Old-school horror flick brings back blood-and-boobs filmmaking
By Devin D. O’Leary
Directed by Adam Green
Cast: Joel Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Mercedes McNab, Kane Hodder
From its utilitarian title onward, Hatchet is an unapologetic throwback to the cheapjack slasher films of the ’80s. Beta Barns and VHS Vaults from coast to coast were once filled with the likes of Terror Train, The Funhouse, Slaughterhouse, Slaughter High, Return to Horror High, Graduation Day, Prom Night, Hell Night, The Burning, The Prowler, The Mutilator, Maniac, Madman, Humongous, Nail Gun Massacre, Slumber Party Massacre, Sleepaway Camp, Cheerleader Camp, My Bloody Valentine, New Year’s Evil, Mother’s Day, Happy Birthday to Me and countless (literally) others. For those already burned out (and rightfully so) on the cynical torture porn of the aughts, the idea of a horror film filled with copious boobs, loads of cornball comedy and piles of rubber entrails sounds like a breath of fresh air.
Of course, those of us who actually spent our formative years watching Terror Train, The Funhouse, Slaughterhouse, Slaughter High, Return to Horror High, Graduation Day, Prom Night, Hell Night, The Burning, The Prowler, The Mutilator, Maniac, Madman, Humongous, Nail Gun Massacre, Slumber Party Massacre, Sleepaway Camp, Cheerleader Camp, My Bloody Valentine, New Year’s Evil, Mother’s Day, Happy Birthday to Me and countless (literally) others know that—entertaining as those films might have been—none of them were actually all that good.
Despite the fact that assorted sun-deprived Internet bloggers are dubbing writer/director Adam Green the savior of modern horror for his work on Hatchet, it should be noted right up front that Hatchet isn’t clever, smart, original, particularly well-made or all that convincingly acted. Of course, that only further entrenches it among the ’80s slasher flicks it so clearly seeks to emulate. That isn’t to imply, either, that Hatchet it isn’t a fair amount of fun—in a “standard-issue genetic deficient in overalls kills a bunch of random people” way.
The film takes place in New Orleans, exploiting the city not for its post-Katrina angst (sadly), but for its booze-and-boobs atmosphere. Our hero is Joel Moore (“Cooter” from Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning), whose gawky frame combines the best physical characteristics of Beck and Shaggy. He plays Ben, a college dork hanging out with his friends at Mardi Gras. Bored with all the beer and exposed nipples (what college kid wouldn’t be?), Ben talks his pal Marcus (Deon Richmond, Scream 3) into going on a “haunted swamp” tour. The tour group is made up of the usual clichés: the elderly Midwestern couple, the porn stars (huh?), the mysterious chick with the gun and the Asian tour guide with the fake Cajun accent.
Naturally, the boat runs aground in the middle of the swamp where the tourists are instantly set upon by the vengeful ghost (or something or other) of a hideously deformed kid who was burned alive a decade ago (on Halloween night, no less). Horror vet Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th parts VII, VIII and IX!) plays our main man, mutilated maniac Victor Crowley. Victor is some sort of an urban legend whose origin is explained thusly—and I’m quoting here—“Sometimes, if a person dies all traumatic-like, their spirit can get kinda just stuck in the night they died.” Basically, all this boils down to is that Victor comes rampaging out of his moss-covered cabin and starts hacking apart our disposable cast using various inventive implements (shovels, belt sanders, the titular hatchets).
Green knows his way around the slasher genre, dropping in a couple winking cameos (Robert Englund from Nightmare on Elm Street, Tony Todd from Candyman) and delivering the gore in buckets (with an able assist from blood-and-guts guru John Carl Buechler). There’s no CGI to be found here—just latex, foam rubber and more than enough fake blood to go around. If you’ve ever had a subscription to Fangoria, Hatchet is speaking your language. If you really want to see the boobs of that girl who played Harmony Kendall on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Hatchet has got you covered. If you’ve been jonesing for a good, old-fashioned slasher flick just like grandma and Tom Savini used to make, then Hatchet is right up your twisted little alley.
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