(Here’s a blast from the past – my review of the original HATCHET from September 2007, during HATCHET’s brief theatrical release before it went quickly to DVD ~LLS)
MOVIE REVIEW: HATCHET (2007)
by L.L. Soares
I saw the movie HATCHET, and I have two reactions to it. The first reaction is that it’s the equivalent of a fun (but dumb) amusement park ride. My second reaction is that I feel like I’ve been cheated.
You see, I was really looking forward to HATCHET because it’s been advertising itself as “Old School American Horror.” To some of us, that phrase means something. It hearkens back to the golden decade of the 1970s, when we got treated to intense horror classics like the original THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), the original HALLOWEEN (1978), the original DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) (Don’t you just hate that I have to put the word “original” in front of each of those movies, so you know what I’m talking about?), and the soon to be “original” LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) (since we all know it’s inevitable that will get the official remake treatment at some point too) (EDITOR’S NOTE: AND I WAS RIGHT!).
HATCHET was building up a lot of buzz on the premise that it was a throwback to the horror films of the ‘70s, and me being the silly person I am, I thought this meant suspenseful, brutal, edge-of-your seat filmmaking. But it turns out I was wrong. “Old School American Horror” wasn’t meant to imply the 70s at all in this context. Instead, HATCHET is like the horror films of the ‘80s, especially stuff like FRIDAY THE 13th PART III (1982) – you know, when slasher films were getting a bad name and were becoming jokes because of all the damn sequels and cliches?
Which is kind of funny, because the monster in HATCHET is played by Kane Hodder who played Jason in FRIDAY THE 13TH Numbers 7 – 10. See how everything comes full circle?
HATCHET revels in the whole “jokey horror” genre, where we get as many jokes and one-liners as we get thrills. And frankly, I’m getting a little tired of that, since it’s seldom done well. The story is simple enough – hell, it seems a bit too simple. A bunch of friends are at Mardi Gras. One of them, Ben (Joel David Moore) refuses to have a good time because he’s a whiner who’s devastated over his recent breakup with his girlfriend (who can blame her?). So his buddy Marcus (Deon Richmond) agrees to go with him on a late night “swamp tour” through the spooky bayou to lift his spirits. There are other people on the tour, including an older couple, a sleazy filmmaker and his two “actresses” (who constantly pull their tops down “Girls Gone Wild” style), and a weird girl who won’t say much. The guide for the tour is an Asian guy who talks in a cajun accent and pretends to be a local – but he has no idea what he’s doing. While out on the swamp, their boat gets damaged and they have to run to shore before the alligators get them. But, in the woods, there is a worse danger. His name is Victor Crowley.
Victor (Kane Hodder) is a deformed freak who looks an awful lot like the monster in Tobe Hooper’s THE FUNHOUSE (1981) with some ELEPHANT MAN (1980) thrown in for good measure. As a child, Victor was taunted by other children because of his tragic appearance. One Halloween, some kids threw firecrackers at his house to torment him and ended up burning the place down by accident. Trapped inside, poor Victor panicked and struggled to get out. His father, trying to get inside, used a hatchet on the door. Unfortunately, Victor’s face is pressed close to the other side….and you get the picture from there.
For some untold reason, Victor’s still alive. And, after being born deformed, then burned, hatcheted and left for dead, you can understand why he’s boiling mad!
What happens next is just what you think. The group of morons who got stranded in the woods get picked off one by one by the deranged freak.
Once Victor appears, the movie does take a big leap forward. Let’s face it, no matter how flawed the movie is, he’s a cool character who deserved a better storyline. But, until he shows up, it’s just a lot of lame jokes and annoying characters. And it is kind of fun how he constantly pops up when people least expect it, to kill and mutilate. There were rumors that this movie was going to get an NC-17 rating originally, and you can see why. There’s tons of decapitations, bodies getting cut in two, and arms being ripped off. But it’s more cartoony than scary.
A little Victor Crowley goes a long way, but unfortunately, he’s not enough to save the movie. And it certainly wasn’t good enough to justify the ten dollar ticket price I paid.
Sure, I laughed a few times, and I dug the carnage, but HATCHET was ultimately a disappointment. If they’d actually played it straight and emulated the films of the 1970s – you know, real OLD SCHOOL AMERICAN HORROR - then maybe HATCHET would have been a film worth recommending. I know I was expecting something much more intense. If this sounds like the kind of goofy fun film you’d enjoy, then by all means, check it out. Everyone else, you can wait for the DVD.
Another lesson in “Don’t believe the hype.”
© Copyright 2007 by L.L. Soares