Anchor Bay // 2007 // 84 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // December 18th, 2007
Old School American Horror.
Hatchet is sold to its audience as the ultimate return to old-school American horror, but the filmmakers clearly missed their mark. Adam Green's second directorial effort struggles to operate along the lines of classics such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but the result is nothing short of disappointing. Sad to say, Hatchet is not as sharp as it may seem, and although the supply of gore is satisfactory, the film continually wrestles with a tedious plot, lack of suspense, and a failed attempt to mix pathetic humor with standard bloody horror.
Tired of boozing and staring at all shapes and sizes of breasts at Mardi Gras, Ben (Joel David Moore, Dodgeball) and his pal Marcus (Deon Richmond, Scream 3) decide to take a break and join a group of New Orleans tourists on a haunted swamp tour. But when an accident immobilizes their boat and leaves them stranded in the middle of nowhere, the tour quickly turns into a bloody race for survival. Chased by a vicious monster known as Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), they must face their fears and stick together as a team if they want to make it out of the woods alive.
Looking at the poster and trailer, I thought chances were considerably high that Hatchet might keep its promise and supply first-class horror action with a solid dose of suspense and a fair amount of gore. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Twenty minutes into the movie my expectations got shattered and all hope for improvement was lost. It takes the movie forever to lift off, and if you are not an easy person to scare, you surely won't encounter anything remotely frightening during at least the first 45 minutes. At this stage, with the movie being half over already, all I could do is give it another shot and hope for a sudden boost both in suspense and pace. Again, I was disappointed, and although the action speeds up a little once Victor Crowley shows up and starts killing his victims one by one, the level of excitement remains considerably low. The plot quickly transmutes into a fiesta for horror fans who seek continuous blood splatter and over-the-top kills, but the gore is all the film has going for it.
Adam Green's effort to stuff Hatchet with humor goes unnoticed, and the film is, quite simply, not funny. The so-called jokes are more embarrassing than amusing, and the dialogue as a whole is just plain horrendous. The characters are dull and shallow, and, of course, they are too stupid to make the right decisions that would increase their chances of survival. Suspenseful horror films embrace the unexpected and rarely comprise predictable characters who ruin the plot by acting like imbeciles, but Hatchet heads into a different direction. Part of the reason why the characters are implausible and underdeveloped is the lack of a talented cast. I don't know what Green was thinking when he picked his actors, but they do more damage to the movie than good. I have to admit that the script fails to supply them with any inspiring material, but they don't even get the bad lines right. Instead, their performances are lifeless and unconvincing.
Unlike Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees, Victor Crowley doesn't stand a chance in becoming an iconic creature. Although the movie includes a segment about what happened to Victor and why he mutated into a deformed killing machine, his story remains short and unimpressive. The movie then switches to autopilot and lets Victor go after his prey, without ever digging deeper into his twisted mind. In this context, Hatchet is too simplistic to be compared to the aforementioned horror classics, and offers nothing new to the genre. Been there, seen that!
One thing that really annoyed me is the quality of the audio transfer. The dialogue and the sound effects are not balanced out well enough, and you'll quickly notice that the music is usually much louder than the voices of the actors. This can be frustrating especially when you have neighbors, so you better stick to the remote to turn the volume down as soon as the ambience kicks in. On a different note, the quality of the video is sharp, and good lightening provides authentic background and a generally dark atmosphere. Too bad it's never scary enough.
Even though it fails to make Hatchet a better film, the gore looks sharp and extremely realistic. The special make-up effects account for the film's few memorable moments, and most of the kills are fairly original and a pleasure to look at. It's actually quite sad to watch a movie failing at everything except its violence. If only Green had incorporated a solid story with the necessary amount of suspense and some decent actors, the end result would look drastically different.
If you decide to get a hold of the DVD, you'll quickly notice the crowded special features section. Indeed, and as hard as it may seem to believe, most of what the bonus material has to offer easily tops the quality of the feature film. Besides a mediocre three-minute "Gag Reel," the disc also includes five featurettes, including a 40-minute behind-the-scenes look in which Adam Green tells his viewers that he first thought about the story for Hatchet when he was eight years old. Members of his crew also talk about how hard it was to get the film financed, and how they assembled a teaser trailer to secure the funding. This making-of is particularly interesting because it chronicles the production of Hatchet and includes original footage from auditions and the shooting itself. Not that it makes the movie a better experience, but it's certainly more entertaining to watch.
"Guts & Gore" and "Anatomy of a Kill" offer an enlightening look at the special make-up effects and the design of the over-the-top kills, while "Meeting Victor" features cast and crew interviews about how scary Victor really is. I'm glad someone out there thinks he's a frightening fellow. Then there's the filmmakers' commentary, which is not among the most fun activities, especially because it requires you to sit through the movie a second time. Adam Green and members of the cast and crew walk their viewers through each scene and laugh about what all went wrong and how challenging the shooting was, but their commentary on the whole does not reveal any extraordinary information about the movie. The featurettes are far more insightful.
I completely understand that a lot of young directors out there do not have the financial support to create big blockbusters with hardcore special effects and famous actors, but the first step in making a good film is writing a solid script, and all this requires is a pen, some ink, some paper, and a unique idea. I have no pity for those who can't even get this one straight. Adam Green looks like someone with a certain potential, but Hatchet does not prove his skills. Instead, it makes us wonder whether or not we should even bother watching his next film. Chop! Chop!
Review content copyright © 2007 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Commentary with Adam Green, Will Barratt, Tamara Feldman, Joel David Moore, and Deon Richmond
* Gag Reel
* Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
* "Meeting Victor Crowley"
* "Guts & Gore"
* "Anatomy of a Kill"
* "A Twisted Tale"
* Official Site