Sunday, September 9, 2007


Directed by: Adam Green
Written by: Green
Starring: Joel Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Tony T
odd, Robert Englund, Richard Riehle, Kane Hodder

I first heard about Hatchet from one of my worthless personal assistants who apparently slapped down a fair amount of nerd cash to attend the 2006 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors. At the geek fest, director Adam Green pimped his slasher film along with the entire ensemble cast, which includes horror legends Candyman, Freddy Krueger, and one of the Friday the 13th Jasons. Green was refreshingly and strongly outspoken in his distaste in current horror fare: the flood of unnecessary remakes, the inundation of sequels, and the deluge of Japanese pics re-shot for American consumption. His energy and passion for the genre was infectious and damn-well justified given the hard times good horror has suffered lately. They then showed a fairly gory clip from the film and the audience was sold. The expectations for his flick were at a seriously high level in horror fandom. Following my assistant’s report, I was ready to get in line to see the thing. But then, nothing.

Flash-forward to over a year later, Hatchet is just now being released after months on the festival circuit. I attended the Hollywood opening night screening of the film with my colleagues Bill Z. Bub and the Goddess of Gore, both enthusiastic horror followers. Green and his devoted cast were in attendance and offered a Q&A after the film that will be recapped at the end of this review.

A group of proto-slackers partakes in a haunted Louisiana swampland tour, which quickly turns from hilarious to horrific as the doofwads find themselves hunted by local celebrated psycho Victor Crowley. Our killer Crowley is a freakish deformed mutant, taunted by locals as a youngster, accidentally killed by his father, and said to be a roaming the swamp as a murderous ghost. One by one, each member of the group is slaughtered, gutted, spiked, impaled, poked, and torn apart like Hooters hot wings.

Joel Moore, Deon Richmond, and Tamara Feldman prepare to be chopped in Hatchet

Hatchet bears its adoration for 80s-era throwback horror on its blood-soaked sleeve, but unfortunately the end result is mixed. Green injects a lot of humor in the script which at times is effective and appropriate, but overall hinders the feeling of suspense we are supposed to feel as the characters each journey to their bloody endings. But to label the film as a whole as ineffectual is probably unfair. I came into the movie with specific expectations, tainted by reports of something groundbreaking coupled with Hatchet’s tenuous claim of being “Old School Horror”. Unfortunately, I didn’t see evidence of either, but that’s not to say the film was not entertaining.

But I guess in a lot of ways, Green has accomplished what recent horror filmmakers have failed to do, to invoke an authentic, unconscious reaction of the “grindhouse" variety which isn’t necessarily defined as a scare, but as any reaction at all. The film does incite a reaction, be it a cheer, a scream, or even hearty laughter. And this is where Hatchet doesn’t work for me. I found myself laughing more than being chilled, on edge, or freaked out, the main reasons I watch horror in the first place.

On the other hand, any horror aficionado devoted to 80s horror will find much enjoyment in Hatchet: the gore is really good, the cast is obviously having a lot of fun with the material, and there's equal amounts of weird and wacky, although at times the rapid-fire shtick upsets the balance. My only nitpicks are with Crowley himself, who seems like a cross between Jethro Bodine and Toxic Avenger. Green presents a fairly bland origin story for the killer and never delves into his mythology or injects any sense of mystery in his reason for chopping up tourists. Also, the ending was pretty weak, but a cute nod to the original Friday the 13th.

"Hey Granny, what's for supper?"

I have to admit, that I was unimpressed and sort of annoyed once the credits rolled. At the end of the screening, each cast member came to the front and offered a story about the making of the film. I was a little bored with the silly anecdotes until Green grabbed the mike laid out his intentions, pumped his fist at corporate horror, and aroused a serious amount of excitement that I wish his film had generated. He is clearly a devotee of the slasher film, and in no way does he ever claim that Hatchet is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. And it’s not. But the film marks the arrival of an up-and-coming talent worthy of waiting another 17 months for a next release. Hatchet, despite its claims and minute weaknesses, is definitely a notch above the unnecessary remakes, the sequels, and Japanese pics re-shot for American consumption.

No comments: