Well, this is tricky.
Hatchet III is a lot of things and it’s not a lot of things. For the things that it is, it works like gangbusters. For the things that it isn’t, I wished that it wasn’t. Cryptic enough for you? The film definitely is a tough balancing act between what we already know and expect from ol’ Victor Crowley and what we hope might be added to the storyline. I for one wanted a serious turn to wrap the story arc up (and at times I got it) but more often than not what I got was a (blessedly) briskly paced sprint from one massacre to another which started, ultimately, to wear me out. It is not in any normal frame of mind that one says to themselves, ‘you know, I’ve kind of growing bored of seeing people torn in half and limbs thrown asunder.’
To be fair, there is some level of precedent for this type of escalation in slasher movies and certainly for sequels. Make the body count higher, make the kills more involved, make the whole thing bigger. I get that. That doesn’t mean, however, that ‘big-ifying’ can’t be done with some level of restraint to then magnify the effect when it does happen. Hatchet III doesn’t employ that restraint and instead just lets it all hang out in the blood, gore and guts department pretty consistently through its pretty short run-time. I don’t blame them for this choice, it is a logical one in some ways, but I felt they could’ve mined more emotion and more seriousness out of the final chapter and especially out of their main leads.
Because here’s the thing, the cast is solid. Derek Mears (a cocky swat leader), Caroline Williams (a disgraced journalist looking for redemption through proving Crowley is real), Zach Galligan (a sheriff in over his head), Robert Diago DoQui (an old hand deputy) and even Danielle Harris (the perpetual final girl) all do quite well in their roles. In particular, I really dug both Zach Galligan (Sheriff Fowler) and Robert Diago DoQui’s (Deputy Winslow) lawmen immensely. They both have a certain texture to them that I really liked – proof positive that if you get a good actor in a role, you get a good performance. Cardboard cutout place holder-types in other films draw away from the energy of a story; thankfully Hatchet III doesn’t suffer that same draining effect from its actors for the most part. That doesn’t mean that the wide swath of swat guys, paramedics, police and others are bad per se’, not at all, but much like the hunters in Hatchet II we aren’t given much time with them and their dispatching is ultimately just background noise.
This is a shame because what has always made slasher films a fun area of the genre’ for me is discovering the unique choices the storytellers make about the fates of the members of their groups. There is a joy to seeing how it all plays out and who dies and, in the better ones, why. Even more, when you are invested in some characters in slasher films more than others, it ups the ante’ for their fates and ties you more emotionally to their plight. Unfortunately, the lion’s share of the deaths at the hands of Victor Crowley in Hatchet III fall on somewhat emotionally-deaf ears because of the sheer volume of them and the lack of depth they bring to the table, as it were.
All that said, on a very base level, the film is often a hoot. Crowley is a mountainous, scary thing that doesn’t really give much in the way of a chance to anyone he encounters. This means if you see him, you’re minutes are numbered. This is fun. This is simple. And this is a great way to showcase effects of many kinds. Some are really solid (especially involving thrown objects), some not so much (especially involving thrown people) but because of the sheer number of them, you don’t linger on them for long. Again, positive and a negative. Positive because you aren’t stuck thinking about an effects shot that didn’t work all that long. Negative because they don’t resonate very much even when they are good.
You might’ve noticed I’ve not spent much time on the story itself. The plot basically starts us in the swamp at the ending scene of Hatchet II and carries us forward from there. Marybeth gets out of the swamp, finds her way to town, freaks out a lot of small-time cops and causes a whole new group(s) of people back into the swamp to hopefully settle this whole mess with the legendary Victor Crowley. There are two main story arcs, one involving all the police and others heading into the swamp and the other, concurrently, follows the disgraced journalist, the deputy and Marybeth to track down the remains of Crowley’s father to hopefully end things. That last sentence is a bit confusing because in the grander scheme of the series’ logic, you wouldn’t need any remains or a priest or an enchanted object or anything else to stop Crowley, you just need to kill him. Well, that changes a bit and (by and large) actually kind of makes sense as a plot point. You might read people decrying this part of the story as gimmicky or convenient or whatever but I had no issues with it. Why it is a viable solution to the Crowley problem is something I’ll leave with you to discover for yourself in the film.
So while this write-up might seem disjointed or even confused, I am pretty resolute in my feeling that Hatchet III was more/less decent all around. I’ve certainly seen a heaping pile of bad-to-horrible slashers in my time and this doesn’t come close to anything resembling ‘bad’. However, some serious soul-searching on the part of the production crew as to why they made the film in the first place might’ve brought out some more suspense, some more (felt) tragedy and a deeper investment in the finale’ of the story and these characters. Because when it comes down to it, Crowley is a great villain but needs room to be felt and feared by the viewer, not just observed indifferently.