The Great Debate: 'Friday the 13th' vs. 'Nightmare on Elm Street'

Welcome to our monthly column, The Great Debate, where two genuinely intelligent critics quibble over whose opinion is more righter. For this scarifying edition, Film.com’s Max Evry will argue in favor of the razor sharp "A Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise. Holding the candle for "Friday the 13th" villain Jason and his momma is Eric Walkuski, Senior News Editor at JoBlo's ArrowInTheHead.com, who also hosts a weekly podcast on Wednesdays called "Blood, Bullets and Broads: The Arrow in the Head Podcast" (it's classy).

Eric Walkuski, Team "Friday": So "Friday the 13th" is horror at its most stripped down and simple. Killer on the loose, kids dumbly alone in the woods, killer kills them... kids keep coming back for more. The first movie presents us with a great nutcase of a villain - a mom who is so traumatized by her son's death that she goes on a murdering spree to avenge him - of course killing people who had nothing to do with his death to begin with, and where do they go after she dies? (Spoiler alert) Why, the son actually lived, of course! Makes sense!

Max Evry, Team "Nightmare": Sounds like a "Jerry Springer" episode.

Eric Walkuski: Its true. Backwoods drama at its most insane. Most villains have mommy issues, and Jason has the mother of them all. Pun intended.

Max Evry: So I agree that while "Friday the 13th" is very meat and potatoes horror, taking most of its cues from Italian Giallos and the like, "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is a whole other breed of animal. Wes Craven took something he was good at, grounded terror ("Last House on the Left"), and totally threw it out the window and decided to create this iconic boogeyman character who basically does the cha cha in your subconscious until your throat is ripped open. By which I mean the one, the only Freddy Kruger.

Eric Walkuski: Definitely, it's a great great idea.

Max Evry: And to take this up a notch further, you mentioned the first "Friday" is basically Jason-free, and then in the second one Jason is just a deformed meat man with a bag over his head. He doesn't even come into focus with the hockey mask until the THIRD MOVIE! Talk about being left behind a few grades...

Eric Walkuski: That's true, but the dude has to make do with what he's got... a sack. He's not fancy, he's a simple-minded predator. Although a bit vain, he doesn't want you gawking at his hideous visage while he kills you.

Max Evry: What a prima donna!

Eric Walkuski: "NOES" has an amazing concept - what's eerier than someone entering your friggin dreams?? But it's also a little "out there," maybe so much so that you can't really relate. You can completely picture, on the other hand, a murderer in the woods. Not that Jason's saga is "believable," mind you, but I think he's legit ruined going camping for generations of kids. Plus, must I bring up that he doesn't get on anybody's nerves with bad puns?

Max Evry: True dat, but as far as the concept of dreams manifesting to reality, I put a great deal of stock in that. For example, last night I dreamt I could eat all the Snickers bars I want, then this morning my bed was covered in like 12 Snickers wrappers... actually, I don't think I went to sleep last night.

Eric Walkuski: That's deep. I never really lost any sleep over Freddy, to be honest, although I might have dreamed about Johnny Depp's weird cut-off t-shirt once or twice, but don't tell anyone.

Max Evry: So yeah, you've got the whole mute and dumb thing with Jason, that's definitely scary, but how many blades does he have? One machete? Please. Freddy's got five digits with straight razors. Nuf said.

Eric Walkuski: Jason uses whatever's nearby, harpoon, tree… hell in "Jason X" he uses liquid nitrogen! Jason went to outer space!

Max Evry: He's the John Glenn of serial killers.

Eric Walkuski: So true, he's been to hell as well.

Max Evry: I think Freddy's had at least a week-long guest pass for the spa there.

Eric Walkuski: Usually a homebody, but when he travels outside of Crytal Lake, he does so in a big way. Yeah, Freddy and Jason hung out for a spell in hell. BTW, no one came away from "Freddy Vs Jason" looking good.

Max Evry: Yes yes, Jason totally took Manhattan, but like the man said, "Every town has an Elm Street!" Elm Street, Kyoto is probably really f**ked up.

Eric Walkuski: Oh lord, and what about Elm Street, Iraq?

Max Evry: I wouldn't want to be stationed at that checkpoint charlie. Extra body armor, please. But let's get back to the originals, here, which is Freddy Vs. not Jason, but Jason's momma. Would this crazy old bag really stand a chance against a shape-shifting dream master?

Eric Walkuski: Hey, you don't want to mess with a momma with drama. She's got so much crazy shit goin' on in her head, there'd be no room for the Fredster.

