The first poster for Hatchet is what got most people excited to see it. It very simply and succinctly proclaimed “It’s not a remake. It’s not a sequel. And it’s not based on a Japanese one”, with OLD SCHOOL AMERICAN HORROR as its tagline. How can you not appreciate that? It seemed obvious that the people behind it understood what the audience was missing in horror films, and was going to do it right, for once. Which is why it’s a shame that it ended up being a pretty standard paint by numbers slasher flick.
Hatchet starts off with a goofy scene that sets the tone for the rest of the movie, as Robert Englund channels the Old Man and the Sea while he and his son hunt for gators in the swamp. Of course, there’s more to fear out there than just some alligators, and they’re soon dispatched in bloody fashion.
From there- boobies!
Yes, it’s Mardi Gras down in New Orleans, footage of which was shot before the city failed in its attempt to become Atlantis 2. What does this mean for us, the viewers? Lots and lots of bead-adorned tits, of course!
We soon meet our main character, Ben. Ben is the typically pussified “I just broke up with my girlfriend of 10 years” guy, and isn’t really digging the whole scene of booze, frat boys and naked flesh. His friends think he should get over it, but he’s got other plans for his vacation. His escape is a haunted swamp ride, which he heard was a good time from a few friends who went last year.
He convinces one of his friends to come with him and they both set out to find the guy who conducts the tours. After a bizarre Tony Todd cameo they find the place and get on a tour with a whole group of wacky characters. You’ve got a filmmaker shooting a bizarre X-rated film with 2 bimbos (that consists of them lifting their shirts up every 5 minutes on the tour and going “Whoo!”), their Chinese tour guide who speaks with a horrible southern drawl, an elderly couple that knows too much about the swamps, and the strangely quiet girl who sits alone in the back (I’m sure she doesn’t have anything to do with the story).
In any case, while out on the swamp their boat hits a rock and sinks. They manage to get to land, but unfortunately for them it’s right near the house of one Victor Crowley. He’s our hero…. er, villain. Looking like what might happen if the Elephant Man took steroids, he’s a giant freak with a cleft face from a run-in with a hatchet that took place years and years ago, when he was still alive.
Yes, he’s an undead supernatural monster, and he hates people. Why? Not sure, no one in this group did anything to him. But he’ll kill them just the same!
And kill them he does. The kills are gory to the point where they caused a man to walk out of the theater cursing when I saw it- always a good sign. In fact, this is the best part of the film… the film does not skimp on the red stuff, and there are a few inventive kills splattered here and there. Crowley is a great and spooky monster, even if you are waiting for him to splutter “I AM NOT AN ANIMAL!” while he ripping someone’s arms off. There’s even a few scares in the flick as well, all jump scares but used effectively to startle you.
But unfortunately as fun as the kill scenes are, the rest of the film is just… standard. There’s just nothing here that’ll stand out in your mind, nothing that elevates it above a thousand similar slasher movies. I can’t say that there’s even one really bad part of this film, it’s just that it’s all been done before. It has a good comedy streak, and the actors do a decent enough job, but they don’t exactly have a lot of material to work with. The lead characters lose any potential arc they might’ve achieved as soon as Crowley appears, who (rightfully) takes over the focus of the film from that point. The killer’s backstory is interesting enough, but the taunted freak child who came back from the grave? Been done.
One legitimate point of annoyance is the abrupt ending. It’s not that I hate when films end seemingly out of nowhere, hell, one of the best horror movies of all time did it to perfection (American Werewolf in London, of course) but here it’s out of place and leaves you feeling gypped. Why cut away in the middle of some action, after everything else so far has delivered?
What it all comes down to is that Hatchet is a fun film; the cinematic equivalent of junk food. It makes for a good time with fellow gorehounds, but as soon as you step foot out of the theater, you’ll begin to forget it.