Hatchet (2006) – By Cary Conley

The tagline for this film is “Old school American horror,” and it is completely accurate.  A group of guys travel to New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras and help one of their friends forget his latest nasty breakup.  Some of them decide to take a Haunted Swamp Tour.  The tour includes a flaky tour guide, an older couple on vacation, a “Girls Gone Wild” wannabe director and his two lovely starlets, and a mysterious, brooding young lady.  The boat gets stuck in the swamp, so the group decides to try and find their way back through the forest.  Mistake.  Victor Crowley, the misshapen monstrosity that wanders the woods at night starts picking off our not-so-intrepid hikers in extremely gory fashion.

Writer/director Adam Green is an unabashed horror fan, particularly of eighties slasher flicks.  He makes no apologies for this, and he shouldn’t.  In a genre that has been done to death, Green manages to make a highly entertaining slasher flick with all the main ingredients one expects of this type of film but without the overuse of all the old clichés.  Instead of using the tiresome templates of the Friday the 13th and Halloween series, Green instead takes his cue from more obscure but ultraviolent slasher films like The Mutilator and Intruder.

But this is a slasher movie, so all of the trappings we are used to are still there.  We have plenty of boobs and a ton of blood along with some genuine thrills and chills as well as some good jump scares.  We also have a large dose of humor that is played very well.  There are some really funny one-liners and set pieces in the film, but it doesn’t detract from the horror once the film ratchets into high gear.  But the real reason for the existence of this film is the blood quotient.  The killer tears arms and heads off of torsos, rips bodies in half, sands off one victim’s face, and in the best kill I’ve seen in a long time, grabs one victim by the upper jaw and lower jaw and literally pulls her head apart from the mouth.  The effects are terrifically bloody and done very well by John Carl Buechler and his effects team.

The acting is actually very good and director Green does an effective job making the switch from humor to tension.  The characters of course represent all the standard clichés we are used to having in a slasher film, but each actor does a good job of not crossing the line into caricature and keeping the characters from becoming too annoying.  As I stated before, Green is an obvious fan.  Proof of this is the appearance of Robert Englund as a crusty alligator hunter who is killed in the prologue, Tony Todd as a weird voodoo shop owner in the French Quarter, and Jason Voorhees himself, Kane Hodder, who plays a dual role as Victor Crowley and Victor’s father.  Englund and Hodder are very good, but I’ve always thought Tony Todd was very overrated as an actor.  He’s been milking his Candyman fame way too long, and is terrible in this film as well.  Thankfully, it is a bit part and he’s only in one brief scene.  The soundtrack is solid and effective as well and works perfectly in conjunction with the film itself.

I’m not a huge slasher film fan, but Hatchet managed to be effective and fun.  I think Adam Green is a talent to be watched, and I hear Hatchet 2 is being tossed around.  I, for one, can’t wait to view the sequel.