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One Small Slash for Censorship, One Giant Axewound for Mankind

By Brian Prisco | Film | October 4, 2010 |

By Brian Prisco | Film | October 4, 2010 |

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. While Adam Green would love to count himself among the former two, there is much to occasion that he’s among the latter. He declares himself, and those who number his “Hatchet Army,” the saviors of horror film. Unlike 75 percent of what’s getting made in the name of horror, he’s doing all-original material. That’s not to say what’s he doing is particularly original. He’s carrying on the proud tradition of the shlocky slasher — assembling a couple of punchlines to die gruesome deaths until the last girl can deliver hack justice. Adam Green isn’t changing the face of horror, and his arrogance far outweighs the end product. But, the man’s got balls. Giant, super dangling, monster balls. He took on the MPAA, and he fucking won. Hatchet II appeared, unedited and unrated, in 68 AMC Movie Theatres across this country of ours. Was it a good movie? Of course not, but it’s a great popcorn slasher. There’s no plot, no characters aside from punchlines, and a non-stop abundance of Saturday Morning cartoon level kills that would make Wile E. Coyote blush Karo crimson. It’s no worse than Dead Snow or Piranha 3D or any of the other bevy of kill count masterpieces to goo up the Netflix queue. But that’s not what’s important. The MPAA did not get to lay a moral stinkfinger on a single cartoonishly gory frame of the film. And that, my friends, is the way all fucking films should be made.

Hatchet II begins exactly where 2006’s Hatchet left off. And I do mean exactly. Marybeth (Danielle Harris) is screaming and fighting deformed maniac Victor Crowley in a Louisiana swamp. She manages to escape, and tracks down Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) to get his help in retrieving the bodies of her brother and father — the reason she took the worst three-hour tour since Gilligan and The Skipper — and to bury that fucking hatchet in Victor Crowley’s ugly fucking face. So Reverend Zombie agrees to help her, provided she can get her uncle Bob (Tom Holland, director of the original Fright Night and Child’s Play) to come along. Zombie gathers an army of redneck misfits — including Justin (Parry Shen), the twin brother of Sean — to go find his missing tour boat and to bring him the head of Victor Crowley. And that’s pretty much the plot to the film.

There are allegedly 17 kills in Hatchet II. They used over 136 gallons of fake blood during principal photography. Green did not squander his unrated status. The kills are pretty insane, but they verge on Mortal Kombat levels of the ludicrous. Victor Crowley loves his titular weapon, but he also favors power tools — including that darn belt sander and the longest fucking chainsaw in the history of mankind. It’s not that razor-blade slicing an eyeball level of unsettling gore, rather someone gets a face jammed into a boat propeller until their head’s peeled open like a squashed orange. There’s no questionable language or obscene sexuality. There’s one sex scene in the film, and it’s played for a punchline. So really, there’s no reason that AMC had any reason to be squeamish. Violence always seems to be the most relaxed offender when it comes to ratings. The MPAA would sooner you see someone’s brains splattering out of their head than someone hanging brain. They were going to assign Hatchet II an NC-17 after quibbling over several scenes, and there were some, according to Green, that they just completely said no to. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you which of the scenes were “Too Hot for the MPAA.” Now whether that’s my own bias for playing a lot of zombie games, who’s really to say? I could venture a guess. But I can also tell you I’ve personally done those exact same murder-death-kills, or some reasonable variation therein, as finishing moves in several video games. The same ones that the ESRB rates their equivalent of an R. The same ones that can be played in arcades. By anyone.

While Hatchet II isn’t anything to write home about, it’s an important fucking step. The MPAA is essentially a group of priests and PTA moms who try to inflict their morality on society. Kirby Dick does a damn better job of exposing their fallacies in This Film Is Not Yet Rated than I ever will. Gay sexuality automatically earns you one more notch on their rating scales. I will never stop being disgusted with them about Easier With Practice — SPOILER ALERT — for essentially giving the film an NC-17 rating for portraying a young man masturbating (off-screen) to orgasm while dirty talking with what turns out to be another man. END SPOILER. For a major theatre chain, and believe me, the AMC taking this on is a huge fucking deal. They reviewed the film and said, there’s nothing wrong with this, and we have no problem with screening your film as you intended. This can very well change the face of horror. The reason R-rated films do poorly is because you need to have an adult with you when purchasing (and legally, watching) the film. I’d love to see the theatrical study between the profitability of PG-13 and lower films on weekends when a controversial R rated film screens. I’d be willing to bet that at least 10 percent of that revenue is from kids sneaking into the R-rated films after buying tickets for the PG-13 flicks or lesser.

