UPDATED: I was in awe at how many grammar and spelling mistakes I found upon re-reading this review. So those are fixed. I should also mention that in hindsight the character of the swamp guide was so ridiculous he made me laugh. So factor that in when you decide whether or not to see HATCHET.
Being Film #8 in Hail Horror 2008
This one's for Sean, who loaded up his Netflix queue with horror films he was interested in and told me to take my pick. So before I talk about 2007's HATCHET, directed by Adam Green, here is a personal message to Sean:
"Hi Sean! Hope you're doing well - Jack misses you, so stop by soon! Oh, and by the way - you have some fantastic horror films in your queue. At a glance I can whole-heatedly recommend films like ROGUE, DANCE OF THE DEAD (obviously) BASKET CASE (which I hope to review next week), the original BLACK CHRISTMAS, and GINGER SNAPS, which I adore. Please, PLEASE consider these options very carefully before taking a look at HATCHET. You've been warned..."
Why do I say that? Because the poster's tag line of "Old Fashioned American Horror" roughly translates to "low-budget 80's throwaway that stars someone who looks and acts roughly like the dude who stars in that show Chuck". And while I can understand the film as a sort of reaction to the glut of PG-13 stuff that passes itself off as "horror" nowadays, HATCHET relies on simple devices like silly music and purposeful overacting for humor that feels more tired than funny. And the horror, when it does come, is pretty much like everything else you've seen in the mid 80's, just not as scary. Or good.
In short: a motley crew of tourists take an illegal nighttime cruise in the swamps of New Orleans where they're terrorized by Victor Crowley, a deformed giant who was supposedly killed as a child when, after a childhood prank burns down his home, his father mistakenly slams a hatchet in his face trying to save him by breaking the door down. You have your lanky hero, a pair of porno starlets and their sleazy director, the hot loner chick who will eventually have a tender moment with said hero, and the obligatory black sidekick who's main role is to scream and toss off unfunny one-liners. That's it. People get picked off one by one in gore-infested ways until only one remains.
Or maybe not, because every horror movie nowadays needs that little "jump" at the end that was probably the first thing thought of by the screenwriter. And I'll admit that the ending to HATCHET is sly and kind of cool, but definitely not worth sitting through 90 minutes to get to. Very brief cameos by genre vets Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund and Tony "Candyman" Todd bring a little life but are in for too short a time to make any difference. Huge gaps in internal logic pervade every decision made in the film, the power of Victor Crowley is inconsistent and although the gore is pretty impressive for such a low-budget movie, the murder scenes are shot in an over-the-top in a way that borders on the ridiculous.
Maybe drunk with a bunch of friends who don't care about anything other than tits and blood (both are offered in copious amounts) is the way to watch HATCHET. It doesn't have any of the terror that the movies it prides itself on being a part of (e.g. FRIDAY THE 13th, etc..) have, so what promises to be a refreshing change from the typical instead finds itself barely retreading water from 25 years instead of 5.