Hatchet: A Movie Review

Last night, instead of sleeping like normal people sometimes do, I decided to watch Hatchet. I had heard mention of it quite a few times before, people saying that it was fantastic and completely underrated, so I decided to give it a go. The last time I heard that about a horror film was with Slither, which turned out to be really great. After reading a few reviews on IMDb that called it one of the goriest, craziest horror movies in quite a few years, I was sold.

Mild spoilers ahead. If you’ve never seen a slasher and thus don’t know the conventions, then this is your warning.

It’s set in New Orleans, and after a quick death scene opening (featuring Robert Englund, the original Freddy Krueger), we’re alongside some real bros partying around during Mardi Gras. The director/writer (Adam Green) has a quick cameo and then we’re off with Joel David Moore (one of the technicians from Avatar) and Deon Richmond (the stereotypical black guy from Not Another Teen Movie). The Mardi Gras opening sets the stage for a lot of boobs in a very short time, which is pretty mandatory for non-theatrical horror films (and also kind of assumed for theatrical ones too. If you’re going to make a super bloody movie and get the R rating already, why not take it the extra mile?).

Hatchet allegedly got an NC-17 rating originally, but after pleading with the MPAA people and re-editing a few things (including, as Adam Green puts it, changing a death scene from thirteen hatchet strikes to a mere three) they got it down to an R rating. Since I watched this streaming on Netflix, the only version they had was the “UNRATED” version, which probably means I got all thirteen hatchet strikes. And believe you me, they were worth it.

The premise is super simple. So simple, in fact, that the tagline for the movie is “Old School American Horror.” By old school they really just mean it’s a low budget slasher flick with lots of gore and women screaming. As much a fan of horror as I am, slashers are not my favorite. They become too formulaic, and even with the good ones that mock the genre (I’m looking at you, Scream), they still don’t get me as excited as, say, a really good monster movie (I’m looking at you, The Host). That being said, Hatchet proved to be a bit of a satire of itself. Apparently Adam Green knew that slashers can’t take themselves too seriously.

So we have a killer. His name is Victor Crowley (played by Kane Hodder, who has a really long filmography of horror villains, including Jason Voorhees) and he basically looks like Ephialtes from 300. He was seriously disfigured since birth and thus was the object of his peers’ mockery. One day, after a fire envelopes the house, his dad smashes him in the face with an axe while trying to knock in the flaming door. So then his dad dies of a broken heart and Victor, somehow not dead, wanders the swamp killing everyone, sometimes with his bare hands.

See what I mean? They don’t really bother with the set up too much. Really, that backstory’s not great. We have a murderous disfigured guy living in a swamp though, and that’s scary. You know it is. Especially when it’s a dark swamp with alligators in New Orleans. And that’s all you need for a slasher premise. Guy with weapon, check. Let the killing begin!

In addition to the above-mentioned cameos from horror guys, there’s also a brief conversation with a face-painted Tony Todd (the candyman from Candyman). In our main cast we’ve got Richard Riehle (that guy who gets in a full-body cast in Office Space) and Joel Murray (good ol’ pants-pissing Freddy Rumsen from Mad Men).

The group assembles and takes a nighttime ghost tour on a swamp. Great idea, naturally. So then the boat breaks down (duh) and they find themselves right next to Crowley’s house. Crowley then shows up and literally tears a man in half with his hands. Here’s where the movie takes on a satirical tone while simultaneously trying to scare the audience. The “retard strength” that was taken to such extremes in the Jason movies are here taken even further. This seemingly immortal disfigured killer can turn a man’s head all the way around until his neck erupts in an explosion of glorious gore!

As the group is gradually whittled down, there are quite a few opportunities to kill Crowley, but no one ever does. He attacks them, they stab him with something like a garden hoe, and then he falls over. So they run away! They wouldn’t dare stick around and make sure he’s completely incapacitated, because where’s the fun in that? If they’d done that, Crowley wouldn’t have been very scary – not to mention how frightfully short the movie would have been.

The dialogue is mostly good, especially for a horror flick. When the group stumbles across a body, they decide that he (here meaning Crowley) was definitely still alive. Deon Richmond, looking at the headless body in front of them, says, “No, that guy’s dead as shit!”

I won’t spoil the ending (even though from the first twenty minutes, like most slashers, it’s clear who’s going to be the last survivors), but let’s just say it’s no surprise that there’s already one sequel and another in the works. All in all, the movie was pretty fun, which is really what horror always strives to be. Consequently, Adam Green’s other films are also pretty well-rated, so maybe as the glorious Halloween season approaches, I’ll dive into a few of those.

 

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~ by Jon C. Forisha on August 29, 2011.

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