Review — Hatchet 2

Posted: October 27, 2010 in Eric Raymer, Film, Reviews
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[Reviewed by: Eric Raymer]

Slashers didn’t always used to be predictable, watered-down, remakes targeted at teenagers. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. But when they’re at their best, they possess a manic energy and dark sense of humor that doesn’t have to resort to self-aware, tongue-in-cheek laughs (Scream franchise, I’m looking at you). Adam Green’s Hatchet was a throwback to the best slashers of the eighties, and it succeeded in capturing their spirit. However, sequels in this genre don’t usually turn out so well. Can Hatchet II pull it off?

The answer is: undoubtedly yes. Hatchet II picks up immediately where the precursor ended, and doesn’t waste much time getting down to business. In the first film, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) was the sole survivor of a group of tourists who ran afoul of legendary mutant Victor Crowley while on a boat ride through the swamps of New Orleans. Having lost some family in the chaos before escaping, she swears to retrieve them and make sure Crowley’s killing spree comes to an end. Calling upon the local voodoo practitioner / tour boat operator, Reverend Zombie, she assembles a band of local hunters to venture into the swamp in search of Crowley. Crowley (played by horror icon Kane Hodder) is the best kind of horror movie villain: physically imposing, unrelentingly brutal, and with just enough of a tragic backstory to make you feel a tiny bit of sympathy for him. You can probably guess what happens next.

It’s not surprising that most of the characters don’t survive their encounters with Crowley. What’s unexpected is how much you actually get to know each person before they meet their demise. Even though we’re only given a brief amount of time to meet the hunting party, each member is well-defined and has his or her own distinct personality that extends beyond that of a simple stock character. One of the things I can’t stand in horror films is when the cast consists of an endless parade of boring teenagers who exist for no reason other than to be slayed. Here, each character is actually interesting, and their interactions are humorous enough to carry the plot along. I grew kind of fond some of the characters in Hatchet II, and was honestly rooting for the surly biker when he went mano a mano with Crowley.

When the Hatchet films call themselves “old-school” horror, they’re referring mostly to the effects and pacing rather than the cinematography. These films aren’t stylistically similar to classic horror (as Ti West’s House of the Devil was), but they do retain the frenetic spirit, unpredictability, and over-the-top slaughter that the best slashers from the eighties possessed. Adam Green largely abandons CG in favor of practical effects, and it gives the film an edge that’s becoming less and less common these days.

I actually enjoyed Hatchet II more than the original. To be clear, this isn’t by any measure a cinematic masterpiece. That’s fine. What Hatchet II sets out to do is to tell a familiar story in a modern style while remaining true to the form of its predecessors. Let’s be serious. You probably already know whether you’ll like this movie. If you “don’t usually like horror movies,” or are squeamish in the least, then stay far away. However, if watching a deformed bumpkin employ a variety of power tools to off a series of city dwellers sounds like a good time to you, then Hatchet II will be as familiar and comfortable as an old pair of broken-in jeans. Like the best ghost stories, knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t ruin the suspense or entertainment to be found in watching the story play out. If you’re in the mood for a bloody Halloween night at the movies, you could do a lot worse than Hatchet II.

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  1. Martin says:

    Finally, someone is talking about quality cinema.

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