The first Hatchet was like two movies in one; an odd group of characters on a comedic bayou boat tour who stumble onto the set of a gory slasher film. What made it great is that writer/director Adam Green managed to fully realize both sides of the film. It was genuinely funny, and really gory. It had fun with the slasher genre, without making fun of it.
But Hatchet 2 looses that ‘two movie’ feel. So, while it’s still a great slasher, it doesn’t rise too far above that.
The role of Marybeth, one of the few survivors of the first film, has been taken over by Danielle Harris (Halloween 4, 5), who does a spectacular job. She spends the entire movie with her emotions cranked up to 10, but somehow stays convincing and sympathetic the whole time. It’s hard to compare her and the previous actress directly, as Marybeth is a very different character in both films. In the first, she is a quiet and reserved woman, in the second she is frantic and angry (which is totally justifiable character development given what she goes through), but Harris is so good in the role that you soon forget whats-her-face ever existed.
Marybeth joins a group of hunters and heads back into the swamp to kill Victor Crowley once and for all. It’s a common trope in horror movie sequels to have an ‘army’ go up against the monster; A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, Aliens, [rec] 2. I’m not sure why so many films use the conceit. The effectiveness of horror is dependent on the audience’s ability to relate to the characters, and the majority of people can not relate to the experiences of a tactical assault team.
The other issue with the cast of hunters is that it’s inherently monochromatic. They’re all pretty much the same character type, gruff rednecks that like to shoot things. They’re distinguishable only by their silly habits or hair style. In the opening scene of the film, someone finds a camera owned by the amateur porn producer from the first film. We then get treated to a few minutes of his raw footage which is funny and filled with pointless nudity. It’s a fun throwback to the original, but it’s also a reminder of what has changed, or been lost (depending on your taste), from the first film.
To put it succinctly; the first Hatchet was about a group of people who happened upon a killer in the swamp. The second Hatchet is about Victor Crowley. The problem is that Victor Crowley is a generic monster in a mask that has little facial movement; not something you want to pin a whole movie to.
It may have been a cliche to have a new group of victims head out into the bayou and fall victim to the killer, but the wacky cast of characters is what made the first Hatchet great. Without them, we’re left with nothing more than a well-made slasher film. That’s not a bad thing, especially if you like slashers; but after the surprising greatness of the original, it’s a bit of a letdown.