Written by: Tim Hannigan
If you’re tired of remakes, “re-imaginings” and the recycling of classic horror franchises then “Hatchet” is exactly what the doctor ordered – a movie that single-handedly reinvents and reinvigorates the psycho killer horror genre which dominated horror in the 1980s.
I was lucky enough to catch an advanced screening of “Hatchet” as part of Rue Morgue’s Cinemacabre Movie Nights (not only do they give us the best horror magazine on the planet but they also give the fans in Toronto screenings of some of the wickedest works in the genre). Hatchet is gut-wrenchingly scary, funny and totally mind-blowing. It is easily the most fun I’ve had watching a slasher film in a theatre in the last twenty years.
Like any good psycho slasher film, Hatchet has an old campfire-tale style story of a lone killer taking vengeance upon anyone and everyone following a tragic event. Victor Crowley was a young deformed boy growing up in the Louisiana bayou with his father. His father does his best to protect his boy and keep him isolated deep in the swamp until, on one Halloween night, three kids throw fire crackers at their home trying to scare Victor out of the house so that they can catch a glimpse of him. Their plan goes awry when the house catches on fire, with Crowley trapped inside. Victor’s father arrives home and tries to breakdown the door. He grabs a hatchet to chop down the door but inadvertently slashes his son across the face.
Crowley’s father passes away sometime later of a broken heart and locals do their best to keep away from the Crowley property based on stories that Victor is still roaming the lands, ready to take revenge on anyone that enters his wilderness.
The movie begins with a great sequence of a father and son (genre legend Robert Englund and ‘Blair Witch’s’ Joshua Leonard) hunting an alligator near the old Crowley home and discover that there is something much more dangerous than alligators deep in the swamp. The film then follows two friends who leave behind the wild parties of Bourbon street to check out a haunted swamp tour. They meet up with other tourists and a local girl on the tour, and are taken deep into the bayou on a small boat. When the boat begins to sink, the group get stranded in the middle of the swamp and find themselves being hunted by Victor Crowley, an unstoppable killing machine with a fondness for hatchets and belt sanders.
Instead of trying to re-create an existing franchise, writer/director Adam Green creates a brand-new franchise for the new millennium. Victor Crowley is an instant horror icon, and the film delivers the thrills and chills of an old-school slasher movie without taking itself too seriously. Unlike many of the lesser slasher flicks of the 80s which were unintentionally funny, this film delivers deliberate laughs through its characters without turning up its nose to the genre like the slasher films of the 90s. Green is an obvious die-hard horror fan whose passion for the genre drips off of every frame of film. He set out to create the kind of horror film fans loved in the 80s and this movie absolutely delivers!
The acting is very good and unlike the post-80s slasher films we’re not trapped with a bunch of pretty WB actors. It was great to see Tony Todd, Robert Englund, and of course Kane Hodder in the same movie. Kane plays the dual-roles of Victor Crowley – the hulking deformed killer similar to the iconic character Kane is best known for, and also Crowley’s father. It is in the role of Crowley’s father that Kane completely stands out. No make-up, no prosthetics, just Kane. Kane demonstrates that he is much more than a stunt-man in a mask, but that he is first and foremost an actor. Hodder turns in a memorable performance as a father devoted to his son.
One of the great things about the Victor Crowley character is that we never really know what he is. Is he alive? Is he a ghost? Green leaves the issue open, and leaves plenty of loose ends for the inevitable sequels.
Make-up is old school practical effects. No CGI here. John Carl Buechler does an outstanding job with the effects with over-the-top gruesome goodness. The violence is deliberately cartoonish in keeping with the spirit of the film, and fans of movies like Friday the 13th will be blown away by the effects (there is even an homage to Buechler’s own entry in the Friday franchise in one of the sequences).
Fun, frightening, gruesome and hilarious – Hatchet is everything you could ever want in a slasher film and you don’t have to travel back to the early 1980s to get it!