But it’s still a long road ahead. George Romero got Night of the Living Dead screened without a rating — and think about how comparatively tame that is to something like Prom Night or Drag Me to Hell. And it’s been over 30 years since that film came out to allow Adam Green to release Hatchet II unrated. Graphic language might be the next barrier, but I’m pretty confident Kevin Smith has broken that down. The next one is sexuality, and that’s gonna be a huge battle. There’s a distinct line between pornography and arthouse, but I don’t want a bunch of church mice dictating that for me. I’d be fine with films coming with a list of ingredients like the package on food products. Sometimes I’d like to know if I’m gonna be exposed to Jason Segel’s peen or Russell Brand’s acting. Let parents decide what their kids can and can’t watch, but don’t let parents decide what I can watch.

While he’s full of Howard Stern’s shit to say he’s the Lord and Protector of Horror Films, Adam Green is a fucking filmmaker. Hatchet II is chock full of two things I ask from horror films: fun murders and easter eggs for the fanbase. He’s got tons of shit from the first Hatchet, from Joel Moore’s Newbury Comics T-shirt to “day after” daylight shots of murder scenes, to a hick finding Shapiro’s (Joel Murray) Joe Francis-like digicam. He’s even got stuff from Frozen — Shawn Ashmore gets a little facetime (oh that joke is so much funnier after you’ve seen the movie), Emma Bell pops up in news footage explaining how she’ll never go skiing again, and Ed Ackerman — the fat guy who lets them on the ski lift — gets an extended role as Cleatus. Green himself reprises his cameo from the first Hatchet as puking drunk guy in New Orleans. I’d take Adam Green over any of the fucking remakes of 80’s horror films the studios are pooping out like diarrhetic Daschunds. At least his fun translates onto film. Danielle Harris is a hell of a screen queen. I’m not sure why she’s replacing Tamara Feldman, but it’s definitely a step-up. Kane Hodder gets a chance to shed his mask and do some actressin’, and he’s just as scary with the handlebar moustache as with a giant fucking hockey mask and machete. The rest of the cast of butcherables are plenty of fun: AJ Bowen, R.A. Mihailoff, Colton Dunn, Rick McCallum, Alexis Peters, and Parry Shen. Tom Holland was practically out of retirement for the part, but he’s still got it. And Tony Todd should already have a fucking Oscar, but they don’t give them out for being fucking awesome.

Plenty of you are clamoring to get yourselves to D.C. for the Rally to Restore Sanity. It’s just as important a move to get yourselves and your friends into theatres to see Hatchet II. It’s not a game changer by any stretch of the imagination, but the kills are pretty fucking cool. Yes, you’ll be inflating the already over-inflated ego of Adam Green, but it’s for a fucking good cause. For every ticket you buy, you’re saying “fuck you” to the studios who only want to make remakes. (Except Piranha 3D, because that was fucking awesome). You’re saying “fuck you” to the MPAA. You’re saying to the movie theatres, “if you screen it, I will fucking come, and I will cut off Kevin Costner’s head and bat it into Ray Liotta’s glove to see it.” It’s a vote — maybe not for the greatest candidate, but for the one that makes the point. If you want to see original horror films, unrated ones not touched by the fucking Puritans of the MPAA, then you need to get out to the theatres and do your part. Are you fucking sick of seeing Saw VII and No, Seriously This One’s The Final Final Destination Maybe? Then go see Hatchet II. Or shut the fuck up.

Brian Prisco is the Los Angeles Film Critic for Pajiba. He is an actor and writer from North Hollywood, CA and a member of the Online Film Critics Society. You can follow him on Twitter or email him.

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