When a film gives itself the Tagline: “Old School American Horror”, one would think it left zero room for fucking around. Yet the Hatchet franchise is one giant-3-film-fuckaround. But it’s a fuckaround done RIGHT! The Slasher genre had its glory days, then went out of style only to come back into vogue years later, but something had changed. Modern Slashers seem focused on delivering a visceral experience and less on being a fun movie. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy modern slashers…I mean, who couldn’t love the pulse pounding “I know what you did…” series? Ok , bad example, Wrong Turn , Behind the Mask, and the various remakes and re-imaginings of the 80s classics have all been good, but when i watch them, i can’t help but feel they lack the spirit of old. I get the feeling that Adam Green felt the same way.
Adam Green is the Mastermind behind the Hatchet franchise, serving as creator, writer, director, producer and bit-part actor, I think it can safely be said that Hatchet is HIS baby. The story arc follows the legend of Victor Crowley, a vengeful spirit haunting the Louisiana swamp that was once his home, but is now his killing field! Over the course of the 3 films, we learn about the legend, how Crowley came to be cursed, and the eventual resolution of the curse, and along the way we are treated to near countless inside jokes for genre fans, wildly over the top and inventive kills, as well as appearances by some icons of horror cinema.
Hatchet (part 1) opens with a pair of Gator hunters, Sampson Dunston (Played by Horror legend Robert Englund), and his son Ainsley, out on the Bayou late at night trying to bag a catch. In short order they are set upon by Victor Crowley (Played by Kane Hodder of Friday the 13th fame, who also plays Victor’s Father Thomas in a flashback, a rare unmasked role for Hodder), who dispatches them in over-the-top, bloody fashion, setting the tone and standard for the franchise. Our Narrative next cuts to Mardi Gras where we meet Ben (Joel David Moore, quite possibly the best “lovable loser” in film history) and Marcus (Dion Richmond, who clearly tries too hard in this role)(Adam Green makes a cameo as their drunk friend), two friends who at Ben’s insistence, and despite Marcus’s objections, seek out a Haunted Swamp Tour, and seek out Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd, of Candyman, and Night of the Living Dead (1990) fame). The Rev informs them he can’t do tours anymore after being sued for negligence, but instead refers them to a shop down the street, where the duo meet Shawn (Perry Shen), an Asian sheister with a fucked up fake Creole accent, as well as Shapiro, a sleazy porn producer(ooooooor IS he?) and two prerequisite disposable sluts. Misty is a dumb blonde, while Jenna is an “Actress” who seems to think that filming “Bayou Beavers” will be a stepping stone to a real career…uuuuuh-huh. They also meet an older couple, Shannon and Jim Permatteo (Jim played by Richard Riehle, Fuck yeah! Diabetus Walrus!) and the intense and aloof Marybeth (played by Shannon Feldman). As the tour goes on we briefly meet a Piss-drinking Gator hunter named Jack Cracker(played by FX guru John Carl Buechler) who warns the group not to enter the swamp. Ignoring Jack’s warning and carrying on the tour, we learn the legend of Victor Crowley, that of a deformed boy who was accidentally killed by his father via a hatchet strike to his face, and ever since then, he haunts the swamps and can be heard calling ominously for his Daddy. After running aground and being forced to abandon their boat, the group is alerted to the danger they are in by Marybeth, a local resident who is searching for her Father, Sampson and brother Ainsley. One by one, the group are picked off by ole Hatchet-Face himself, Victor Crowley in several inventive and hilariously awesome ways, such as a Belt-Sander to the face, ripping the head apart via the jaw, Decapitation with a shovel, etc. It’s a fun romp that is a gore effects aficionado’s wet dream. I’ve heard the film described as a love letter to the slasher films of yesteryear, to which I couldn’t agree more. It manages to pay homage, while still being entertaining enough to stand on it’s own. After the first film, Horror had gained a new hot director, and a New icon was born in Victor Crowley.
