Panned by many critics, Adam Green’s Hatchet has nevertheless acquired a solid enough cult base to yield two sequels, with more films supposedly in the works. Unfairly compared to the horror hit Scream franchise, 2006’s Hatchet really belongs to the gorehounds, the hardcore horror geeks, and those who long for the “eternal slasher” of the 1970s and 1980s. This collective of fanatics understands the core “rules” of the genre and appreciates what Hatchet is all about.
Building upon eternal slashers such as Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger, Hatchet introduces a new character, Victor Crowley (the adult version played by horror icon Kane Hodder). Born perhaps in the 1940s or 1950s, Victor is horribly deformed (no explanation is given, although it is implied that Victor may be the result of inbreeding) and retarded. Although ugly, Victor is loved and cared for by his father—also played by Hodder (the mother is dead). The two live a relatively isolated life in a New Orleans swamp, with the father making sure that no one ever sees his son.
On Halloween night, three kids venture into the swamp to catch a glimpse of the deformed boy. The kids see Victor in the house, and in an attempt to scare him, begin to throw fireworks onto the porch. Sadly, the porch and subsequently the house catch fire, with Victor still inside. In an attempt to rescue his son, the father uses a hatchet to try to tear down the locked door. Unfortunately, the father strikes Victor’s face, killing him. Consumed with grief, the father dies of a broken heart several years later.
Although Victor did die that horrible night, his spirit has managed to manifest itself out of revenge, taking on the facets of an eternal slasher, meaning that he is almost a vengeful spirit that cannot be killed until it has its revenge.
Hatchet opens with a father (Sampson, played by horror icon Robert Englund) and son Ainsley (Joshua Leonard) hunting for gators in a swamp. When Ainsley goes to take a leak, he is murdered by a monstrous creature. When Sampson attempts to flee, he is also dispatched.
The movie then shifts gears, turning away from the swamp and moving into New Orleans at the time of Mardi Gras. A trio of young men are out partying, but one of them, Ben (Joel Moore) wants nothing to do with Mardi Gras, as he has recently broken up with his girlfriend. Ben suggests that the trio take a haunted swamp tour, but only one of the other two, Marcus (Deon Richmond), elects to tag along. The two then speak to one Rev. Zombie (horror icon Tony Todd), who hooks them up with Shawn (Parry Shen), who smells like charlatan from the start. Also on the tour are an elderly couple, a sleazy porn director and his two models, and a quiet but hot-tempered gal by the name of Marybeth (Tamara Feldman).
The bulk of the story involves this group of people going into the swamp, where they are systematically dispatched by the specter of Crowley. It turns out that Marybeth is the daughter/sister of the father/son at the beginning of the film, and she knows all about the folklore behind the Crowley legend. At first the group attempts to flee the swamp, but as more and more of them are horribly murdered, they elect to stand their ground, hoping that they can at last kill Victor Crowley.
Hatchet combines gutter humor and sarcasm with over-the-top gore, classic horror storytelling (a little jarring but effective), and a rubber monster. There’s also some T&A on display, but the nudity and sexual innuendo is very naïve (as it should be). The humor is laugh out loud and gross, although the sarcasm is effective. As for the gore, Victor Crowley is strangely repulsive but fake looking, as are the special effects used to dispatch the victims. There is plenty of blood and innards on display, and some of the kills are so horrible you may find yourself chuckling out loud at the mayhem on display.
Those looking for a serious “Old School American Horror” film (as displayed on the DVD’s cover) should look elsewhere. What writer-director Adam Green is hinting at with this subtitle to his flick is the horror spawned in Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, only taken into a modern setting, where homage, satire, and silliness all combine to create an irreverent but ultimately satisfying movie. As for the old-school tag, Hatchet more than lives up to it. All special effects are practical, with no CGI used in the production.
Don’t expect too many scares when watching Hatchet. Instead, sit back and enjoy the show for what it is: bloody, gory, funny, distasteful and irreverent, and ultimately, fun. Just make sure to shower once you are done.