It's difficult, talking about Freddy vs Jason vs Ash. Like the Dark Knight Returns adaptation starring Adam West, a Dredd sequel (looking very unlikely, following its bombing on the big screen) or Guillermo Del Toro's Mountains of Madness adaptation (it could still happen) it's become one of those Development Hell stories that's just too painful to think about. Oh, what could have been.
Following the success of Ronny Yu's Freddy vs Jason in 2003, it looked like a sequel was inevitable. We should have learned, from the ten year hiatus following Jason Goes to Hell, that such matters are rarely so straightforward. After all, it had taken all that time for Freddy and Jason to get together by themselves. Not bad, considering it had started out as a throwaway gag at the end of Jason Goes to Hell (although ideas were being thrown about as far back as 1987). Production of Freddy vs Jason was troubled, with eighteen scripts being drafted, at a cost of roughly $6 million, from a dozen screenwriters. All anybody really wanted was ninety minutes of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees hacking away at one another, but some very interesting ideas were suggested; The Millennium Massacre, for example, in which it was revealed that Freddy was a Crystal Lake counsellor who abused Jason as a child. That, then, would be an attempt by New Line to make Freddy scary again – a far cry from the cuddly monster of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. Another draft had Jason battling a Freddy-inspired cult, with a side-order of body-swapping. We had enough of that in Jason Goes to Hell, thanks. Eventually, New Line did the obvious thing, and just had Freddy and Jason hacking away at one another for 90 minutes, with pretty teenagers occasionally distracting them for long enough to get violently killed. For all its faults, Freddy vs Jason does have Jason literally whack one of Destiny's Child into a tree, while game old Robert Englund lays down some WWE moves on his hockey-masked foe.
One draft of the ending, tantalisingly, had Pinhead involved, dragging the both of them to Hell. There was even talk of a whole Freddy vs Jason vs Pinhead movie, with the three of them beating the um, Hell, out of each other in Hell. This, sadly, was deemed “too fantastical”, and was not to be. That lingering sense of disappointment? Us horror fans should have gotten used to it – there was a lot more to come.
Bigger, louder, more, is usually the rule when making a sequel. Doubly so, for horror movies. So Freddy vs Jason 2 couldn't just be more of the same – they had to bring another big name into the ring. Inevitably, names like Pinhead (again) and Michael Myers were rumoured. But the most interesting, and the one that came closest of all was Ash, of Evil Dead and Army of Darkness fame. It was a great idea because, unlike every other name mentioned, Ash is a hero, as opposed to yet another slasher movie villain. Pitting two of horror's loudest bigmouths against one another seemed a great idea – never mind Jason Voorhees, Freddy vs Jason vs Ash could have just been a Presidential Debate style shouting match between Bruce Campbell and Robert Englund, and it still would have been one of the greatest movies of all time.
Eager to proceed, New Line Cinema attempted to acquire rights to Sam Raimi's 'Ash' character, but the Evil Dead and Spider-Man head honcho wasn't playing ball. Flush from the success of his studio's Grudge remake (actually terrible, but he didn't seem to notice that) he announced news of an Evil Dead remake instead. And with that, Freddy vs Jason vs Ash was dead.
If you want to rub salt into the wound, the official treatment is found easily enough online. It was adapted, in 2007, into a six-issue comic book miniseries. That sweetened the pill, somewhat, but it's simply not the same! No comic book, no matter how well-written or illustrated, can ever capture the boom of Bruce Campbell's voice, or playful gleam in Robert Englund's eye. It's nice that Laurie and Will are killed off in the opening moments of the Freddy vs Jason vs Ash comic book, but it would have been so much more rewarding to really see the end of Monica Keena and Jason Ritter and their horrible acting. Still, it's nice that the idea lives on in some way.
If there's a silver lining to the demise of Freddy vs Jason vs Ash, it's that at least we were spared that movie's sequel too – Nightmare Warriors, a comic book which took the whole 'bigger, louder, more' thing too far. But we're just kidding ourselves. It's not as if Freddy or Jason went on to do anything better, following Freddy vs Jason. Both were re-invented, Freddy becoming a non-scary bogeyman (even Jackie Earle Haley couldn't salvage it) and Jason gamely slashing his way through a fun but disposable sex romp starring one of the brothers from Supernatural. It felt like a waste of a legacy, rather than the revitalisation the movies' creators would have liked. Freddy may not have been dead following his Final Nightmare, but he sure was by the time the 2010 remake was done with him. We can always hope that, following the success of Texas Chainsaw 3D, this 'ignoring the reboots and picking up where we left off' thing will become a trend. Except better than Texas Chainsaw 3D, please.
To alleviate the pain, there are the comic books. And you don't have to Google very far to find a rubbish YouTube fan film or two. Freddy vs Jason vs Ash by Trent Duncan is actually quite good, even if its actors are hardly of the standards of misters Englund and Campbell. “Hey scabby. Haven't seen you since the barbecue,” smirks Ash. “This time I'll do the cooking!” retorts Krueger. The script is mildly amusing at times (“well I ain't Doctor Seuss!”) the action surprisingly fun. It does have the look of three tramps fighting one another in a local park, but it's probably the closest we'll ever get to a real Freddy vs Jason vs Ash.
The Evil Dead remake will probably be better than Freddy vs Jason vs Ash ever would have been, but it's still a difficult lot to bear. Freddy vs Jason vs Ash will go down in history as one of the Greatest Movies Never Made. It's a fair bet that it wouldn't have been much cop (Freddy vs Jason certainly wasn't, despite some great fight scenes) but oh – what could have been.