As an aspiring director without contacts or financial backing, making a horror film is akin to an actor preparing an audition teaser. If it works, you get the chance to branch out and make other films with bigger budgets. If that weren’t true Sam Raimi would be on Evil Dead 17 instead of killing time with Oz the Great and Powerful. If it really, really works, you can turn your one note flick into a money making franchise and essentially rest on your laurels, like those guys that made Saw, ummm, that guy and the other one. Can you name any of their other directing successes? Thought not.
So the choice is easy. Either be really talented and prove as much by making a film that ascends beyond the genre, or come up with something franchise worthy and count the zeros at the end of your cheques.
Adam Green might think he’s Sam Raimi or Guillermo Del Toro, but he really wants those zeros too, and he thinks Victor Crowley is his Freddie Kreuger…
But is he right on either count?
Writer/director Green doesn’t try to hide his intentions of kicking off a franchise. His opening sequence includes a cameo by none other than Freddie Kreuger himself, Mr Robert Englund, and a few minutes later we see the Candyman Mr Tony Todd in another cameo. It’s as if he is saying ‘I’ll acknowledge the past, but in a few moments we will meet the Future’…
Within 15 minutes Green has scattered the horror breadcrumbs for easily led teens to follow (all the way to their ultimate disappointment, though in truth the easily led are often easily pleased). In this period a redneck has his arm torn from his body and a spine is literally ripped out – which elicits the immortal line… “It hurts”. We also see liberal doses of two pairs of boobies perched upon the upper torsos of two nubile young women hoping to find fame in one of those Girls Gone Wild type shows.
After a few minutes boredom pretending to be ‘character development’, we meet Victor Crowley’s next prey upon a small tourist vessel that seems almost purpose built to deliver them to evil. A ‘haunted swamp tour boat’ that goes into the forbidden areas where Crowley is rumoured to exist, pining for his family and ruing the incident that left him with a deep hatchet wound on his face some years prior.
How this leaves him furious at tour boats is left unexplained. Just know he is.
After the obligatory fake scares and red herrings, the hulking and grotesque Crowley enters stage left, bringing with him a chainsaw and promises of gore, but simultaneously killing any shred of tension, scares or potential creativity.
The script from this point is one page long.
Prey stands still. Crowley walks up and catches one. (Gore scene 11 – see 27 page synopsis and storyboard). Remaining prey runs off screaming.
Prey stands still talking animatedly about what to do. Crowley walks up and catches one. (Gore scene 12 – see 16 page synopsis and storyboard. See also google/images ‘beheading by chainsaw’.) Remaining prey runs off screaming.
Prey argues about working as a team and such. Crowley walks up… (We will work out what we will do next at our next ‘gore meeting’ at 10 am. Director is currently leaning towards including a gore scene here. Please gives 12 seconds thought to how we might kill someone with a chainsaw.)
The best part of Hatchet is the dialogue, which is reasonably witty and occasionally clever, despite the fact that the homogenous nature of the characters makes their lines essentially interchangeable. Still, the first half hour contains a few moments that might have the sides of your mouth raise just a little. This is what elevates Hatchet to the tier above rubbish like The Collector, Laid to Rest: ChromeSkull and even lesser efforts – not that there are many efforts worth less than ChromeSkull…
But ‘Adam Green’s Hatchet’ doesn’t exist for chuckles. It exists as a platform on which to host gore scene after gore scene, all of them choreographed and planned for maximum blood spray and minimal impact. Sure this stuff might work on teenage girls, but then again so does One Direction (or whichever pre-pubescent group of boys is around this week).
If Green thought that ‘Indestructible bad guy kills pretty teens in swamp with chainsaw’, might be his ticket to fame and fortune, he probably didn’t think quite hard enough. Then again one quick look at Hatchet’s 80 minutes of gory glory proves beyond reasonable doubt that creative thinking just might not be Green’s strong suit.
Final Rating – 6 / 10. Inspires as much emotion and passion in me as it did for one character when his spine was forcibly extracted from his body. “It hurts” he said. Indeed it does. Hatchet makes me as excited and reinvigorated in the horror genre as that guy seemed distraught.
After all the hullabaloo in the media about Hatchet 2 not getting a cinema release – much of it from the director himself – I had envisioned writing this up as an overlooked minor classic, instead I had to watch the last 20 minutes twice to prove to myself I didn’t miss anything and that the film really was meant to end that way.
In reality I should have seen it coming, the original Hatchet received much undue praise when in reality it was a straight 80s rip, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was a rip of generic 80s crap, not the cream of the crop. The so-called “anti-hero” Victor Crowley was also massively overrated: Gee a mutated freakishly strong psychopath that lives in a swamp and kills anyone unsuspecting who shows up in gory ways…
Fuck that’s original.
In retrospect it was also a really bad sign that the director decided Loreal style that “he was worth it”, and plonked his name on the title: so I should kowtow and refer to this as “Adam Green’s Hatchet 2”.
Anyhoo in H2 (that’s what I call it, but I’m just creative like that) we get a clumsy backstory that in essence shows that Victor was “born of awkward circumstances”.
I’ve said it before – if you don’t have a creative backstory don’t tell it – just get to the killin’ and the screamin’.
The remainder of the film revolves around the bizarre premise that Victor is somehow an undead ghost or something, and that only his avenging himself will rid himself from the swamps and save people from himself.
