Adam Green clearly loves horror movies, and Slasher films in particular. There is no question that Hatchet was created by a Slasher lover and for Slasher lovers. With his previous film, Frozen, Green proved that he could deliver on suspense and intensity; here though, he abandons any pretext of crafting a tense, serious film and instead wallows gloriously in the often goofy excesses of ’80s Slasher films.
Hatchet is not a film to be taken seriously; it is a film that harkens back to the sillier, dodgier movies of the First Slasher Film Cycle, those that came out in the mid-to-late ’80s, that tried without much success to cash in on the glory of its predecessors—and Hatchet is all the better for it.
This is the kind of film you are meant to laugh at—or, actually, to laugh with. The filmmakers are all in on the joke. The script is full of Slasher film clichés and the creators are cool with that—hell, they wrote it that way. They know their actors come off not-so-great, but then it’s obvious that even the veterans who pop up here and there for cameos, including Robert Englund and Tony Todd, were simply given a chunk of scenery to chew on and maybe a glass of scotch to wash it down with. No one here’s pretending that the movie contains any real suspense or scares—though there are a few fun surprises—because Hatchet isn’t about a deep script, great acting, or even suspense. Hatchet, like its ’80s ancestors, is all about the killer and the kills.
So do we care that, in Hatchet, Ben has come to New Orleans to enjoy Mardi Gras and forget about his recently exed-girlfriend, that he can’t enjoy himself because he’s a gawky sad-sack, and that he convinces his buddy, Marcus, to accompany him on a haunted swamp tour? Do we care that, also on the tour, is a young lady named Marybeth who is searching for her brother and father, who have both recently vanished into the swamp? Do we care that rumors have it the ghost of a disfigured young man named Victor Crowley haunts that very same swamp?
You’re forgiven for caring about that last one; a good legend is the foundation upon which any lovingly hackneyed Slasher plot is erected. But if you actually give a crap about those first two plot points, Hatchet may not be for you. In fact, while I was describing the plot, you should’ve been wondering about that killer and those kills I mentioned, you should’ve been clenching and unclenching your sweaty fingers, asking yourself “When’s he gonna get to the kills? Wheeeeennn?”
Take a breath, dab your pits, I’ll tell you about the killer and the kills: Victor Crowley is a kinda-sorta ghost, but the kind of ghost who’d tear Ray Stanz’s head off and shove it down Venkman’s throat before yanking Egon’s spine out and choking Zedmore with it. He’s disfigured, he’s big, and every one of his brain cells appears dedicated to devising ridiculously bloody methods of ending human life. There’re indications that Crowley couldn’t dress or feed himself without help, but the guy’s like an idiot-savant of murder. He’s that dude in Shine if you swapped Paganini’s La Campanella for overextending a person’s jaws with his bare hands.
The kills are hilariously gruesome, the kind of kills you simply cannot take seriously. I have a feeling even my mother would have simply rolled her eyes and smirked at a few of them. The gore is fairly realistic, but the kills themselves are not—if that makes any sense. What I mean is that the way in which these people are killed defies most laws of human biology and many laws of physics, but they look great.
Any gripes? Sure. For one, the tour guide character, Shawn, is fantastically annoying. The other characters, though some were stupid or skeevy or both, were at least fun. But Shawn was just irritating. Anything else? Yeah. Unfortunately—and I don’t know if this is what they were going for—the Victor Crowley muscle suit in which Kane Hodder is wrapped looks kinda lame. Paint him green and he’d be the ugly, unpopular fifth Ninja Turtle, Baccio. Again, maybe they were going for the so-bad-its-awesome-monster-effect, but it didn’t work for me.
But these are nit-picks. Overall, Hatchet is not only a fun, nostalgic look back at the crap-then-but-kinda-great-now Slashers of 1985 and on, it’s also a well-crafted Slasher film in its own right that has spawned a soon-to-be trilogy and helped rejuvenate the sub-genre. A must-see for any Slasher or horror lover.
Oh, also, I’ve been to Honey Island Swamp and I can tell you the guides there are amazing and the trip well-worth it. You won’t see any disfigured ghosts, but you’ll see plenty of gators. Just a friendly FYI.
Length: 84 min