Although I was born in 90s, a lot of the films I was exposed to in my childhood either came from the eighties or were from series’ that originated around then. It is difficult to last a full-day without mentioning A Nightmare on Elm Street and what that series meant for me, but I had love for a lot of different slasher series’ like Child’s Play and Halloween as well. I may not have loved Friday the 13th, but I loved Freddy vs. Jason and I developed a certain appreciation and fondness for how iconic certain aspects of it went onto become.
Directed by Adam Green, Hatchet is a film that wears its inspiration and influences proudly on its sleeve, citing itself as an “old school American horror” film. The film features small appearances from a lot of different familiar faces – like Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund and Candyman‘s Tony Todd. This is Kane Hodder‘s film, however, with the former Jason Voorhees actor swapping his hockey mask for a lot of makeup, becoming Hatchet’s antagonist Victor Crowley.
I have been familiar with the film for years, but I had never gotten around to collecting my thoughts about it (I have seen all of the films, actually). Sometimes I have other projects that require attention and reviews happen to fall through the cracks. In a lot of ways, I believe this benefits the film.
I always respect the enthusiasm for someone who wants to capture a film the same flavor of the horror of yesteryear. I also understand it isn’t always a perfect marriage of what the genre needs.
The slasher genre well ran dry because of how often they went back to it. Slashers have seen a resurgence in recent years with films like Halloween discovering newfound popularity, and I am very excited about that. I want slasher films to be common again, but I know they will never be what they were in-terms of mainstream attention, and, in turn, likely never should be.
For every decent slasher film in the eighties, about one-hundred awful knockoffs filled the shelves at your local rental store, similar in a way to the supernatural horror of the modern era. Slashers are a fun addition, and, for that reason, I am welcome to and root someone like Adam Green or Damien Leone (Terrifier) as they have remained committed to an art-form I have a lot of love for as others have moved on.
Hatchet doesn’t reinvent the wheel nor does it intend to. The film is about a group of tourists who attend a haunted swamp tour and come face-to-face with the ghost of Victor Crowley. Crowley, like Jason before him, has a sympathetic backstory. He was bullied for the way he looked and wrongfully murdered.
The cast of characters are straightforward and one-dimensional, but they aren’t without a level of charm. The dialogue is filled with quips and one-liners that don’t always landed as well as you’d hope but make the characters and the atmosphere feel light-heart and playful. Some of it is campy, some of it is over-the-top, but it all works at creating the energy of a film that doesn’t itself very seriously.
In some ways, I found its playful zest more comparable to a Full Moon Feature film than I did Friday the 13th. The acting is serviceable, with actors Joel Moore and Deon Richmond receiving the most significant amount of screen-time. Deon’s over-the-top acting in the film both epitomizes the best and worst aspect of the film, the playfulness and cheesiness and how they play out in the film.
The film does not skimp out on the horror or bloodshed, which will appease many of you. The special-effects put emphasis on the low budget, but are no doubt enjoyable and a lot of fun. Considering how surface-level and superficial most of the development is for the actual characters, I do wish we could have seen more of him. However, I understand how budgetary constraints may have kept that from occurring.
I didn’t enjoy this film at all when I first saw it, but I found that I have warmed up to it on a considerable level. The orchestral score and seeing Crowley rip someone in half, Hatchet has a lot to like about it.
It is not uncommon to see horror films like Hatchet in the modern-era. I even interviewed the cast of the Headless slasher film a week ago and their idea of making a slasher had a similar mission statement to it.
One of the biggest flaws you see with some slasher films though, is they so often don’t know what to do in-between the chainsaws and machetes, and that shows a lot in their finished product. No one wants to watch a film that feels padded to feature-length. Hatchet makes that mistake, but its dialogue and colorful energy does something to combat that as well.
Although I almost hesitate to call Hatchet a decent film altogether in-terms of everything working against it, I would call it an above-average slasher film.