I expected a trashy, low-budget rip-off. What I got was a witty homage to ’80s horror with great acting and high production values.
I have not been so pleasantly surprised by a horror film since Trick ‘R Treat.
Every horror film needs its innocent. Usually its a virginal girl who babysits the neighbor’s kids, but in Hatchet, it’s Ben, played by Joel David Moore (Avatar). Ben has been shanghaied to New Orleans by his friends in the hopes of getting him over the girl who dumped him. But Ben is not amused by trading plastic beads for glimpses of nipples, and leaves them behind to seek out a haunted riverboat tour of the Bayou. One of his friends, Marcus, tags along, however reluctantly.
They end up with Shaun as a tour guide, a recent immigrant with no knowledge of the swamp. Joining them on the trip are a tourist couple Minnesota, a quite girl local to the area, and a middle-aged man with two models who are filming a ‘Girls Gone Wild’ style softcore film. One of the models is played by Mercedes McNab (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) who has previously posed for Playboy, so she knows what she’s doing.
I wouldn’t go so far as to call Hatchet a comedy, or even a horror-comedy hybrid; but there is an undercurrent of humor throughout the film. This is most apparent with the cast; a (I have to use the word) wacky assortment of archetypes played with outlandish, hammy verve.
And the cast is actually likable. Some of them are bad (the porn producer, for instance) but even he is presented with pathos so that his possible death means something to the audience.
The extreme nature of the characterization is mirrored by the ridiculously gory violence. People’s bodies are literally ripped apart and blood is thrown by the bucketful. Now, that might sound bad; but the fact that both aspects (the characters and the action) are on the same level makes the movie as a whole balanced. The violence is over-the-top, but so too is the world it takes place it, so it all works.
The tour group inevitably runs into the monster of the movie, Victor Crowley, a deformed man who hates the world and everyone in it, and shows said hate with quick, gruesome murders. I appreciate that the director, Adam Green, was not afraid to showcase his monster. Most horror movies hide their makeup work with fast-paced editing, and off-screen or unfocused action; but Hatchet puts it right out there. The makeup itself is reminiscent of the era of film this movie is paying homage to. It’s all practical effects using heavy prosthetics that hinder facial expression; and yet, by showing them clearly, Green establishes his messy monster as part of the real world rather than a largely unseen force outside of it; and that makes Victor Crowley effective as a monster.
Hatchet is a horribly fun film. A love letter to ’80s horror that isn’t afraid to one-up its influences and defy expectations.
The movie looks and sounds great on Blu Ray. It was probably shot digitally, which always results in a clean, sharp transfer. Extras include a commentary and several behind-the-scenes videos.