Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. With HATCHET III screening last Friday at Chicago’s Flashback Weekend and HATCHET III arriving on BluRay/DVD today, I figured it’s a fine time to look back on all of Adam Green’s HATCHET films. The series spawned a semi-resurgence of the slasher genre and is definitely a love letter to those slasher films from the 80’s and 90’s we all hold near and dear. Here’s my take on the HATCHET trilogy!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-Review: HATCHET (2006)
Retro-Review: HATCHET II (2010)
Advance Review: HATCHET III (2013)
Retro-review: Available on DVD/BluRay (Find this film on Netflix here)!
HATCHET (2006)Directed by Adam Green
Written by Adam Green
Starring Joel David Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Mercedes McNab, Parry Shen, Joel Murray, Joleigh Fioravanti, Richard Riehle, Patrika Darbo, Robert Englund, Joshua Leonard, Tony Todd, John Carl Buechler, & Kane Hodder as Victor Crowley
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Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
There are those who consider the first HATCHET film to be a classic and I understand why folks would see it in this way. The film is a fantastic homage to some of my favorite films of the past, mainly the FRIDAY THE 13TH films. I understand why the younger generation would latch on to HATCHET as I did to FRIDAY THE 13TH growing up. It contains a monosyllabic man-brute disposing of teen and twenty somethings in creative and gory ways—which was the same reason why I was attracted to FRIDAY THE 13TH in my reckless youth. Or at least one of the reasons.
At the same time, I understand the ire some feel towards this series as being less derivative and intended as a homage and more of a copycat of a subgenre of movies from twenty years ago without adding much to it. I see what those folks mean as well. Adam Green, while making a very engaging and funny film, has also made just a straight up slasher film. No depthy comments. No thematic plunges. Just a guy going around killing people.
And while I like depthy horror, I also have an appreciation for horror that is proud to be what it is, and for the most part Adam Green made a movie in HATCHET that wallows in blood and gore like a baby in a rain puddle. For that, I can’t help but be endeared to this film. It’s not the most original at all. In fact, the story probably falls towards the bottom of the totem pole behind the gore, the boobs, the humor, and the violence. But looking back on some of those films such as MEAT CLEAVER MASSACRE, HUMONGOUS (reviewed here), THE BURNING (reviewed here) and the like, story doesn’t rank too high in those films either. So in terms of story, I’d lump HATCHET right in there with the other killer brute in the woods stories from those bygone days. But with so many films with found footage, zombie, and whatever as the central monster trying to be meta-textual, it’s refreshing to see one that is what it is and that’s it.
And what it is, is a gory, funny, good time. The humor works most of the time, mainly because the cast is made of comedic character actors and genre superstars. Seeing GRANDMA’S BOY’s Joel David Moore play the nerd turned hero is fun. It’s also fun seeing actors you wouldn’t expect in a horror film such as Joel Murray, Richard Riehle, and Patrika Darbo meet their untimely demise. At the same time, the HATCHET series tradition is that it is a veritable who’s who in horror with Freddy himself Robert Englund, BLAIR WITCH PROJECT’s Joshua Leonard, Candyman Tony Todd, and horror effects and FRIDAY THE 13TH IV director John Carl Buechler all in prominent roles. Green is the guy who goes to all of the horror cons and looks at these B-listers as superstars and casts them in roles they normally don’t play.
Not the case for Kane Hodder who plays Victor Crowley, the man swinging the titular hatchet. Hodder shows that despite the fact that he was looked over for the last few FRIDAY THE 13TH installments, he still has what it takes to make a man brute monster come to life as he gives Crowley a fantastic presence with little or no lines at all. A shrug of the shoulders, a tilt of the head, a blink or a nod and Hodder is able to make this monster as formidable as Jason ever was.
In the end, I believe those going in thinking there is going to be some kind of commentary on the genre will only lead to disappointment. If you watch this film just to have a great time seeing old faces and watching them get slaughtered in disturbing and disgusting ways, you’re most likely going to buy into this series which feels more at home with the slasher films of the 80’s than today’s horrors.
Retro-review: Available on DVD/BluRay (Find this film on Netflix here)!
HATCHET II (2010)Directed by Adam Green
Written by Adam Green
Starring Danielle Harris, AJ Bowen, Parry Shen, Alexis Peters, Ed Ackerman, David Foy, Tom Holland, Colton Dunn, R.A. Mihailoff, Rick McCallum, John Carl Buechler, Kathryn Fiore, Erika Hamilton, Tony Todd, & Kane Hodder as Victor Crowley
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Reviewed by Ambush Bug
One of the things that probably made me fall in love with the FRIDAY THE 13TH series of films was the interconnectivity of the first six films. Even with the misstep of PART V: A NEW BEGINNING, watch them all in sequence and there’s a story that that is unfolding and Jason evolves from neglected boy to man monster zombie through six films. Some of the film, like the first four, connected together so well that if you take away the title sequence and just edit it all together, it would be one long ass slasher film. I guess that’s why I think I loved HATCHET II more than the first because like FRI13 PARTS I-IV and HALLOWEEN I-II, this sequel continues right where the last film left off. I mean the exact moment.
Now the only difference being that latter HALLOWEEN sequel and THE LAST BOYSCOUT star Danielle Harris leaps into the role of Marybeth (played by Tamara Feldman in the first film). It’s understandable the gorgeous and pint-sized scream queen would be placed in this role. Much like her onscreen mom, Jamie Lee Curtis did in HALLOWEEN, Harris plays the final tough girl to a tee—giving off both a vulnerability and a spunkiness to make me believe she can get hurt, but also can kick ass despite her diminutive size. In HATCHET II she kicks unbelievable ass, especially in the latter portion of the film, as after she escapes the swamp, she finds herself back in the same swamp with a bunch of local merc, looking to cash in on a bounty on Crowley’s head.
