AYIF Review: HATCHET

Posted by Brian Salisbury - July 6th 2009 @ 7:00 am

Written and Directed by Adam Green, 2006


Today I will be watching a film that was a real darling at Fantastic Fest III, the first I ever attended.  Unfortunately I missed it because I didn’t arrive until day three.  I had heard a lot of people talking about this and how much they liked it, but it would have made my list just based on its cast.  The film in question features three legendary horror icons: Robert Englund (Freddy), Kane Hodder (Jason), and Tony Todd (Candyman).  I was interested to see these titans of terror used in alternative capacities.  Having lived in Baton Rouge and having been to New Orleans several times with differing but still frightening results, I was also interested to see a horror film set in New Orleans.  It is such a creepy city and I really think there should be more horror films set there.  All said, HATCHET seemed like it would be the perfect movie for me.

It was not.

HATCHET is your basic slasher flick.  A group of dopes take a haunted swamp tour deep in the bayou that happens to be inhabited by a killer named Victor Crowley with a dark past.  Then they get picked off one by one in not so nice ways utilizing several different tools.  The group then gets whittled down to a couple survivors who fight said killer.  Credits.  Pretty standard stuff going on here, in fact it’s conceptually oversimplified.  Writer/director Adam Green uses American horror standards to recreate the feel of an 80’s slasher flick.  He focuses on gore and jump scares, intentionally giving us flat, vapid characters and stilted writing to create this illusion.  The inclusion of the aforementioned horror icons didn’t hurt none either.  Being an avid fan of slasher films from the 80’s, this should have been like chocolate covered popcorn for me.

But the problem is that Green does not know how to strike a balance between homage and quality.  The cheesiness of his source material becomes a crutch and it seems no care was put into the script at all.  There are some really funny jokes in the spirit of the 80’s flicks but still entirely contemporary, yet even those start to sound desperate and lazy as they appear again and again.  Imagine if Quentin Tarantino just threw a mess of references from his favorite films in a bag, swung it over his head a few times, and let it fly; compiling a movie out of the ones that landed outside the bag.  That is exactly what HATCHET feels like because Green does nothing to make this movie his own.

I understand some of the acting is bad on purpose, but oh dear God that blonde chick did not die soon enough.  I get why her character was written so stupid, but it was stupid played for laughs and the actress was not funny. The real bitch is that we don’t even get to see her get killed, denying us that one, tiny iota of satisfaction.  Joel David Moore was decently charming at times but hopelessly out of his element at others.  Kane Hodder looks like he is having more fun playing Crowley than he ever did as Jason, but even his performance runs cold after a while.  I think the issue is that, in setting out to make a throwback film, Green makes a film that is nothing special, that feels very old hat.  I was bored out of my mind by about the fourth limb removal.

For hardcore horror fans, the selling point of HATCHET is the gore, which feels like a Fangoria-produced showcase for splatter effects.  Which is weird because I had a lot of fun watching H.G. Lewis’ Wizard of Gore, a movie that gave me this same impression, whereas HATCHET just left me frustrated.  I think it’s because Lewis’ film seems experimental and unassuming while this film seems to be fully convinced of its greatness.  There is literally a scene where Crowley rips entrails out of a guy and just throws them against a tree in slow motion.  It’s completely pointless and kind of a lame effect.  But there are some decent hackity-hack effects and one particularly nasty head splitting scene, so it’s not all bad.

The music is God awful, though.  It was so bland and generic that it sounded like something from a backyard horror film you buy in a 50 movie set for $8.  Again it might have been that Green thought he was referencing old 80’s slashers but I still call bullshit because there are some really great horror scores from the 80’s.  Manfredini’s stuff from the original FRIDAY THE 13TH is fantastic, as is the music in NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.  It’s not a given that the music in an 80’s slasher film is going to suck so why sacrifice entertainment value to include that reference?

There is also a line of dialogue in HATCHET that turns my stomach.  When they go into Victor Crowley’s back story, he is described as a harmless, sweet boy who was simply born deformed.  Green goes to great lengths to establish that he’s innocent and that the other kids torture him, but one of the characters later makes some comment about how Victor was never human.  What?!!  Why? I mean sure, when he’s killing everyone with various farm implements I can understand making the claim that he IS not human, but to say that he WAS NEVER human is to say that he was inhuman as a kid (when his only crime was being born deformed?).  Given what the script has established, having a character say that seems inappropriately hateful.  And it’s not even said by one of the characters who are played stupid for laughs, instead by the one with her shit together the most.  Wow, that’s either really bad writing or Green needs to get into fucking therapy.

