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September 10, 2007 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | September 10, 2007 |

“It’s not a remake, it’s not a sequel, and it’s not based on a Japanese one. Old school American horror.”

That tagline should tell you everything you need to know about Hatchet, director Adam Green’s loving ode to the golden age of slashers, the hilarious and fun garbage-horror of the 1980s, the kind of movies that are best seen with clusters of friends or at the drive-in. And boy, does Hatchet deliver; it’s almost nothing more than a blueprint of every slasher chestnut imaginable, as if Green merely took down bulletins for everything he (and audiences) loved about these films:

Pointless nudity — check.
Cheeseball comedy — check.
In-winking cameos — check.
Giant, murdering mutant with embedded persona and back story — check.
Over-the-top gross-out gore and lots of it — check check check!

And really, that’s all Hatchet is — a short and sweet harkening to horror formulas, a return to form for a genre oversaturated with dull attempts at the profound (last week’s Halloween), stupid, stomach-churning agit-porn (Captivity), watered-down PG-13 brummagem (The Messengers), or J-Horror remakes (Christ … take your pick). For the admittedly few who will actively seek out Hatchet — and I implore you to see it in a crowded theater— this is going to be the time of your lives.

Our story begins with four friends who journey to New Orleans during the heart of hedonism — Mardi Gras. One of them — Ben (Joel Moore), a bonehead who makes David Schwimmer look like Steve McQueen — is moping over the loss of his girlfriend and unable to find distraction in all the senseless partying. He wanders off, begrudgingly followed by friend Marcus (Deon Richmond), and decides to go on a shady boat tour. That’s about all the setup we need: eight passengers and a hapless tour guide end up out in the swamp at night. And wouldn’t you know it — there just happens to be a legendary Bogeyman traipsing through the bayou — Victor Crowley, a cranky monster who looks like a cross between Sloth from The Goonies and Joseph Merrick, who happens upon our poor idiots and wields that eponymous weapon of his with eager aplomb. Along the way, we’re given some great cameos by genre mainstays Robert Englund and Tony Todd (Candyman, Final Destination), not to mention that Crowley himself is played by Kane Hodder, the man four times behind Jason Voorhees and once behind Leatherface.

It’s a recipe we’re all familiar with — inhuman goon stalks and then hacks up a group of travelers. The great thing is, Hatchet is so formulized the audience will constantly expect something out-of-bounds to happen, but Green’s sole concerns are the basics — he gets both the comedy and horror right and doesn’t veer off course for a second, setting up his pins and knocking them down in a brisk 80 minutes; he wants nothing more than a bare-bones slasher done well, without the pretense that it’s anything more. This is a film made for people who know what they want and like in a horror film; ironically, Green’s vision is a breath of fresh air because it does nothing new.

And the gore! Wow! This is probably Hatchet’s biggest selling point — some of the craziest, nastiest gore since Dead Alive (at least in the unrated cut), both in terms of sheer repulsiveness and hilarity. But the fact is, like almost all horror, you’ll either want to see this or you won’t; I doubt there’s much middle ground. Fans should rejoice, because this is some of the most fun you’ll have in the theater. My only complaint at this point is that there isn’t a lengthy queue of sequels already in production, but with any luck, there will be.

Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.

How Awesome? Belt Sander to the Face Awesome!

Hatchet / Phillip Stephens

Film | September 10, 2007 |

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