HATCHET - 2007
Compass International Pictures / Falcon Films / Anchor Bay Entertainment
Rated: USA: R
First a caveat. You plan to see this movie? Prepare to be scared.
Okay, what did writer / director Adam Green promise us with his new movie, HATCHET? Right there on the poster it says: It's Not A Remake, It's Not A Sequel, And It's Not Based On A Japanese One. Beneath the title he added, Old School American Horror.
So what did Adam Green give us?
Old School American freaking Horror! Adam freaking delivered!
Now I grant you, this movie is no wow on the level of say, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. It's not about to spawn a bunch of imitators because the story and plot is so well worn. A bunch of young folks (and a few not-so-young) go into the woods at night and get their asses handed to them by a freak.
This tale has been told so many times over that its not even funny. But in the capable hands of Adam Green, HATCHET is not only scary, it's funny. There is a pitch perfect blend of humor and Horror running through HATCHET that has to be experienced to be believed.
HATCHET is about a young college age guy named Ben (Joel Moore) who, having just broke up with his girlfriend, decides to go on a holiday with his friends. They don't go to a European HOSTEL however, they go to New Orleans during Mardi Gras (HATCHET was the last film production in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit). But Ben has had all he can take of people throwing up on the sidewalk and an overabundance of titties shaken in his face by drunk women who have no sexual interest in him. It just reminds him more and more of his heartache. His buddies don't see it that way, so they part company. Except for his best friend Marcus (Deon Richmond: SCREAM 3), who VERY reluctantly agrees to go with him and winds up, VERY reluctantly, going on a tour of the snake, gator, and croc infested Louisiana swamps at night.
Unfortunately Ben and Marcus and a few other tourists hired The! Worst! Tour! Guide! Ever! The guy knows nothing about the swamps; doesn't know how to run the boat, has no idea what he's talking about, and winds up sinking in the swamp. And this was supposed to be a three hour tour! A THREE HOUR TOUR!
Well everybody has cell phones but no companies have bothered to rig up cell phone service deep in the Louisiana Bah-yoos, so that's tits. Everyone makes it to shore but not without one of the folks getting a love bite from a croc or gator (it's dark in the swamp and was hard for me to tell). Then a girl named Marybeth (Tamara Feldman: PERFECT STRANGER) freaks everyone out EVEN MORE by saying that she really took the tour as the cheapest method of finding her Pop, Sampson (Robert Englund: - aw, YOU know who he is!) and brother Ainsley (Joshua Leonard: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), who disappeared in this swamp a few days ago. The reason the disappearance freaks everyone out is because of Marybeth's bizarre tale of Victor Crowley and why this swamp is outlawed and off-limits to the public in the first place. Their tour guide, Shawn (Parry Shen) knew this part of the swamp was off limits, but what the hell? Thar's money to be made!
The short of it is, like all good Mis-Shapen Maniac Redneck Horror in the Backwoods movies (and a lot of awful ones), Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder: HOUSE II, 2001 MANIACS, ROOM 6) was born a physically dee-formed freak: Ugly face, twisted vertebrae, poor posture, the works. But his Pop (also Kane), loved the little guy and raised him all by himself in the swamp. Naturally some townies caused some CANDYMAN problems and Victor wound up catching on fire and getting a hatchet buried in his face.
Now you would think that with all of those problems, Victor would be one weak and sickly cuss, if he was alive at all. But as always happens in these movies, physical deformities, genetic problems via inbreeding, getting burned nearly to death, being beaten into a twisted hulk of a deformed human being, and getting your head chopped in half and your brains ripped out - gives one Super Powers! You can shoot him, cut him, burn him, stab him - knock him out temporarily - but you can't kill him. Odd but true in Horror Thriller movie land. One only has to look at Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees or Leatherface or any number of lesser deformed slashers that didn't get a string of sequels (like that carnival freak in FUNHOUSE) to know that this is how it works in movieland, and Adam Green wanted to make that kind of picture.
Now you can bitch and say that Adam set his sights way too low (I'd agree), but hell, the guy knew that he had a very small budget to work with and no one is going to make the next Star Wars or THE MATRIX on six figures.
I will tell you this, HATCHET is the best slasher movie made in the last 25 years since the original A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Adam, obviously a huge Horror fan, knows our expectations and toys with us, letting us expect the standard horror movie cliché and then taking it away from us and giving us something else. Then, just when we think he won't use clichés, he throws one in there and ACTUALLY MAKES IT WORK! For the first time ever I saw the "hand-on-the-shoulder" stupid freaking stunt and Adam made it work! That stupid trope actually works in HATCHET!
Anchor Bay has funded and purchased a lot of crap passing for Horror Thriller over the last few years and some of you may feel skeptical of anything they release in the way of new movies under their own banner. But I tell you this: by luck or intent Anchor Bay Entertainment has actually found a winner in Adam Green's HATCHET. He actually directs his actors while, at the same time, letting them have their pace and space. Tony Todd's short bit as Rev. Zombie just steals the show. Robert Englund plays totally against character and even appearance. What's more, when you laugh while watching this movie, you'll laugh in all of the right places.
Adam just might be the guy who could direct a Richard Laymon movie.
HATCHET is not inspiring or daringly original, but it is exactly what it says it is: Old School American Horror - the best of its kind.
Three Shriek Girls.
copyright 2007 E.C.McMullen Jr.
"Hey!" you might say. "Wait a minute!"
You can't figure out my score. I just said that HATCHET is the best of the Old School American Horror movies, and yet I gave it Three Shriek Girls. Why not four Shriek Girls? Or Five? It's the best isn't it?
Actually, my bro, Kelly Parks, and I had this very conversation. So let me explain it this way.
Adam Green might one day make the most original, most inspiring, most raise the bar Horror Thriller movie ever. But that wasn't what he was going for with HATCHET. Like a musician in school, Adam started out learning the riffs of the masters and he did a damn good job of it. If HATCHET was a song then Adam did a really great cover! But it's still an old tune.
I mean, I make a really damn good corn dog. I'm not kidding. When friends try my corn dogs every one of them has said,
"Damn, McMullen! That's GOT to be the best goddamn corn dog I've ever ate! You should open a restaurant!"
And you know, I probably could go down to my local bank, let the loan officer try one of my corn dogs and he or she just might say,
"Holy crap! That's the best damn corn dog I've ever ate! Your restaurant idea is a safe investment with corn dogs like that!"
And I could even go on to wide acclaim & fame: Cooking tournaments would proclaim my corn dogs the best tasting corn dogs in the world; I could sell my corn dogs for $10 bucks a pop and people would line up around the block to buy them by the dozen. Stretch limousines would pull up to my little corn dog restaurant with swanky folk inside the car who make their drivers stand in line to fetch them a box or bag of my delicious corn dogs. I could wind up on TeeVee where I would sell my dee-licious Old School American Corn Dog maker (just set it and forget it) so people could make my prize winning corn dogs at home - yet they would still come to my restaurant for the original because ... well there's just something about an Old School American McMullen Corn Dog! But with all of that, you know what? It's still just a goddamn f*cking corn dog.
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