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May 31, 2011

Hatchet II

(2010, Dir. by Adam Green.)

Hatchet II and I were never destined to be friends.  I don't usually see slasher films as more than just background noise in the first place; to me they're slightly below the mall food court on the horror film food pyramid.  And then I was annoyed and even a bit offended by the film's marketing campaign, which was all about how Hatchet II could only exist if it weren't given a rating by the MPAA.  But, like I said...those slashers make great background noise, so I also knew I was destined to eventually check out Hatchet II.

The film picks up at the conclusion of Hatchet, with the last standing survivor, Marybeth (now played by horror heroine Danielle Harris), eluding Victor Crowley and reaching safety, where a swamp fella tells her the seen-in-flashback story behind Victor Crowley, starting with his father - the returning Kane Hodder - who has an affair with his dying wife's nurse that produces the cursed child that would grow up to be a murdering swamp demon.  From there, the shaken Marybeth - still searching for her own father - is sent toward another return character, Reverend Zombie, the swamp tour entrepreneur who sent the fated voyage into the swamp during the first film.  Zombie is played by the man who may have played horror's last truly iconic villain, Candyman star Tony Todd.

(In an attempted comic twist, Zombie is assisted by Parry Shen, who returns from the first film as the twin of the tour guide who led the doomed expedition the night before.  Can we please, somehow, get filmmakers who think they're being cool to stop using the "let's bring back the dead character as a twin" gimmick?  Please? It's so sad.  Look, I know Shen was one of the only interesting performers in the first film - and he's one of the most interesting performers here, too.  But hey, Mr. Filmmaker - if you liked him so much, YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE KILLED HIM!)

I digress.  The point is that Reverend Zombie and Marybeth have to go into the swamp - with a group of disposable characters - to try and hunt down Victor Crowley and/or save her father and/or Zombie's lost boat.  I was a little surprised to see that the set up featured so much human drama and conversation, as there's plenty of consideration of family ties and a relatively cute rekindled romance between indie horror dude AJ Bowen and the blonde Alexis Peters - in the daylight hours of the film.  All of this is lost once the sun goes down and Victor Crowley comes out to play, as things devolve into excessive gore and stupid behavior.

Speaking of Victor Crowley - I just don't see the appeal.  The guy is like the Bane-as-played-by-Jeep-Swenson-in-Batman & Robin of slasher movie killers.  Isn't a horror movie supposed to be about scares, not just a giant mongoloid popping out and grunting while killing?  Jason was an imposing presence too, especially once Hodder took over the mask, but there was still something dark about the character that was a bit mysterious.  Victor Crowley - now with not one but TWO tragic sad backstories! - just seems to pop up out of nowhere at times, ripping people limb to limb or dismantling them with that hatchet or a giant chainsaw. Would I be frightened if he were standing in front of me with an ax?  Probably.  But that's it.  We do fear him, but we don't fear the shadows and dark places that he might be lurking in.  There's no subtlety involved in the Hatchet films and how they portray Crowley.  To me, that's not "Old-School American Horror".  That's what the Hot Topic crowd thinks horror is.  That's what the people who grew up picking horror films based on VHS covers over plots or filmmakers thinks horror is.

To be fair, I had more fun watching Hatchet II than I expected to.  Green has shown he can create human terrors in his non-Hatchet films, and you can see some of that at work here before it becomes the exact same film as its predecessor once it hits the swamp.  If I hadn't seen the title card come up claiming that the "Hatchet Army" was "Here to Save Horror" at the end of the credits, I might have given Hatchet II a pass as mindless stupidity.  But Green's final touch was a reminder that I was very grateful for - a reminder that there's a lot of great horror out there that doesn't need to be saved by uninteresting nonsense like Hatchet films. 

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe decapitations during intercourse or people being choked with their innards is what horror needs these days.  Gah.  At this point I don't even care.  Hatchet II and me - look, we can work together, we're just not gonna be friends.  I feel like Snake Plissken talking to Commissioner Hauk at this point - I don't agree with what the movie stands for, but I'm too tired to kill it.  I guess if you want crap with lots of blood and bad acting (I love ya Danielle Harris, but this was a bit off key), Hatchet II does that decently.  (However, I'll take a film it slyly referenced - Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon - over it every day of the week.  And while I'm at it, Spiral is still the best film Green's directed.) 

The bottom line, however, is that Hatchet II is not what I'd call good horror.  In fact, to me it's nothing more than a false idol trying to lead others astray from the truly great things horror films can offer.  If this is horror's salvation, I'll gladly be condemned with my copies of great horror films that came with stories and characters.

5 comments:

TerrorScribe said...

Great review... or diatribe as the case may be. They should have just stopped after the first one. At least that was somewhat clever. And I agree with you on Spiral. That was freakin' brilliant!

Christine Hadden said...

We are on the same page here with HATCHET II. I just reviewed it not long ago as well and ended up with more comments and questions than a review. I just couldn't see much of a point to any of it, the acting was poor, and most of the kills were bombastic and silly.
That said, I did mention that I loved the director's FROZEN, so I guess we'll see with his next film if we have a hack director (as in the HATCHET films) or an original mind in horror. Green is like an enigma, and as of now, consider me undecided.

Hey! Look Behind You! said...

I'm sadden that you didn't like it but I see your point in your review. I'm glad you gave it a chance though :)

R.D. Penning said...

Adam Green will never be a "hack" director. He makes the films he wants to make and whether the film is good or not, he does exactly what he sets out to do. Just with the few films he has done he shows that he is one of the most versatile filmmakers around today.

I too have heard many bad things about Hatchet II, but I like the first one alot. He wanted to make a slasher film where he got to have fun as a director and tear shit up with buckets of blood. He knows he is being ridiculous when making them, and admits to it. He had a blast making them, and I have to respect a man who want to do his job because he loves it and not because it will get him a fat paycheck.

Adam Green is brilliant, and he has shown it with films like Spiral and Frozen, so let the man have his fun with the Hatchet series

Syrin said...

I think seeing Hatchet II in the theater is part of what made it so much fun for me. All of us in there laughing and groaning together really made it a fun experience. I can see how someone who is not much of a fan of slashers to begin with would not care for it all that much.