Director: Adam Green
Year of release: 2006
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 84-85 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "Old school American horror", "Stay out of the swamp" and "Not a remake, not a sequel and not based on a Japanese one".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: In an attempt to take his mind off things after a difficult break up Ben drags his friend along on what is billed as a haunted tour of a Louisiana swamp. With his friend hitting it off with another girl also on the tour Ben attempts to do likewise with a quiet sullen young woman named Marybeth. He is rebuffed however with Marybeth's mind seemingly elsewhere. Not long after things go awry with the weather beginning to storm and the incompetent guide managing to get the boat stuck in the middle of the swamp. The group make it off the boat but not before one of their number is injured by an alligator. Far from being safe on land however Marybeth begins to freak out clearly troubled by something more than just the wildlife. When pushed she tells the story of Victor Crowley, a deformed boy who lived in the area years ago who was badly bullied and then accidentally killed at his house. The ghost of Victor, now a hulking man is said to roam the swamp looking to kill any who enter his domain. Marybeth as it turns out is searching for her father and brother who are missing and whom she feels may have fallen victim to this legendary figure. Though initially dismissive the group soon change their tune when Victor himself shows up intent on death and carnage. They soon realise that alligators and being lost are very much the least of their worries.
Good points: Hatchet is packed full of funny likeable characters that really carry the film along and provide constant entertainment. The lead male Ben is not your typical slasher young person in terms of his appearance which makes for a refreshing change and his interactions with friend Marcus particularly in the early parts of the film are very good. Other entertaining characters are two dopey girls Misty and Jenna who have been duped into thinking they are auditioning for a porn film and fight like cat and dog, elderly couple Jim and Shannon and the in over his heads tour guide Shawn.
As you can imagine with there being so many funny characters Hatchet is very tongue in cheek even going as far to play out like a full blown comedy at times early on when introducing and establishing the characters. Rather than being a hindrance though to the violence that comes later it actually works pretty well. The characters earmarked as the funny ones aren't annoying like they often are in slashers and a good balance is struck between comedy and horror with things being played much more straight whenever Victor is on screen or being spoken of. It can be pretty tricky to mix both horror and comedy successfully but Hatchet manage to pull it off and as such may have a cross over appeal to fans of both genres.
Three very recongnisable faces that will be well known to slasher and horror fans put in an appearance with Robert Englund and Tony Todd perhaps best known within the genre for Nightmare on Elm Street and Candyman respectively both having small roles. Kane Hodder of Friday the 13th fame is also on board in a much bigger role.
The film is very bloody with for the most part some very well done special effects for the kills which are also rather creative. No CGI is used either which makes things all the more impressive. There is one part where the corpse of one of the females is thrown at Ben that looks a bit unconvincing but that aside everything is very well done in this area and I don't think it would leave anyone disappointed.
Although I'm not overly keen on how he looks myself a good fist is made of introducing a new monster into the slasher stable in the form of Kane Hodder's Victor Crowley. Although a bit over the top for my taste in terms of how deformed and ugly he is I can see him being popular with a lot of horror fans and he is suitably intimidating.
Bad Points: Although it was nice that they made an attempt to give us a bit of a back story with Victor it was pretty bare bones and if being really harsh you could say a bit contrived going down the deformed child route. I would have liked for it to be fleshed out slightly more with it going into a little more detail about his condition, his family and the bullying he suffered. Though he was injured at the time and thus perhaps not able to speak up one way that could have done it is have the Jim character expand on Marybeth's tale with what he'd read on the internet seeing that he was a know it all and the Victor story seemed to be public knowledge around New Orleans. This is all only a very minor criticism though as the back story is something that is delved into a lot more in the sequel so it all worked out well in the end.
It could be argued that the Marybeth character was too attractive to belong to the hick clan we see at the start. Maybe she had a really good looking mother though that we didn't see.
As good as the gore effects are they felt a bit over the top for me sometime coming across as vaguely cartoonish. Not as much as in something like Stitches but it was kind of in the ball park of that which I think lessens the fright factor. As touched on before I found the Victor character to be slightly unrealistic in regards to how he looked as well, maybe a bit too grotesque but again these are only small criticisms and they don't take much if anything away from the film.
It wasn't very clear if Victor was supposed to be human or some sort of ghost. You would think human seeing that he could be hurt and that he had aged from when he was seen to be killed in the flashback. They did mostly refer to him as a ghost though so it was a little confusing here.
The ending is rather abrupt and doesn't reveal the fate of one of the characters but as this was paving the way for a sequel which picks up the story it is by no means a big issue.
Verdict: I don't feel this is quite as good as some would have you believe but it is most definitely very entertaining and does a superb job of handling what is often a difficult to achieve balance of horror and comedy. Due to the comedy elements it is a bit less scary than it otherwise could have been but it is always engaging and a lot of fun to watch from start to finish. A great beginning for what at the time was the introduction to a new slasher villain and franchise.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Sampson: Killed off camera, Ainsley finds his body torn apart.
2) Ainsley: Intestines pulled out.
3) Jim: Torso split nearly in to two with a hatchet shot.
4) Shannon: Head pulled apart at the jaw into two pieces.
5) Doug: Head twisted all the way around.
6) Shawn: Decapitated with a shovel.
7) Jenna: Lower portion of face sanded off with a belt sander and then impaled on a shovel.
8) Misty: Killed off camera, body ripped apart and thrown at Ben.
9) Marcus: Arms ripped off and then body slammed into tombstones.