The slasher genre has always been around, but not as prominent as in the 80s. Director Adam Green tried to bring back the American horror with his Hatchet series, a perfect fit for our change of tone in the Halloween movie special week.
(USA 2006, director: Adam Green)
A group of tourists find themselves stranded in the New Orleans swamp and then stalked by Victor Crowley, a supposedly dead abnormality with a hatchet.
To call Hatchet a scary movie or even an atmospheric slasher would do the genre a disservice and the intention of Adam Green injustice. Sure, there’s enough blood and even more guts in the brutal kills, but there are more jokes and funny characters than one is used to. So the term horror comedy or parody would fit better.
As in the Friday the 13th movies, the characters don’t take center stage. They’re made intentionally annoying, but also memorable to a certain degree. A fake filmmaker who wants to make a private softporn with his girls who’re as stupid or as intelligent as aspiring actresses can be, a guy who got dumped by his girlfriend and still moans about it, his best friend who’s just there to hit on the girls, and a survivor girl who remains mysteriously whiny but finds the strength to fight Crowley are only a few of the clichéd but fun characters.
Victor Crowley (who is played by no other than Kane Jason Hodder) should take most of the screen time, but with just 80 minutes, his appearances aren’t as many as they could have been. However, the background story is quite touching and the way he disposes of his victims is so over-the-top gruesome and cool (in a slasher-sense) that one can easily forgive the movie’s shortcomings, like the reliance on too many jokes.
It might be preposterous to call Crowley an icon or the movie a modern classic (whatever that means, thou critics). But it succeeds in delivering some inventive death scenes, hand-made special effects, and a great soundtrack. Green certainly knows his genre, and while the cameos of Tony Candyman Todd and Robert Freddy Englund are ridiculously short, this is a great entry to the genre, even with an ending that drags the term cliffhanger through the mud, laughing at the audience’s expectations.
(USA 2010, director: Adam Green)
Survivor girl Marybeth returns to the New Orleans swamp and wants to hunt down Crowley with a group of headhunters.
More blood and guts with some even more inventive and violent kills, what could go wrong in a slasher like this? Sadly a bit too much, as can be seen in really bad acting and a boring first 30 minutes, excluding the awesome beginning that is so over-the-top great that what follows can only disappoint. This has mainly to do with the script that is neither funny nor suspenseful. What’s even worse, it’s very difficult to feel sympathy for any of the flat and rather annoying characters.
Having a new actress with Danielle Harris was maybe a good idea, but it takes some time for her to really become the modern scream queen or survivor girl (even though she had early experience as a child actress in the Halloween series), because in the first part of the movie one only hears her whining or bitching. It’s great to have Tony Todd reprise his role and have a bigger screen time, but his character isn’t very memorable either. It’s also funny that Parry Shen who played the Chinese tour guide in the first movie plays his brother in this one (a running joke that would continue with the third one).
There are certainly a few funny scenes, e.g. when the group of bounty hunters pass around some chocolate cookies while waiting for their instructions, or their reaction when they hear they have to hunt down Victor Crowley. But most of the forced humor isn’t that great. Thankfully, when Crowley finally appears (after a few flashback intermissions which show his new swamp kills of random people), the movie picks up speed and becomes extremely violent but also fun (if one is there for the gory kills). These are more elaborate and surprising (the scene with the biggest chainsaw ever has to be seen to be believed), even if there isn’t much of atmosphere or suspense left, which is a shame, because the Bayou swamps or New Orleans would have made a very cool setting.
(USA 2013, director: BJ McDonnell)
Marybeth wants to get rid of Victor Crowley once and for all, but even a search and recover special ops team struggles with the strength and blood lust of the swamp killer.
Without creator Adam Green at the helm of directing duty and a rather unoriginal sequel, expectations weren’t high for this one. But this turns out to be an even better movie than the first one. Despite Danielle Harris’ absence for most of the survival moments, with a group of highly trained mercenaries taking the center stage, this one is fully packed with action and violence, mostly without the boring dialogue scenes.
There is a healthy dose of both terror cinema influences and self-aware comedy, e.g. when Parry Shen again shows up, playing a different character who comments on his co-worker unspoken opinion about Asians all looking alike that this isn’t so, or when one of the police officers tries to tell Crowley’s backstory but is interrupted by someone who doesn’t want to hear about it. Unlike the second movie, some characters are actually quite likable, although they never become very memorable. The same holds true for Danielle Harris’ character who just has too little screen time to really convince. However, the final moments are just as amazingly done as the first few minutes which even better the awesome beginning of the second installment.
All in all, the third movie is a satisfying conclusion to the series (although one never knows with slashers), a love letter to the genre with many guest star appearances like Sid House of 1000 Corpses Haig or Zach Gremlins Galligan, and a great horror movie with more gore than one could wish for. It’s also surprisingly suspenseful, although the setting of New Orleans is still underused. As it is, it’s not a reinvention of the genre, or sets new standards, but it’s most definitely a good example that sequels can still be more enjoyable than the original, even if the creator is only involved in writing and not directing.
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