And then HATCHET finishes with an ending that is supposed to be shocking but if you’ve seen any of the films Green is channeling it could not be more telegraphed.  The ending does not pack enough punch to warrant the sudden cut to black and the pause before the credits roll.  Again HATCHET is convinced that it is going to scare you so much that you will need to take that pausing moment to catch your breath.  Bullshit! This is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill horror flick trying to be something it’s not.  It frankly doesn’t even deserve a second viewing.  HATCHET tries to trick you into thinking it’s a good movie by calling to mind much better slasher films from yesteryear but Green puts no individual mark on it, leaving the whole thing to fall flat.

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rss 17 comments
  1. July 6th, 2009 | 11:09 am | #1

    Good review, man. I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t think HATCHET was as ‘classic American horror’ as those involved were convinced it was.

  2. July 6th, 2009 | 12:37 pm | #2

    But Peter, it played to sold out showings throughout America!

  3. July 6th, 2009 | 2:29 pm | #3

    By the way, I refuse to change my commenting name from “Brian.” This new guy is going to have to go by “Brian S.” or something to avoid confusion.

  4. July 6th, 2009 | 2:55 pm | #4

    As well he should!

  5. Matt
    July 6th, 2009 | 3:54 pm | #5

    I agree…it’s not the next American Horror classic…but I got a kick out of it. It was fun.

  6. July 6th, 2009 | 7:05 pm | #6

    Ok…first comment. Woot!

    1.) Other Brian, as you were here first I will go full name….but only until you die and we are assured your corpse will not reanimate

    2.) Peter, yes narcissistic garbage

    3.) Matt, I found small pockets of fun but I think the movie should have made that its focus instead of believing it was a classic before it was released

    4.) Why would anyone use a bullet format for a simple comment on a blog? Ooooo, Comments on a Blog! Can we get Samuel L. Jackson in on that?

  7. Barry D.
    July 6th, 2009 | 8:18 pm | #7

    I mad it about 20 minutes in and then gave up. Terrible stuff.

  8. adam charles
    July 6th, 2009 | 9:11 pm | #8

    I think the main problem, honestly, is that you saw it under less than ideal circumstances. It’s an audience movie. It garnered huge buzz at the festivals because it played to the right type of people in the right type of arena. Watching it with a group of 2 or 3 you’re bound to get frustrated with all of the terribleness (which there’s lots) that sticks out like sore thumb, and don’t have that added effect of hearing a crowd ooh, aahh, and cheer when the kills begin. Granted, a movie shouldn’t HAVE to be seen with an audience to be enjoyed, but if it plays best with an audience then that’s how it probably should be seen to get the effect.

    That being said, everything you said about it is true. It’s the kill scenes that will determine whether you give it a thumbs up or down, and watching it with a group of at least 10 should highten the experience in that respect.

  9. July 7th, 2009 | 8:57 am | #9

    I think my friend Gercken summed it up best when we were watching it, “I love this movie, everyone’s the comic relief!”

  10. July 7th, 2009 | 2:46 pm | #10

    I have been wondering when you were going to get around to this. I loved this flick.

  11. July 7th, 2009 | 2:49 pm | #11

    Oh, you didn’t write this Peter…someone else did, as you kinda said so on a previous post I didn’t read..

    Either way, good article Brian!

  12. July 7th, 2009 | 9:46 pm | #12

    Mr. Wells,
    I thank you. I really, really wanted to like it but….meh. I was really pissed off when we don’t get to witness blondie’s demise. I sat through all those miserable moments with no catharsis? Bad form!

  13. July 8th, 2009 | 2:35 am | #13

    Wow, sounds interesting dude. I think I’ll be checking it out in some capacity if for nothing else to write a review for my blog.

  14. July 8th, 2009 | 11:54 am | #14

    Monster Man,
    Not sure how I made it sound interesting. I thought I just panned it all to hell, but if you got something else out of it then more power to you. All criticism is subjective after all. What’s your blog called?

  15. July 8th, 2009 | 6:04 pm | #15

    Well blondie used to be on Buffy and she was rather annoying on the show. So I will say I was quite disappointed we didn’t get to see her get a treatment on par with the top of her head ripped off from her jaw. But I suppose that’s where imagination comes into play.

  16. July 8th, 2009 | 6:15 pm | #16

    Imagination is fine, I just expected better visuals….from a film. And not just her death, but in general so, c’est la vie

  17. November 28th, 2009 | 2:50 pm | #17

    Brian,

    The name of my blog is http://scarymoviemania.blogspot. As far a Hatchet goes I agree with you, the movie wasn’t good at all. I’ve seen it about three times and I would have to say the best thing about the movie was the homage Mr. Green paid to the three horror movie greats.

    By the way, I love it if you would be interested in guess blogging for me sometime. Please check out my blog and let me know if you are interested.

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