“Hatchet” is a film that was a victim of it’s own hype. When the teaser poster premiered, and garnered the slogan “Oldschool American Horror”, people’s minds went wild. When you make such a bold claim, it puts in people’s heads a film that could never be delivered., and then you’re stuck with a promise you can’t keep. By “oldschool”, I’m assuming director Adam Green is mostly referring to the fact that one hundred percent of the film’s special effects are practical. No CGI here, just latex and buckets of fake blood. Instead of being an original entry into the slasher sub genre, “Hatchet serves more as a satirical homage to the ’80s. A paper thin excuse to get a group of people into the woods to be stalked by a deformed murderer with a tragic back story.
The sequel begins exactly where the first film ends. Marybeth, formerly played by Tamara
Feldman, has now been replaced by genre darling Danielle Harris. Marybeth has just discovered the corpses of her brother, and father, and witnessed everyone around her being brutally murdered by the deformed ghost of Victor Crowley. Victor was the victim of a prank gone wrong as a child, and now spends his nights, stalking the swamp looking for fresh meat to take quench his vengeful bloodlust. Marybeth, being pulled out of the swamp by a local fisherman, has been directed to visit Dr. Zombie(Tony Todd) for help with retrieving the bodies of her deceased loved ones. Zombie assembles a group of local hunters to venture into the swamp and attempt to locate, and kill Victor Crowley’s repeating spirit.
Saying that Hatchet II is a bit more serious than the original wouldn’t be that bold of a statement. There was absolutely nothing taken seriously in “Hatchet” much is the same this time around, but the addition of Crowley’s father’s back story adds a level of drama to the story that wasn’t present in the previous installment. Nothing to fear, though, as “Hatchet II” is still comedic and lighthearted. Even the most brutal of kills is so cartoonish that it should bring out a chuckle or two. Though it does add a level of seriousness to the film, the back story feels tacked on, more than anything. It does, however, provide fans a rare opportunity to see Kane Hodder, former man behind the hockey mask of Jason Voorhees, in an on-screen sex scene.
The real star of the film here is the practical special effects. It seems that a lot of people are becoming complacent with the new trend of terrible looking cartoon-like blood and gore effects. Gorehounds can rejoice, as you won’t even find a hint of that in an Adam Green film. Kane Hodder romps through the swamp in old school rubber suit and latex makeup, and each and every kill that is shown on screen(I believe the body count stands at around 17) is one hundred percent practical. Creating a more genuine feel than most of the big name horror films of today. There is no substitute for competent practical effects. No matter how much money you spend on state of the art computer graphics, it’s going to look bad. Compare the headshot from Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” to the headshot at the beginning of his latest disappointment “Survival of the Dead”. It’s sad, the the special effects of a film made 32 years ago look so much better than one made last year. Filmmakers have become lazy, because we’ve allowed them to do so. Horror fans are the whipping boys/girls of the industry. We are assumed to be of low intelligence, and will just gobble up anything that’s thrown at us. Because of this, horror with big name studio backing will nine times out of ten not even attempt to make the gore effects look even halfway decent. It’s the sad state of horror that we are in today, and we have nobody but ourselves to blame.
Every character is funny, or interesting in one way or another. Tony Tod’s character, Doctor Zombie has been expanded upon this time around. We discover that he is the one responsible for dispatching the tour boat into the swamp, knowing full well the dangers that await. Zombie endangers further lives, when he thinks that he has figured out a way to end Crowley’s reign of terror for good. The group of hunters are split into small groups, and this adds to the chemistry between them. If there is anything funnier than a simple minded redneck bumbling about the screen, it’s two simple minded rednecks doing so in unison. One of the elements that adds to the film’s fun factor is the sheer amount of canon fodder. Body counts have dwindled over the years. If you look back to later “Jason” flicks, you’ll see a body count damn near reaching 30, and in a couple of cases, actually meeting that outstanding number of deaths. In recent years, it seems like films concentrate on only a handful of deaths, sometimes two or less. I realize this is done so as to build a connection between the audience and the characters, but sometimes I crave a good old fashioned blood bath.
The premise is downright ridiculous, the acting is campy, and the violence is over-the-top. In other words, “Hatchet II” fucking rocks. If you find yourself revisiting classics from the ’80s and beyond, more often that you become excited for the new releases on the calendar, this is the film for you. I’m not going to lie, if you hated the first “Hatchet” you’re going to hate the sequel. Much like sequels are supposed to do, Green’s latest installment into what has now become a franchise takes everything that made the first film fun, and expands upon them to double the enjoyment. It’s hard for me to say, whether or not those of that have been hyping yourself up for this film for years will enjoy it or not. As I touched on earlier, the film you have created in your head is impossible for anyone to re-create. High expectations take a film that someone might otherwise enjoy, and turns it into an exercise in disappointment. If you can check your hype at the door, and turn your brain off for the duration of the film, I have a feeling you’ll be walking away with a smile on your face. Victor Crowley’s return is a victorious blood soaked adventure back in time to a decade that most of us developed our taste for the genre to begin with. Sit back, and enjoy the carnage.