Written and Directed by: Adam Green
Starring: Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, and Kane Hodder
Reviewed by: Brett G.
Hold on to all of your pieces!
By now, I assume most of you have heard the story behind Hatchet II. As is sometimes the case with horror, sometimes a film’s notoriety takes on a life of its own, and Adam Green’s follow-up to his 2006 slasher has provided another example. The film was released to a handful of theaters back in October and carried no rating; instead, it carried the torch for unrated horror and hoped to beat down the door for unapologetic film-makers who refused to bow to the MPAA. In the end, it was Green who ended up getting burned after a brief firestorm that resulted in the film being pulled from theaters after only a few days. The official company line from AMC cited the film’s poor box office performance, while the horror community at large were quick to sharpen their knives against the MPAA. Either way, one thing was for sure: Hatchet II generated plenty of publicity, and now that it’s finally arrived on home video, everyone can see what all the fuss was about.
Picking up literally where the first film left off, this second outing finds our protagonist, Marybeth (Harris) in a struggle with Victor Crowley (Hodder). She manages to escape (after stabbing him in the face), and she’s taken in by a local redneck (portrayed by special effects legend John Carl Buechler), who says some vaguely ominous things about Marybeth’s father. If she’s going to learn more, she’s going to have to seek out the local Reverend Zombie (Todd). This jack-of-all-trades local personality expounds upon the story of Victor Crowley and decides he’s figured out how to end his reign of terror for good. He essentially gathers up a hunting party to go out into the swamps and kill the maniac.
If you’ve seen a dozen other slasher films (and Green is betting you have), you know what comes next: death, dismemberment, and a whole lot of blood. Admittedly, you might be surprised (but delighted) at the lengths this one will go to perpetuate its carnage. It takes the same approach as its predecessor, only it amps things up even more, like a good slasher sequel should. Obviously, Randy’s rules from Scream 2 were being followed pretty closely, as the body count is bigger and the death scenes even more elaborate. For good measure, Green also throws in more stuff to ingratiate himself to horror nerds in the form of winks, in-jokes, and cameos. There’s references to everything from Jason Voorhees to Leslie Vernon, and there’s an abundance of familiar faces: look out for old genre names like Tom Holland, R.A. Mihailoff, and Lloyd Kaufman in addition to some newer faces like Joe Lynch and Marcus Dunston, who are some of the minds behind the Wrong Turn and Saw sequels, respectively.
Tony Todd is a familiar face who returns from the first film, and his role is beefed up from his glorified cameo; he’s certainly the standout from the cast, as he brings a signature wry, yet sometimes creepy performance. Another familiar face steps into the role of Marybeth, as Danielle Harris replaces Tamara Feldman; I’d like to say she’s an improvement, but her performance is uneven at best, especially when she keeps slipping in and out of a terribly forced southern accent. The rest of the cast is introduced during a tedious lull in the action that’s full of clunky humor and some requisite exposition that create an illusion of story. You find your usual obnoxious slasher caricatures--mostly a various assortment of rednecks (one is even named Cleatus) and one token black guy--that are only there to screw around and get screwed in more ways than one. And this is where Hatchet II excels once it finally gets going, as it shows a commitment to absolutely tearing its cast apart in some show-stopping gore sequences. No body part is safe, as everything from intestines to testicles are up on the chopping block; there’s even a heady take-off of the old “sex during death” slasher staple.
Green is skilled behind the camera and brings some slickness to the production; purists might decry the polish and lack of grit, but tonally speaking, the film’s heart is in the right place (which in this case means it’s probably about to be ripped out). It takes all of the signature slasher qualities (sex, nudity, death, and stupidity) and magnifies them to full effect; I wouldn’t call it an outright parody, nor is it a satire (since it’s just as dumb as most slashers). I suppose it falls in the middle ground of being a perpetual tongue-in-cheek homage and definitely nothing to be taken seriously. After all the drama surrounding the film, you’re left with a silly little slasher that merely isn’t content to spill blood, but rather spray it all over the place. And I’m pretty sure Adam Green would tell you that was all he set out to do--he’s obviously “one of us” and the production feels like the equivalent of getting the band back together just to hack them up in gleeful fashion.
Slasher fans should have a lot of fun with this one--it doesn’t redefine anything, nor is it nearly the best of its type, but it’s entertaining enough. Though its stay in theaters was brief, it now arrives on home video, where its uncut glory will be preserved forever. Dark Sky brings it home in both a DVD and Blu-ray package; the latter offering boasts a rich, vivid transfer and a booming DTS-MA soundtrack. There’s a nice collection of special features as well, including a behind the scenes feature, a “first look” feature, a segment with the effects team, trailers, tv spots, radio spots, and two audio commentaries. One features Green with his cinematographer and effects supervisor, while the other finds the director sharing the mic with Todd and Hodder. Sure, both this film and the original have been far less interesting than their hype and promotion would have you believe they are, but they’re solid time-wasters. This second hack mostly hits the mark. Rent it!
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