Judge Patrick Naugle has always been partial to the sling blade.
Our review of Hatchet: Unrated Director's Cut, published December 18th, 2007, is also available.
Old School American Horror.
Welcome to Hatchet, or as I like to call it: Friday the 13th Part XII: Jason Not Included But You Should Enjoy The Almost Exact Replication We've Provided As A Courtesy To The Viewer.
Facts of the Case
Legend swirls around an old Louisiana swamp that a deformed boy named Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder, Jason X) was cruelly burned by local kids, then accidentally killed by his loving father via a hatchet to the face (which always makes for a bad day, in this reviewer's opinion). Years later a misguided swamp tour of misbegotten customers—including Joel David Moore (Avatar), Richard Riehle (Office Space), Joel Murray (brother of Bill Murray) and a cavalcade of bubble-headed coeds—wind up trapped in Victor's hellish heat wave of terror! Can they survive? And if so, what will be left of them? Film at 11.
Director Adam Green's Hatchet is a fascinating piece of filmmaking. Here's a movie that wants nothing more than to lovingly play with any horror movie made between, oh let's say 1980 and 1989. It reminds me of that old Looney Tunes cartoon where beefy bulldog Spike has a little bulldog puppy jumping around him like a minnow on a shark, wanting so much to play with the other adult canines. "Can I, Spike? Can I come, too? Please! Please?! I wanna come too, Spike!" That, in essence, is Green's uber-gorefest Hatchet—it wants to badly to be a part of the collective Friday the 13th/Nightmare on Elm Street/Halloween movies series that it can't help but burst at the seams with infectious and often disgusting glee.
As an homage to the '80s slasher movie, Hatchet works wonders. All the requisite pieces fall into place to emulate this kind of trash (and know that I mean that in the nicest possible way): Naked women. People being torn limb from limb. A sympathetic but equally horrific film villain. A remote cabin/swamp/tour group. Gallons of blood. Characters of varying color and creed. Sharp farming instruments. If there was a playbook for the slasher movie, Hatchet would be it.
Honestly, Hatchet is a tough movie to review. Those who revile slasher movies (or horror movies in general, for that matter) will not want to sit through Hatchet's almost 90-minute version of a Tennessee meat grinder. To you misguided angels who have somehow stumbled across my review, please find the nearest exit and make sure to grab a Disney movie on your way out.
For the rest of you trolls (yes, I'm talking directly to YOU, dear reader, who has sat through Hellbound: Hellraiser II fifty seven times…this year alone), Hatchet serves up a sort of connoisseur's delight of giggles, gags and vomit. Hatchet is, to be exact, a fine modern day replica of those classic slasher films many of us grew up on (and by classic I mean, 'B-level cheapies only a niche audience likes'). Between reviewer and reader, let's be honest: for all intents and purposes, Hatchet is really just Friday the 13th (take your pick on which one) set in a swamp with a guy who basically looks like Jason sans the hockey mask. In fact, move the setting from a swamp to a campground and place it between Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13th Part 3 and see if that works out. Hey there! Whaddaya know!? It does!
To discuss the performances seems beside the point. There are a few entertaining character actors running around this film (Moore is sufficiently nerdy, Deon Richmond of Scream 3 fame is amusing as the only black character, etc.) but when push comes to shove this is really about the effects and the gristle. Hodder's Victor Crowley is a fine backwoods madman who has little to do except A.) howl loudly when he appears on screen, B.) look menacing and C.) be as hard to kill as Paris Hilton's public image. The deaths are creative and ugly, satisfying even the most discerning horror lover's palate (you'll never look at an electric sander the same way again).
As a movie Hatchet is nothing more than people running around a swamp getting knocked off one by one, Agatha Christine-style (well, if Christine had owned a wood chipper…). If that's what you're in the market for, purchase away dear consumer! Just make sure to pet a puppy, enjoy the sunshine or tell someone close to you that you love them after you're done.
Hatchet is presented in an attractive looking 1.78:1 1080p widescreen transfer. Considering the low budget nature of the film—and the fact that it's seeped in darkness as it takes place in the woods at night—Hatchet looks pretty darn good. Color levels look good (what there are of them) and the predominant blacks are in great shape. This is definitely a large step up from the DVD release and should please hi-def horror fans!
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround in English. This is an aggressive sound mix that often utilizes the surround speakers with loud 'stinger' sounds (the standard for any monster jumping out of a bush/barn/lake) and Andy Garfield's goofy music score. Nothing majestic, but it works within the film's confines. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
Anchor Bay has included an all new extra feature for this Blu-ray disc (which comes unrated), a commentary track with director Adam Green and Kane Hodder. Both Hodder and Green seem to have a real affection for this movie, and Green's excitement for horror movie shines through on this track. There's a lot of info here, so fans of the film will want to take a listen.
Ported over from the original DVD release of Hatchet you get the original commentary track with Green, cinematographer Will Barrett and actors Joel David Moore, Deon Richmond and Tamara Feldman (no relation to Corey), some 'making-of' featurettes ("The Making of Hatchet," "Meeting Victor Crowley," "Guts and Gore," "Anatomy of a Kill" and "A Twisted Tale"), plus a gag reel and a trailer for the film.
Hatchet is a film that does what it sets out to do (i.e., replicate an old school '80s slasher flick), and little else. On that end it gets high marks. Anchor Bay has done a fine job with this disc (it's mostly a rehash of the original DVD release) with a nice looking transfer and audio mix. This should get fans pumped up for the upcoming sequel, cleverly titled: Hatchet II.
No matter which way you slice it, Hatchet is a howling good time…or a howler, depending on your taste.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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