Dark Sky Films
|Directed by: Adam Green
||Running Time: 85min
Cast : Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Tom Holland, Parry Shen, R.A. Mihailoff
Halloween 4&5’s Danielle Harris replaces Tamara Feldman in the lead role of Adam Green’s slasher/comedy romp.
Oh, what I would have given to see this oblivious idiotic jackass choke on that cookie. Your death scene comes too little, too fucking late.
You know what freaks me out? That this hill-billy mutant-disfigured hunchback in overalls has beautiful blue eyes. No, I am not kidding.
Lots of horror names litter the Hatchet series. R.A. Mihailoff (the large fellow standing up) played Leatherface in TCM3, and right in front of him is Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Entertainment.
Review by Jay Wilson
Through numerous discussions and reading more reviews than I care to admit, one fact has become apparent to me: hardcore fans of slashers are idiots. I say this not because of their subjective taste in movies (which is also probably lacking, but that’s another discussion), rather because of objective, concrete, verifiable fact. Each franchise has an army of sequels, and with each one you will read things like “the killer isn’t in it enough,” “not enough nudity,” “the body count was too low,” “not enough blood”, and so on. Go ahead. Look it up, I’ll wait. These complaints are interesting because the classics within said series—the exact same movies said rabid fan will point to as the pinnacle of greatness within the series—has less blood, less bodies, less boobs, and less screen time for the killer than the sequel he’s criticizing.
Like I said, idiots.
Hatchet II is a movie made for these people. Specifically, it’s made for those delusional about the body count and gore content in horror movies. During a backstory voice-over clip, we see a montage of explicit bloody murders, and when this tale’s characters finally make their way into Victor Crowley’s swamp, well, the big bad killer dispatches them two-by-two in ways requiring gallons upon gallons of fake blood.
Anyway, Hatchet II presumptively picks up where the original left off. I say “presumptively” because I didn’t bother to see the original Hatchet. Having spent quality time with the slasher subgenre, I have a frighteningly accurate idea of what happened. So Hatchet II starts off with sole-survivor Marybeth (Danielle Harris) escaping the clutches of Victor Crowley, the franchise’s killer, a Toxic Avenger meets unmasked Jason Voorhees.
So Marybeth makes it back to safety and meets up with Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd, who starred in the 1990 Night of the Living Dead remake). Reverend Zombie, a screwball conman who runs tours through the swamp. Having not seen the first film, I’m guessing these are Victor Crowley mythology tours. But that’s not important. What’s important is Marybeth is pissed, her family is dead, and she wants to go back to reclaim their bodies and get revenge. After a bit of consideration, Zombie agrees to rally some local hunters and return to the swamp. And this is what attracted me to Hatchet II. I’ve seen enough slasher movies where moronic characters visit the site of a massacre of yesterdecade, wander into the deepest darkest most evil looking shadows they can find, and die one by one while everyone else wonders why their pals keep disappearing. Hatchet II seemed like it could be the Aliens of slasher movies. This time, the characters have an idea of what they’re up against, and this time they’re bringing guns. Lots of guns.
My other attraction to Hatchet II was that it’s billed as a satire in the vein of Bride of Chucky or Freddy vs. Jason (both of which I enjoyed). I have my doubts that the slasher subgenre has enough juice left for any more serious movies, but I’m still down for bloody comedy.
As much as I don’t like Hatchet II, as much as I think 99% of the humor falls flat, I have to admit the urinal-as-a-cup bit was pretty funny.
I love that Marybeth is in the clear and completely safe starting this movie, and that she willingly puts herself in danger again for the chance of revenge. One of the very few ideas I really liked.
But, before we get to the hunters and the comedy, Reverend Zombie puts the entire movie on pause to tell Marybeth the legend of Victor Crowley, complete with a flashback that spans the killer’s conception, birth, and death. Zombie also informs Marybeth that her father had something to do with the creation of this ghost story and haunted swamp once upon a time, long long ago. Frankly, I couldn’t care less. After watching Jason Goes to Hell, Elm Street 5, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4, Hellraiser 4, and Halloween 6 it became apparent that filmmakers will just pull random BS out of their asses to keep the series going. Thus, now, I don’t even pay attention to slasher plots.