Max Evry: I will give Jason's mom this: she totally impaled Kevin Bacon while he was gettin' some. Six degrees my ass...

Eric Walkuski: Totally! Although I dunno, Freddy does in Depp, while Ms. Voorhees slays Bacon... who murdered the cooler thespian?

Max Evry: At least Depp was impervious to Bernie Madoff.

Eric Walkuski: Ohh snap.

Max Evry: I just watched the original again last night, and it is kinda hilarious how meek and wussy Johnny Depp is in that movie. He's so whiney!

Eric Walkuski: Yeah, he's sorta the chick in that relationship. Didn't take too much effort to kill him.

Max Evry: For realsimo. Not to slight the cutoff football jersey again, but... eh-hem.

Eric Walkuski: Yep, that's the image from my dreams all right. You don't see Bacon wearing that nonsense, and the kids in "F13" are all bangin' away.

Max Evry: I will give you that there's way more free love action going on in "Friday," but I blame Reaganomics and AIDS for throwing a cold shower on teen hormones by the mid-eighties.

Eric Walkuski: Good point. Freddy WAS a republican. Let's talk about the endings, "F13" has suuuuch an awesome ending: Jason jumps out of the lake to drag in the final girl. She wakes up, was it all a dream or did it really happen? "NOES" has the Freddy car and a weird mannequin being dragged through a door.

Max Evry: I will go as far as to say that Wes Craven was definitely more skittish about really tapping into the full potential for all the cool wackypants stuff Freddy can do. It's a dream, you can do anything! Chuck Russell and Frank Darabont really exploited that to its fullest for "Nightmare 3," the BEST of the series.

Eric Walkuski: Yes, I will admit that "NOES 3" is a terrific movie, perhaps the best all around flick in either series but it's also when Freddy really started his transformation into Henny Youngman.

Max Evry: Take my knife, please!

Eric Walkuski: Oy. The "F13" flicks are more Freudian, with all the impaling and mommy issues. "Freddy Vs Jason: A Dangerous Method."

Max Evry: LOL, now THAT'S a David Cronenberg movie that won't put you to sleep.

Eric Walkuski: BTW, David Cronenberg is in "Jason X!"

Max Evry: Oh yeah, I interviewed Kane Hodder, the guy who played Jason more than anybody else…

Eric Walkuski: He strangled me at Comic-Con this past summer, he has arms like tree trunks.

Max Evry: Kane does that, I heard it hurts. His book is so funny, he said something like, "It was such an honor to work with David Cronenberg, which is why I took extra pleasure killing his ass!"

Eric Walkuski: Naturally, you want to kill your idols, or maybe he's just not a fan of "Crash." And yes, it hurts, but it was an honor... but then I saw him do it to like five other people and found out its his shtick. Immediately felt hurt and betrayed.

Max Evry: Aww, someone had their neck AND feelings hurt.  :(

Eric Walkuski: The latter was a pain much more intense. I don't think Robert England goes around strangling his fans, so that's a check in Kane's ballot right there.

Max Evry: But yeah, I think the direction the sequels went in is very telling. "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" is this cool meta dissection of the horror genre, while Jason went to outer space.

Eric Walkuski: This is so – "New Nightmare" is a rather interesting and thoughtful take, was very unexpected.

Max Evry: And was totally the precursor to SCREAM and that ilk, the post-modern horror movie.

Eric Walkuski: "Jason X" is quite tongue in cheek, though. It knows it can't be taken seriously, so it was fun.

Max Evry: Good point. I'm sure no one on "Jason X" thought they were making "Lawrence of Arabia".

Eric Walkuski: "New Nightmare," while quite meta and intelligent, eventually settles into the old NOES formula. Mind you, I'm not putting "Jason X" on a pedestal, but it's definitely a quirky and amusing little item. And hell, "Jason Goes To Hell" has Jason jumping into different bodies! He's walking around as Steven Culp for a while there. They were trying some new stuff.

Max Evry: Hmm, well I'm sorta flummoxed, I'm not sure which franchise has the upper hand. I think we'll have to let the fans decide who made the case better, but for my closing remarks I simply submit this: JOHNNY DEPP BLOOD GEYSER! (that's also the name of my band)

Eric Walkuski: Johnny Depp Cut-Off is my band. "F13" is all about family -- a deranged mother and her disfigured son, killing in the name of the other. It's really sorta sweet, and family is what really matters in life, so there you go. We can all relate.