Made no sense to me either, which wouldn’t have mattered a zack if I liked how he went about it…
The movie at least then tries to adhere to the tried and tested formula of heavy metal, gore & tits, but the formula is so formulaic and basically boring that it had exactly zero impact or entertainment value.
After a very brief, derivative and clumsy justification for heading back to the swamp involving a young woman named Mary-Beth (Danielle Harris) looking for her family with a kooky sightseeing operator named Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) back into Crowley’s territory we go, along with fresh meat in the form of hired muscle being paid $500 per head, with a bonus to the guy who takes down Crowley.
Only as we see quite frequently in the latter half of the film, Crowley is not an easybeat, at near 7 foot, with a mangled face, huge guns and the ability to take a shotgun blast to the chest without wincing, it would have taken a lot more than five hundred clams to get me in the same state – let alone the same dark and gloomy swamp.
Victor is unstoppable, he is everywhere and can seemingly get anywhere instantaneously. He also has a bunch of toys that he utilises to disembowel, eviscerate, decapitate, violate and penetrate victims that number into the double digits.
No problem there of course this is a psycho killer flick. The problem is the lack of creativity used: victims inch about nervously, do the “did you hear that?” and stand awaiting their violent demise. There are no traps, no clever sleight of hand or tricks, Victor shows up in plain view – shows them his weapon du jour and uses it on them.
If it’s a hatchet he hatchets them, a chainsaw? Saw ‘em in half. A sander? Hello abrasions. The victims don’t even fight back 90% of the time, they stand still and take their medicine like guys in a bad kung fu movie.
What makes that even worse is that I guarantee Mr Adam Green spent more time on the kills than he did coming up with the threadbare backstory and lousy plot, so you just expect more. Let’s face it, after the first Nightmare on Elm St each sequel for a decade was exactly the same, you only watched them for the kill scenes and to see what ridiculous quips Freddy would come up with.
Victor doesn’t talk, and his kill scenes suck. Even a few gratuitous boobies don’t make the rest worth a glance.
Final Rating – 4 / 10. I thought the original Hatchet sucked. But at least it wasn’t “Adam Green’s Hatchet 2”.
We all know death is not an impediment to any self-respecting horror franchise character, certainly not when it comes in the form of evisceration and having the body dismembered and shredded by a chainsaw.
You’ve gotta come a lot harder than that if you wanna put a dent in Victor Crowley.
So after we are privileged enough to watch Mary-Beth put what she thinks are the finishing touches to her nemesis in the deep dark swamp, she decides that she must turn herself in to the local authorities, and she walks into the police station covered in blood with Crowley’s scalp grasped in her hand.
Even with all that evidence and a suspect’s confession, no court in the land would convict Mary-Beth. Not because of mitigating circumstances, pleas of self defence or simply the vagaries of the United States Justice system – but because the murder victim, one Mr Victor Crowley, ain’t dead yet.
Despite this Mary-Beth’s story and innocence are both deemed dubious at best by New Orleans’ finest. They call in a forensics crew and search team. Then once the magnitude of the dozens of mutilated bodies becomes apparent, the SWAT team. Just more faceless victims for everyone’s favourite faceless killer.
To the swamp set everyone. And bring the blood-packs!
Of course Mary-Beth finds herself back in amongst it all, alongside a police chief and a female reporter who has claimed Victor Crowley was real all along.
With Victor and his creator Adam Green going through the motions at this point the dialogue is as uninspired and tired as the plot, which really is running on empty. (There was actually one joke that I liked which related to an actor from a previous film playing a different character). I mean how many fresh and new ways are there to slice and dice a dummy filled with blood? With this trilogy as evidence I might agree that around a dozen is the appropriate response, unfortunately there are about 25 in this episode alone, with the director actually taking shortcuts on a few by showing Victor appear then cutting away and letting the sound effects do the job.
Unless you are a die hard fan – and why would you be? – I can think of no reason to check out Hatchet 3 unless you have a vested interest in Danielle Harris’ continued employment. By agreeing to be Hatchet’s Jamie Lee Curtis, she proves that she is both a trooper and a desperate actress in one fell swoop.
Hopefully she – and we – will be granted some small mercy with the news that this will represent the end of a franchise that never deserved to be, although another lousy ending casts a doubt over that wish.
Final Rating – 5 / 10. It seems the only person that can really kill Victor Crowley might be the guy who created him – and his lack of vision and creativity.
Franchises aren’t designed and constructed in a lab or a basement. Not deliberately. They come to life organically with the unexpected success of an original premise and character. No-one thought Freddie Kreuger was a franchise killer until he was one. He was the menacing figure in a horror movie that exceeded expectations, then he grew into his character with the quips, sight gags and creative kills.
By coolly and calculatedly attempting to construct a franchise, Adam Green is as stupid and guilty as the guy who drives his kid towards a sport for his entire life at the expense of all other things including childhood. Few become Tiger Woods or the Williams sisters. Fewer still become Freddie Kreuger or Jason.
Your best bet is to try something and have as much fun as you can. If your character finds an audience and proves itself worthy, then it might just grow up to be Saw. If you try and fail, there is no shame in that.
Unless you try and fail by doing exactly the same thing three times in a row. That’s one thing you should be ashamed of. Hatchet barely deserved one film, three carbon copies are an insult and evidence of a lack of talent all in the one clumsy package.