Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash might have been a horror fan's dream come true, but, unfortunately, a movie featuring the three icons will most likely never see the light of day. The concept's viability as a film was a long shot to begin with, but the prospects are presently dimmer now more than ever due to the messy state of the Friday the 13th franchise rights, as well as the reluctance of actors Robert Englund and Bruce Campbell to return to their respective roles.
The complicated production history of Freddy vs. Jason proves that it was a bit of a miracle that even that movie made it to the screen. Plans for a crossover between the two famous slashers started as early as 1987, but the franchise's studios couldn't agree on a deal to lend each other the rights. There was a brief period of hope after the box office failure of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan led Paramount to let the rights lapse to Phil Scuderi, Steve Minasian, and Bob Barsamian, who financed the original Friday and immediately sold the rights to A Nightmare on Elm Street's studio New Line Cinema. However, Wes Craven's return to the series for New Nightmare put the project on hold, and it would remain in development hell for years.
Ironically, it was the poor box office performance of Jason X, the movie that Friday producer Sean S. Cunningham financed so that audiences wouldn't forget about Jason Vorhees, that almost spelled doom for Freddy vs. Jason. On top of that, New Line had fired producer and biggest supporter of Freddy vs. Jason Michael DeLuca. Freddy vs. Jason finally made it to theaters after a seemingly endless array of script ideas that tried to come up with an excuse as to why the two would even fight each other, but the film ended up being the most financially successful entry in either franchise. Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash didn't end up happening because of a lack of demand, necessarily, but the long and hard battle to bring just two of these combatants into the ring made it clear that it would be easier to continue the story in comic book form.
The Friday The 13th Lawsuit Prevents Jason From Returning
Nearly two decades after the release of Freddy vs. Jason and the Friday the 13th rights are more mired in legal issues than ever before. If the New Line vs. Paramount squabble wasn't enough of a conundrum, Jason Vorhees has been in a complicated copyright limbo that may prevent any appearance from him in the near future. The lawsuit started in 2016 in an ugly dispute over former collaborators Sean S. Cunningham and Victor Miller, respectively the director-producer and writer of the original Friday the 13th film. Cunningham alleged that the project started as his creative idea and that he brought on Miller as a work-for-hire employee. Miller, citing the Copyright Act as a rebuttal, argued that he, as the author of the script, could terminate his former employer's control of the property after 35 years.
A judge ruled in Miller's favor in 2018, but that didn't stop Cunningham from filing an appeal. However, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the 2018 District Court decision and allowed the domestic Friday the 13th copyright to fall into the hands of Miller, who was cleared as an "independent contractor" at the time of the screenplay. To make things even messier, this decision doesn't necessarily leave Miller as Jason's official gatekeeper. Cunningham does, in fact, still own international rights to Friday the 13th, as well as the intellectual property associated with the sequels. Considering that the lumbering, hockey-mask wearing Jason Vorhees as he's known today didn't even appear in the initial Friday, that might mean that the slasher will return one day. Suffice it to say, it certainly won't be for a while.
Robert Englund Has Retired As Freddy
Wes Craven's return to the series upon the making of New Nightmare brought Robert Englund back to the iconic role of Freddy, but prevented plans for Freddy vs. Jason from moving forward. Now, the opposite problem has emerged, as Englund has stated that he has officially retired from playing Freddy Krueger. The 74-year-old actor is still active, appearing in horror films and participating in voice work, but he has stated that his age would most likely prevent him from taking on the mantle of the slasher again. Receiving a fan letter from The Goldbergs creator Adam Goldberg convinced Englund to reprise his role as Freddy in the sitcom's Halloween episode "Mister Knifey-Hands," but beyond wanting to make a cameo appearance if Wes Craven's estate ever gave the go-ahead to a new movie, it seems as if the horror legend is hanging up Freddy's fedora.
Bruce Campbell Has Retired As Evil Dead's Ash
Unlike Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, the Evil Dead series is currently still active. There's a new film planned for release next year called Evil Dead Rise, as well as the multiplayer Evil Dead: The Game set for a February 2022 debut. However, series face Bruce Campbell has stated that his role in the television series Ash vs. Evil Dead was the last time he was going to play the character, at least in a live-action setting. (Luckily for fans, he will be returning to voice Ash in the upcoming video game.) Campbell has also expressed how introducing Ash to Freddy and Jason would make the legal and financial challenges even more of a headache, and that the product would come out as "creatively bankrupt" as a result.
Freddy Vs Jason Vs Ash Can't Happen As Fans Want It
It's probably for the best that Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash is never going to happen, as the result would most likely be a complete mess. Campbell himself expressed that potential, and it already took literally years to come up with a semi-solid reason why Freddy and Jason would meet and fight. Even disregarding all the copyright issues and reluctance of the actors to return, it's also simply a stretch to place Ash in the same universe as the slasher icons. Introducing Evil Dead's Necronomicon and the Deadites into the already messy continuity and mythology of the Friday and Nightmare films may make the story just too nonsensical to handle, and that's saying something for a series in which lightning and dog pee are just two of the ways its titular monsters get resurrected.
The entire idea may best be suited for the comic book medium, in which a small team of creatives can let their imaginations run wild instead of being beholden to studio meddling and stressful copyright barriers. In the limited comic series that ended up happening instead of a movie, the Necronomicon is somehow hidden inside the Vorhees' residence, and Freddy wants to harness the tome's power like he's a villain on Ash vs. Evil Dead. That may sound either cool or lame depending on preferred taste, but the point is that an actual Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash movie wouldn't even have the freedom to establish plots like this. Instead of barely surviving in a dream-like pre-development limbo, this project is finally laid to rest for good.