Saturday, October 27, 2007


After a brief prologue featuring Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, as ‘gator hunting redneck Sampson, we plunge into Mardi Gras to the screeches of Marilyn Manson, and are introduced to Ben (Joel David Moore, from Terry Zwigoff’s Art School Confidential), who’s just broken up with his girlfriend of eight years and isn’t really getting into the par-tay mood.
When Ben decides to head off to join a Haunted Swamp Tour, his friend Marcus (Deon Richmond; TV’s The Cosby Show and Scream 3) reluctantly opts to accompany him. The tour, conducted by Shawn (Parry Shen, from TV’s Brothers & Sisters and the upcoming mockumentary Finishing The Game) goes awry, of course, as the group is hunted down by the deformed psycho killer, Victor Crowley (another genre icon, the man who was Jason, Kane Hodder).

Like Scott Glosserman’s Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Hatchet boasts Englund and Hodder as members of its cast, and is a throwback to the glory days of the slasher movie.
Unlike Behind The Mask, which ably deconstructs the slasher film with calculated intelligence, Hatchet is content to deliver a straight-forward slasher with a good dose of humour.
Or that’s what it tries to deliver, at least.

I wish I could say Hatchet comes alive the minute Shawn’s Scare Boat runs aground and the body count starts its rise, but it sadly doesn’t. Save for a bunch of appropriately gory and over-the-top killshots, the majority of Hatchet is a script that’s borderline passable, performances that come to about the same level, and humour that, at best, doesn’t really work, and at worst, is eye-rollingly annoying.
This is your standard slasher right here, with characters whom—due to their irritating natures (particularly Shawn)—the audience just can’t wait to get picked off one by one by the mad killer.

True, Hatchet isn’t a sequel or a remake, and it’s pretty much removed from the current idea of Hollywood horror. What it is though, is the 80’s idea of Hollywood horror, back in the day when Michael and Jason and Freddy were boffo box office.
Reactionary horror is all well and good (and in some cases, necessary), but I just don’t see the wisdom of bucking the current trend by adopting a nearly three-decade old trend, and not bringing anything new to the table. In principle, that isn’t much different from remaking any old 80’s slasher movie. Like David Arquette’s The Tripper, Hatchet revisits that particular horror heyday but fails in achieving something significantly interesting and noteworthy.

Even the bits that should have, by all rights, been fun for a horror geek like myself (like Tony Todd popping up as Rev. Zombie) fall flat. Just about the only commendable elements of Hatchet are the killshots, orchestrated by John Carl Buechler, one of old school horror’s lower tier make-up effects masters. (Buechler did work on the first 3 Ghoulies films, From Beyond, the 7th installment of Friday the 13th, and the 4th Elm Street film, aside from a host of other low budget genre movies. Buechler also appears in Hatchet as the urine-imbibing Jack Cracker.)
Director Adam Green takes a decidedly lo-fi approach to the material, having Buechler bring the buckets of bright red mess back to American horror. But if that’s all you’re in it for, you may as well just edit the film down to a five-minute reel of gory deaths and forego the rest of Hatchet.
Or, better yet, just watch Behind The Mask. It may not be as gory as Hatchet, but it’s got the smarts, and some pretty good performances to boot.
And if you really still want the gore, you can get that five-minute Hatchet reel, and everyone goes home happy.

Parting shot: Aside from doing time as Victor Crowley under some low budget Elephant Man make-up, Hodder also appears in flashback as Victor’s father, and is the Stunt Coordinator on Hatchet.

Parting shot 2: Despite my less-than-enthusiastic reaction to Hatchet, I am looking forward to Green’s follow-up, Spiral, not just to see if it’s any better than Hatchet, but also because the cast has got Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer, Chuck’s Zachary Levi, and Joan of Arcadia’s Amber Tamblyn in it.

Parting shot 3: Reviews of Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and The Tripper can be found in the Archive.

(Hatchet OS courtesy of; DVD cover art courtesy of

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