Written, Directed, and Produced by: Adam Green
Reviewed by: Brett G.
Over the past fifteen years or so, the slasher genre has experienced an undeniable decline. After falling out of favor around the early 90s, the genre seemed poised for a revival when Scream slashed its way into theaters with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. While Scream did give rise to a short-lived wave of slasher films around the turn of the century, including films such as Valentine and I Know What You Did Last Summer, the genre failed to regain its popularity in the long run. While there have been a few gems in the past few years, the slasher film as a whole seemed to be a thing of the past.
Enter Hatchet, a film promoting itself as ďold school American horror.Ē Boasting a cast of horror legends (Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, and Tony Todd), Hatchet received a modest amount of hype among horror legions before its release. As a fan of the slasher sub-genre, I especially looked forward to seeing a straight-up romp in the vein of the 80s slashers Iíve come to love over the years. Unfortunately, the film only received a very limited theatrical release, so I had to wait until the filmís DVD release this past December. Would it be everything it had been hyped up to be, or would it simply be another in a long of slashers that have failed to capture the magic of its predecessors?
The answer ends up being a mixture of both. While itís not the second-coming of the horror genre, itís certainly better than other films of its ilk. Make no mistake about it: Hatchet sets out to be a fun film that doesnít take itself seriously, and this is obvious from the opening scene featuring Robert Englund as a foul-mouthed Cajun fisherman. The horror legendís screen time is short-lived, however, when his character (along with his son) is quickly dispatched by an unseen force. It also becomes clear here what the filmís focus is going to be: blood, and lots of it, as it splatters freely here across all the scenery.
The scene then shifts to the surrounding town of New Orleans where we lay our scene. Here, we meet our principal characters: a couple of college kids by the name of Ben (Joel Moore) and Marcus (Deon Richmond). The former is tired of all the requisite partying that apparently goes on during spring break, while the former canít get enough of the copious amount of breasts. It turns out that Ben has brought a bit of emotional baggage with him on the trip after breaking up with his long-time girlfriend, so he sets out to do something else with his time: for example, taking a haunted boat trip out on the bayou. Marcus reluctantly agrees, and our film is set up for us after a lengthy bit of exposition that causes the film to drag a bit at first.
If youíve seen any slasher film, you know how things are going to go here: the boat trip actually ends up on haunted turf, and a local legend ends up becoming reality. The legend in question here is Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a hulking beast of a man who has supposedly survived his traumatic accidental death as a child (at the hands of his father, no less). After the tour boat ends up wrecking, the cast of characters are left pretty much helpless against the local madman. Crowley wonít be joining the pantheon of horror legends anytime soon, but he is memorable enough, as he comes across as a mixture from the mutants from The Hills Have Eyes and Jason Voorheesís appearance in Friday the 13th Part 2.
With this type of setup, itís not surprise that the star of the film soon becomes clear: the violent and uber gory death scenes. In this respect, Hatchet delivers, as it features some of the most mean-spirited and brutal death scenes Iíve scene in a while. While theyíre certainly over the top and are not meant to exhibit a disturbing sense of realism, director Adam Green knows that an audience for this type of film wants to see the blood flow, and he delivers a host of bloody mutilations that would have had the MPAA aghast a couple of decades ago, and the film did indeed have a difficult time securing an R-rating even by todayís standards. Luckily, the DVD release features an unrated cut so you can see the film in all its bloody glory. This is not to say that the cast is completely dispensable and only serves as fodder, however. The aforementioned Ben and Marcus share a decent chemistry and play off of each other very well. Also, the filmís emerging heroine, Marybeth, is a decent character whose plight makes you care about the characters.
It should also be mentioned that this film, like Scream, takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to things. Though itís not a constant wink-wink, nod-nod affair like that film, it does have its fair amount of humor and horror-in jokes, including off-beat cameos from the aforementioned Tony Todd and effects legend John Carl Buechler (of Friday the 13th Part 7 fame). The film also has its share of straight-forward humor that works for the most part, especially as it pertains to the character of Marcus. While this isnít a horror comedy by any means, Green is definitely mimicking the camp feel of many 80s slashers, so it may come across as bordering on parody for some. The humor doesnít necessarily kill the film, as it ultimately manages to be fun, gorific romp, but you might not take it as seriously because of it. Also, it should be mentioned that Greenís direction is very well done, but the filmís polished look also separates it from films of yesteryear. While I canít fault the film for this, some might see it as lacking the grit that some slasher films possessed.
In the end, Hatchet is a decently entertaining film. If you go into it with high expectations and expect the best horror film in years, you might be disappointed. If you fashion yourself a horror geek thatís looking for a film catering to your lust for blood and breasts, then Hatchet is the film for you. The film is available from Anchor Bay on DVD, so you know what to expect there: solid image and audio quality. In fact, Iíd go so far as to say that the audio quality is especially stellar, as it features an aggressive mix that will give all your speakers a fine workout. Thereís also a decent amount of extras, including a commentary with Green and a few of the actors. Also included is a making-of documentary and a host of features covering various aspects of the film, including the gore effects. All told, the Hatchet DVD is a solid package; even better, it retails for about $10 just about everywhere. Still, despite this low price, I still donít think it warrants any more than a rental unless you just canít get enough of slasher films. While Hatchet is a fun film, one viewing will probably satisfy most fans. Rent it!
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