The story itself, while adding more depth to the Crowley mythos by explaining his birth and death a little more, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. A whole lot of logic bending is required in order to believe Marybeth would ever step foot in the swamp again after the first ordeal. But again, this is a HATCHET film and the first film set the precedence for a lack of concern for a strong story over gore and violence. What this film does have is some great action scenes, more so than one might expect from a horror film. The scenes where Crowley fights Leatherface actor R.A. Mihailoff is classic as the two titans battle one another. Another memorable scene involves YOU’RE NEXT’s AJ Bowen still fucking a woman sans his own head, then the woman getting a hatchet wound in the old “hatchet wound”.
Off color gore and humor is to be expected in this romp which basically goes by the same framework as Green lines up a group of people to meet extremely gory and sometimes humorous demises one by one. One thing that separates both of the first HATCHET films from most is that most of the cast knows there’s a killer through the whole film and despite that knowledge, Crowley still manages to whittle them down to nothing. If any evolution at all is achieved in this modern slasher story, it’s the incorporation of knowledge is spread faster now than ever before so the job of secluding each of the victims before killing them isn’t necessary, Crowley is wide out in the open and more than willing to dive into a group of people if necessary.
HATCHET II while a bit repetitious, continues the fun established in the first film and again, as the last one did, leaves us with a jarring cut, suggesting that more Crowly action is yet to come in a third installment.
Advance Review: New on DVD/BluRay today, sneak preview last Friday at Chicago’s Flashback Weekend!
HATCHET III (2013)Directed by BJ McDonnell
Written by Adam Green
Starring Danielle Harris, Zach Galligan, Caroline Williams, Parry Shen, Robert Diago DoQui, Derek Mears, Sid Haig, Cody Blue Snider, Rileah Vanderbilt, Sean Whalen, Jason Trost, Diane Ayala Goldner, John Michael Sudol, & Kane Hodder as Victor Crowley
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
And that continuation does occur, just as the last film ended and began with a scene that simply proceeds directly after the last shot of the previous film, thus interconnecting all three HATCHET films together in one long thread. Having rewatched this trio of films in order in one sitting, it does make for a damn fun extended movie experience. The action is hard and rough in these first moments as homages to both TEXAS CHAINSAW and HALLOWEEN are done. The action scene between the returning Harris as Marybeth is ruthless and really highlights the stars resilience and toughness as she literally bisects Crowley with a chainsaw before we move onto this third and reportedly final chapter in the HATCHET Trilogy.
Crowley has taken on tourists and bounty hunters in the last few films, so taking on lawmen in this one as Marybeth shows up at the police station holding a chunk of Crowley’s scalp to prove that he is out there. A federal team lead by Derek Mears (Jason from the FRIDAY THE 13TH remake) as well as a rescue squad (lead by GREMLINS Zach Galligan and Parry Shen who has been in all three HATCHET films as different characters) is dispatched into the swamp while Marybeth stays locked up happily in a prison cell. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 final girl Caroline Williams plays basically the same role Courtney Cox plays in the SCREAM films, the nosey reporter who won’t take no for an answer when it comes to these murders. Williams even go so far as to kidnap Harris’ Marybeth from her cell and forces her back into the swamp for a third time. At least this return to the swamp is a little more believable since in the first one she returned of her own choice, while this time around she is forced at gunpoint. At least the excuse to get Danielle back in the swamp and covered in mud is understandable this time around.
HATCHET I and II DP BJ McDonnell slips into the director chair in this film as Adam Green takes the producer reigns, but still writes the screenplay. This transition of responsibilities really isn’t too noticeable as by now, this series knows what it wants to deliver and for the most part does so well in this series. There is some rough looking wire work here involving some acts of strength as Crowley dispatches the agents and lawmen with brute force in the final scenes, but the same template from the first two is followed as Crowley just kills everything in his path, though can’t seem to kill the four foot final girl once again. Sticking with not only tradition of this series, but of the slasher template itself, the story has definitely become predictable at this point and while the ending of how Crowley is supposed to meet his final demise is different, the rest of the motions are going to be very familiar.
But what makes these films aren’t the complex narratives, it’s the little fun moments. Crowley being chainsawed in half by his own chainsaw in the opening. The reintroduction of Parry Shen as a totally different character and then his defensiveness when he is called for looking a lot like the two other guys from the previous films (“Oh yeah, all us Asians look alike, now, right?” is the line, I believe). The meta-face off between former Jason Voorhees Kane Hodder and the latest Jason Derek Mears adds a level of cool only fans of the genres will appreciate, but still makes for an exciting scene. And Cody Blue Snider doing his best Hudson from ALIENS imitation as the scared out of his gourd lawman who just wants to get the hell out of the swamp. All of these ooze the same type of fun that runs hand in hand with this entire love letter to the slasher genre.
Again, there are those who don’t understand what all the hubbub is all about with these Hatchet Army kids and their confounded haircuts and baggy pants, but if you’re an old school horror buff like myself, I see it. I understand going nuts for these HATCHET films just as I went gonzo every time a new FRIDAY THE 13TH came out. And if you’re a fan of the slasher genre, you’ve got to appreciate the dedication and admiration Adam Green has for these films. It is noticeable in every frame of this trilogy and appreciated by this horror buff.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
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