Back in 2006, Adam Green set out with Hatchet to recapture the 1980’s campy gory horror vibe established by iconic slashers like Freddy Kruger and Jason Vorhees. In some ways, he succeeded — there’s certainly no shortage of blood, guts, and nudity in the original. On the other hand, there was no lingering sense of dread when the movie was over due to everything being so comically ridiculous. It didn’t feel like it could happen to you. This was not nightmare fuel; I doubt anyone lost sleep over visions of Victor Crowley dancing in (or maybe on) their heads. However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun to watch. If you come in ready to chomp popcorn and laugh at some nonsensical death sequences and sharp makeup and prosthetics work, this is a franchise worth your while.
Hatchet II arrived in 2010 and picked up exactly where the first one left off. Literally, the timeline of all three movies spans three days’ time for Marybeth Dunston, the central protagonist whose fixation with Crowley seems strangely mutual — she’s the only one he can’t seem to dispatch with ease. Some called part two the weaker entry in the series for the unnecessary development of Victor’s backstory, his curse, his murder, and why he haunts the woods of Honey Island Swamp in Louisiana. It does drag it out a bit and takes away from some of the campy humor fans of the original grew accustomed to, but it quickly returns to the killing, upping the body count and creative dismemberment along the way.
Hatchet III is now upon us, bringing everything Blu-ray has to offer in terms of sharp picture and sound. Victor’s eerie call of “…Daaaaddyyyyy…” as he sets out to hunt trespassers is creepier than ever in DTS-HD. The makeup and prosthetic work really shine in high definition, as well.
Once again, we start right where Hatchet II ended with a bang (literally) and quickly turns the dial up to satisfyingly ludicrous as Marybeth (Danielle Harris) renders Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) about as dead as something can possibly be, but of course that’s not going to keep him down for long. As was established earlier in the franchise, Crowley is a repeater, an apparition that returns from the dead every night to the same house where he died to live out his own death again and again, and punish anyone who comes near. In part two, it was thought that if he exacted revenge on the people responsible for his tragic, accidental, undeserved death, he would simply walk into the swamp and disappear. Had any of that worked, we wouldn’t have been treated here to Marybeth walking into a nearby police station covered head to toe in Victor’s blood, carrying a shotgun and part of Victor’s head.
She’s quickly subdued, arrested, showered, and incarcerated while the cops and paramedics start picking up the pieces (of people) out in the swamp and try to understand what really took place the two previous nights. Come nightfall, Victor rises from the dead once again and turns on everyone haunting his ‘hood. The police — led by Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan) — respond in kind with a heavily armed SWAT team. Fowler’s ex-wife Amanda (Caroline Williams) — a big believer in the Crowley legend but lacking facts to back up her assertions — prods Marybeth to give her a story that will finally get people to stop treating her like a quack, which ultimately leads to yet another plan to lay Victor to rest once and for all. Do they succeed? Watch and find out.
I didn’t even know about the Hatchet franchise until a month or so ago, and having grown up with Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers, I welcomed a return to campy form from the unsavory “torture porn” that modern-day horror has become (Saw, Hostel, Touristas, Human Centipede). I watched all three movies in the span of about 10 days, and since they tie end to end so well, this really was the way to watch them — some have even argued that it should have been one long movie instead of three, each under 90 minutes. With back-to-back viewings, the references and jokes stay fresh, the recurring appearances and deaths of Parry Shen in every movie makes him akin to Kenny from South Park, but might have been forgotten if I saw them three to four years apart like others. The effects get better with each entry, and Green doesn’t pull any punches, going fully unrated and uncut for every entry in the series. This killed theater earnings, but has earned the franchise a cult following at retail.
I had a lot of fun with the whole series, and Hatchet III does exactly what a sequel should do — goes all out balls to the wall in every possible way while never taking itself too seriously. I’ve enjoyed seeing familiar faces from the genre over the last 30+ years pop up throughout the trilogy, including Robert Englund (Freddy Kruger, A Nightmare on Elm Street), Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project), Kane Hodder (Jason, Friday the 13th), Zach Galligan (Gremlins), Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 and 5, and Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009)), Tony Todd (Candyman), Rick McCallum (House II), and John Carl Buechler (director and effects wizard on Halloween and Elm Street flicks, among others). The disc has feature commentary with cast and crew, trailers, teasers, and a few behind the scenes type of featurettes to delve into the production challenges with shooting in an actual swamp (mainly insects), the optimization of the makeup process that saw Hodder go from spending 3.5 hours in the prep chair during the second movie to about an hour by the time they wrapped on the third. It’s also good to see how some of these effects are pulled off since the creators sought to use little to no CGI throughout. One of the funniest BtS moments is when a crewmember gets Zach Galligan to reminisce about his interactions with Steven Spielberg during the filming of Gremlins and its sequel, which then takes a turn for the awkward as Galligan realizes he used to hang out in Spielberg’s office with the bike from E.T., and how he’s in a swamp talking to a grunt in the film biz about how good he used to have it.
Slasher flick fans of yore, rejoice in the gory goodness that is Hatchet III, but don’t forget to watch the first two or you might be kinda lost. Those seeking more cerebral thrillers will likely be turned off when the pumping Gwar rock intro music kicks in.
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