Adam Green may not have reinvented the wheel with the 2006 film Hatchet, but the film amounted to a fun, throwback to the slashers of yesteryear.
I will be straight you – I did not love each Friday the 13th film the way many of you did (my heart always belonged to Child’s Play and A Nightmare on Elm Street). If we are keeping count, of the Friday the 13th’s I’ve reviewed so far on the Nightmare Shift, all of them have received a mixed-to-negative rating. In fact, the first Hatchet film ranks higher than any of the original three in my book. Kane Hodder is not my favorite Jason and, last I checked, the remake was my favorite of them all. However, I do genuinely consider myself a series fan. It is that iconography I feel many of us are drawn to, the little moments that add up (often because the sheer number of sequels we receive), and the way we look at the characters in-retrospect, and less likely from a film-by-film formula.
When I first watched the Hatchet series many years ago, my feelings were, more or less, that they improved with each film (barring Victor Crowley, which I remembered as the worst of the bunch). Since revisiting the original Hatchet film, I discovered my opinion has changed, at least minutely. I have warmed up to the original film, which makes me curious about the rest of the series. Regardless, the iconography of Victor Crowley continues, win, lose, or draw.
Once more directed by Adam Green, Hatchet II comes about four years after the original. The film received a negative reaction from critics, which is par for the course, of course, given the subgenre has never been mistaken as a critical darling. The film is set directly after the original film, with our main-protagonist Marybeth having managed to escape Victor Crowley’s deformed hands for the moment. In time, she is clued in on her family’s connection to the bayou butcher, and assembles an army of hunters to recover the bodies of her family and finish off Crowley once and for all.
In a lot of ways, the Hatchet series feels like the Expendables of the slasher subgenre. Obviously, the root of it all is Kane Hodder’s portrayal of the burly Victor Crowley, but anyone familiar will know it runs deeper than that. Be it Robert Englund from Elm Street fame, or Tony Todd from Candyman, the series knows its stuff and celebrates it unabashedly. Hatchet II is more referential, featuring shout outs to other low-budget horror fare like Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon or cameos from familiar faces like Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman. As I’m writing this, I am only now realizing that Marybeth’s uncle in the film is portrayed by Tom Holland, director of the original Child’s Play film. Sheesh.
The best addition, however, to me, at least, comes with the addition of Danielle Harris. Although she may often feel like an actress on the outside looking in of mainstream notoriety, I consider her a horror legend who I always look forward to seeing have a chance at the spotlight.
Like the original film, Hatchet does not exactly know how to make the most of the talent it has procured, but it does offer Danielle Harris and Tony Todd a lot of screen time, and I appreciated that.
As prefaced, the film is set directly after the events of the original, which I was hopeful about, but then, admittedly letdown by. The idea is sound in-theory, as it allows you to start off in the midst of the action. One of the toughest hurdles to climb over for a slasher film is what to do with all that pesky time when there isn’t any slashing. This idea, however, doesn’t pay off, and, I think actually detriments it. Instead of coming in hot, Hatchet II cools off and meanders, only now, it feels like it struggles a lot more with what to do with itself. The storyline is contrived and bone-headed, leaving for the characters and, more importantly, the viewer, to do a lot of the heavy-lifting in-order to make sense out of it.
At the center of Hatchet 2’s concept is a neat idea. In the Friday the 13th series, the continuity veered off in whichever direction suited it. In the original film, Pamela offed counselors, and Jason’s cameo wasn’t until the end, in a creature of the lake type deal. In the second film, it suggested Jason survived and hunted around Crystal Lake, living in a makeshift shed. Sooner or later though, Jason became the zombie-like character we are now more accustom to, and the one that Victor Crowley most closely resembles. What’s neat about this film is that it tries to bring a type of lore behind why Crowley exists. Basically, he is a ghost, cursed to haunt the swamp, and no matter how many times you kill him, he will keep coming back. It’s an idea that feels familiar and classical, and yet, does something to add a wrinkle to Crowley’s character.
I ended up with not a lot to say about the Hatchet sequel, which I find curious given how my opinion has changed, similar to my opinion on the original. The only difference is, I warmed up to the 2006 slasher flick and soured on the 2010 sequel. The humor doesn’t do it for me and I found the lore developments on Victor Crowley off-putting overall. I found that the film lulled a lot in the early-going, and by the time it picked up, it felt like too little to late, bogged down by uninteresting characters and a plot I couldn’t get behind. The violence and bloodshed hasn’t went away, but the charm feels lost, whereas the kills will unmemorable. It isn’t a bad film, per se, and with the grading curve, you might even call it a decent slasher film, but I personally wasn’t into it.