Boring flashback over with, Marybeth reluctantly recruits Uncle Bob (Tom Holland, director of Fright Night and Child’s Play), then we jump to a scene where Reverend Zombie rallies the hunters, and director Adam Green introduces the audience to one of the most irritating characters to ever crawl onto the screen. Meet Vernon, a grown man who much reminds me of a child who must be the center of attention every minute of every day, a man incapable of shutting his stupid mouth to prevent the stupid shit from spewing from it. He stops a meeting to ask for milk and cookies in one scene, he sings an impromptu song about chicken in the next, he goes from one character to next with his childish antics, and acts like he’s been unforgivably dissed when they glare at him like the moron he is.
This isn’t a character you want to see die in a slasher movie. This is a character you want to beat the shit out of yourself the moment you see him on screen. Screw the chainsaw, give me a baseball bat. It’ll hurt more.
Then, as the hunters move in, it becomes apparent Adam Green wants to go the clueless Friday the 13th victim route instead of the Aliens “let’s go to war” route. Almost none of the hunters believe in Victor Crowley despite signing up to kill him. They wander off in pairs and wait around for Crowley to come along and dispatch them in some of the most ridiculous over-the-top fashions ever dedicated to celluloid. I personally liked the use of power tools despite being in the middle of a swamp with no power. Also, I liked how after seeing a bullet have no effect on Crowley one of the hunters goes mano-a-mano with him as if his fists are going to do anything.
It’s not that Hatchet II is incompetently made. Not at all. On a purely technical level, Hatchet II isn’t half bad. There’s lots of surprisingly nice moments. It’s a matter of competent execution of (mostly) bad ideas.
Ah yes, now I remember why I stopped watching slashers: their desire—nay, their obsession—to projectile puke their killer’s backstory at me in every god damn movie.
For me, the best joke in the movie: when the ‘dead’ killer starts to come around, Danielle Harris marches back with a gun as big as she is to finish the job ... nevermind there not being anything left of Crowley’s head.
But, in all seriousness, I will give Hatchet II this: at least it knows not to take itself seriously. It gleefully engages in overkill for the sake of overkill. Now, whether smashing a guy’s face in excess of twenty times is a funny and effective use of satire or just mere pandering to gore hounds under the half-assed guise of parody, well, that’s another matter entirely.
There are a number of moments I genuinely liked (albeit, not enough to save the film.) There’s some great frames, such as when the hunters first arrive in the golden light of dusk, shot from a stylish dutch angle. A little bit later on, there’s a great unbroken steadycam shot where each group talks for a bit, developing their characters, before walking past the camera, and the next group steps into frame. The blood and gore effects are top notch, and I can’t thank Adam Green enough for sticking with old school practical effects. Amidst a murder, there’s a great seemingly random cut to an unoffending tree which then gets splattered with blood. And I love the final seconds of this movie when tiny little Danielle Harris, armed with the titular hatchet, goes to town on the human monstrosity that is Kane Hodder; I have waited decades to see a heroine properly handle one of these undying slasher villains.
I’ll close with this observation: dramatically, the most effective and most emotionally impactful kill in the movie happens semi-off-screen where Green refrains from showing anything explicit. We see blood splatter, we see reactions of other characters, we hear the chaos, but we never see the victim nor the killer. Great filmmaking is a balancing act of knowing what to show, when, and how much—and understanding that sometimes less is more.
In the end, Hatchet II mostly accomplishes what it sets out to do, and that is to pander to a very specific fanbase who believes more is better and that there’s no such thing as too much. Maybe I’m just too much of a film snob, but I believe there is such a thing as too much even in satirical slashers.
That and I hate pandering.