aforementioned Hell boxing match. Braga and Moore’s Jason vs. Freddy script is really the only thing to come close, and man what a showdown it is.
First, let’s set the scene by establishing the stakes of the fight. In the movie we eventually saw, Jason and Freddy fight because Krueger attempted to control him and it didn’t ultimately go his way. It absolutely works. This script makes it a little more personal, though. In this version, Krueger is revealed to have been the one to drown Jason in the lake to begin with, something that other drafts attempted to play around with. Other versions even made Jason a kid that Freddy had molested, but this one didn’t go quite that far. It still speaks to the ultimate difference between both characters in their origin stories: Freddy is ultimately a predator to his core, it’s just in his nature. While Jason, as much of a terror as he became, started this whole thing as a victim.
There’s a personal grudge there and deep connection between the two as a kind of predator/prey relationship, with the tables turning as Jason attempts to exact his revenge. It adds a surprising emotional weight to the final fight, but that is far from the only selling point.
Speaking to the massive pop culture success of both series, the climactic showdown of Jason vs. Freddy takes place inside of a shopping mall. By this point in the story, Freddy has become more powerful than ever. He is terrorizing the mall, turning displays into monsters, bringing people’s tattoos to life. This is Freddy absolutely unhinged. And this version of a slightly depowered Jason from what had been seen in the more recent films, absolutely feels like an underdog. It works on a lot of levels, not just playing into the popularity of the respective series’, but just in general being a massive set piece for a horror film like this one would have been. Even if this had been the script to go before cameras, there’s no doubt that this whole sequence would have been significantly cut down or scrapped altogether. But on the page, it’s so much fun to think about.
It was especially appealing to me as a young fan because malls, in general, defined so much of my relationship with both franchises. As a kid, I could rent Friday the 13thand A Nightmare on Elm Street from my local video store, but I’d never see any merchandise. When the Movie Maniacs figures were eventually released and I saw Jason and Freddy action figures for the very first time, I picked them up at the mall. Hell, there was even a two-pack labeled Jason vs. Freddy, promoting the promised crossover long before it ever entered production, which I also saw at the mall. We never had anything like a Spirit Halloween around me when I was that age, so the Halloween season, to me, meant looking over the mask selection in Spencer Gift, which Jason and Freddy masks I can still vividly remember even now. I would look for Freddy and Jason merchandise every single time I went to the mall, so for me—especially reading the script at that age—it made perfect sense as an arena for the titular showdown.
Jason is put through the ringer in this fight, and is even making an almost heroic turn, as he forms something of a bond with his lawyer who seems to suggest that confronting Freddy could put his demons to rest. While all of that’s a little questionable, it’s still a great physical showdown as Jason is beaten down over and over again by everything Freddy throws at him, including (as mentioned) an over-the-top version of himself. These are almost like little trials Jason goes through before eventually getting his hands on Freddy himself. And to see this happen in a huge public space with so many terrified mallrats and so much chaos going down around them, would have been extremely exciting to see.
And is total chaos, make no mistake. The gates smash down on everyone trying to leave, trapping everybody inside the mall. Mannequins start attacking people in stores, a dentist’s office takes an obviously grisly turn, jungle gym ball pits start sucking children in… this is Freddy going full-on Carrie. There’s no way that it could have made it to the screen for reasons of both budget and censorship, but man is it fun to think about.
Even if this particular version of Freddy vs. Jason never came to be, I would still love to see some kind of shopping mall sequence in either franchise, provided either one of them ever produces another movie. Of course, it’s looking more and more likely all the time that that may never happen. At the very least, I’ll always be grateful that this script made it out there to be easily read by young fans like I had been. No matter what directions it took that might be questionable overall, even if it was an ambitious script that could likely never have been made, it captured my young imagination and I can’t thank Braga and Moore enough for that, let alone for teaching me how to read a script.