Hatchet II picks up literally where Hatchet left off, as the film begins during the final battle between Marybeth(Now played by Danielle Harris of Halloween fame). Marybeth manages to escape the seemingly inevitably bloody end at the hands of Crowley and attempts to flee the swamp, being assisted by Jack Cracker who takes her back to his Cabin. After learning that Sampson is her last name, he fearfully kicks her out, telling her that if she wants help, she needs to see Reverend Zombie. Moments after she leaves, Jack is killed by Victor Crowley, who gouges his intestines out and strangles him with them until he decapitates him…Leave it to an FX guy to give himself one of the coolest deaths!. Marybeth returns to Reverend Zombie’s shop and, after demanding to speak with him, he reluctantly lets her in(Along the way, we see Adam Green, passed out in the street). After learning her last name, he tells her that her father was one of the 3 boys responsible for causing the fire that originally killed Victor Crowley. He also tells her that Thomas, Victor’s father, had an affair with his wife’s nurse after she was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Moments before dying, Shyann Crowley placed a curse on the child conceived by the Nurse from the affair. Months later, she dies after giving birth to the deformed Victor Crowley. Initially ashamed of his son, Thomas hides Victor from the world, and becomes a bit of a recluse himself, but gradually grows to love his son. After Victor is killed in the fire, Thomas confronts the three boys responsible but they, along with their parents, deny it. Thomas becomes a shut-in and eventually dies of a broken heart ten years later. Ever since then, Crowley’s spirit has Haunted the swap, as he slaughtered anyone who entered. In Zombie’s shop, we learn that he was in fact running the ill-fated swamp tour, having set up a dummy operation to keep the heat off him. We also meet Shawn’s brother Justin, again played by Perry Shen. Marybeth enlists the help of Zombie to retrieve the bodies of her family, which he agrees to do, enlisting a posse of hunters to help retrieve his boat while they are at it. What follows is more over the top slaughter and for some reason a lot of mutilation that starts at the crotch. This is especially curious when you consider Victors use of a giant goddamn chainsaw…a killer Phallic symbol!
Was Adam Green riled up into sexual frenzy at the pressense of Danielle Harris? I sure would be! The blood flows like wine and the limbs fly like…well, flies…i guess. Fuck it, it’s a swamp! Victor deals out one of his most brutal slayings to Rev Zombie as we see the continuation of a theme within the series, Kane Hodder(Jason Voorhees) brutally slaying his horror peers in Robert Englund(Freddy Kreuger), and Tony Todd(Candyman). Either Adam Green is the be-all-end-all Friday the 13th fan, or he was so terrified of Kane Hodder that he chose this trend to appease him. Both seem equally possible. The climax of the film sees Marybeth using Victor’s own Hatchet to hack his head to a bloody stump, then deliver the Coup De Gras with a shotgun blast to what is left of his face, yelling “FUCK YOU!!!”” in defiance…Which leads us straight into…
Picking up literally the instant we left off, Hatchet III opens to Marybeth shotgunning Crowley’s head to mulch, only for him to rise again and attack yet again. After knocking him back onto the running 8ft chainsaw from last film, literally splitting him in two(to which i stood up and cheered). This time believing Crowley to be truly dead, Marybeth grabs the spent shotgun, and a large piece of Crowley’s skull, and starts marching back to town with a catatonic look on her face. She stumbles into a Sheriffs office, gun and scalp in hand, muttering “…I killed ‘im…”. She is arrested and upon tellign authorities what happened, and where to find all the bodies, the Sheriff screams at her “That is the stupidest story I’ve ever heard, with the most asinine logic I have ever heard!” We then immediatly cut to a shot of Adam Green, now in the drunk tank, who looks up, and has a hurt look in his eyes. Brilliant! Because this film is still new, I won’t give away anymore details of the plot, but i will say we get to see appearances from Perry Shen, who plays a Paramedic unrelated to the brothers from the first two films, all so they can make the “All Asians look alike” joke. Sid Haig(Devils Rejects, House Of 1000 Corpses, Coffy) makes an appearance as a relative of the Crowley family, and in a moment of Horror film geeky glory, Derek Mears plays a bad ass Swat leader who takes on Crowley. As we all know, Kane Hodder(Crowley) is famous for Playing Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th 7-10, while Derek Mears played Voorhees in the 2009 Reboot. Imagine seeing two Jasons square off! Will the new blood be able to match up with the crafty Veteran?
All in all, I think the Hatchet franchise was a great ride. I’ve heard several criticisms that the plot lacks structure and the violence is unrealistic, to which I say: Good! The whole point of a slasher film is to let go of the real world and immerse yourself in a world where people make dumb decisions, and suffer horrible fates. These movies are meant to be fun. An early review of Hatchet III said it felt like a 90 minute Friday the 13th fan film. It is. It is made by fans of classic slasher films, FOR fans of classic slasher films. Hatchet is devoid of social commentary, of morality plays, it is a franchise that knows exactly what it is, and doesn’t try to be anything else…
A BLOODY GOOD TIME!