The first Hatchet film arrived in 2007 surfing a wave of hyperbole. The internet hyped director Adam Green as the future of horror and the films tagline was ‘old school American horror’. I’ve been burned before by this type of tag tied round a debut director’s neck before. So I wasn’t surprised when I saw the film that it turned out to be entertaining at best. The film had some nice gore but had too much frat boy humour and no tension whatsoever. I was about ready to write off Adam Green as another case of too much hype too soon but then he made a little film called Frozen. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. Frozen remembers the rule that most horror directors forget, if your characters aren’t likeable the audience won’t care and the tension evaporates. All the lead characters in Frozen are extremely well developed and have back story, it genuinely feels like a tragedy is unfolding before your eyes and as a result the film is suspenseful and tense getting a lot of mileage out of a simple premise. This felt like a major step up from Hatchet and I was looking forward to what Green had in store next. Sadly he decided to make a sequel to Hatchet and Hatchet 2 represents several steps back for the director.
The film begins with Mary Beth (Danielle Harris) having just escaped the murderous clutches of swamp ghost/maniac Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). Mary Beth has gone into the swamp looking for her father and brother who disappeared on a fishing trip. She meets a local man who tells her that she should go seek out the voodoo priest Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) to see if he can help her locate her relatives. The man reacts badly when he finds out Mary Beth’s last name and that she is related to a man who as a child was responsible for Victor’s death. Alone and afraid, Mary Beth makes it back to town and to Reverend Zombie who she asks for help. The Reverend is initially reluctant but eventually sees a way he can make money out of it by running tours through the swamp again and also intends to locate his missing boat (the crew and boat from the first movie). Zombie pulls together a band of lowlife hunters and fisherman to take on a trek with Mary Beth through the swamp to kill Victor Crowley once and for all. The shifty Reverend also has an ulterior motive that involves further members of Mary Beth’s family.
If you are looking for plot and suspense that synopsis is about all you are going to get. Adam Green’s primary motivation here is to make you gag at the horrendous gore as Victor Crowley despatches each member of the posse. So you get some inventive kills - death by power sander, death by gigantic chainsaw as it lifts two men off the ground by the groin and, erm… death by table. The film has some very meaty gore effects but they are so over the top that they bring you out of the film completely and all tension evaporates. It’s a triumph of old school make-up effects and if this was purely intended as a showcase then it succeeds. From the moment a man is decapitated by his own entrails you know what kind of a movie you are in for and if you don’t have some to hand you may wish to get some beer as that’s probably the best way to enjoy Hatchet 2.
Danielle Harris is an actress probably best known for her association with the Halloween films and she does a good job with what little character she is given. Harris has a real world weary look that comes across as real and the character takes no crap which is believable coming from an actress with her appearance. Genre veteran Tony Todd is having enormous fun as a lowlife voodoo conman and gets many of the film's best lines. The rest of the cast is made up of people you will have seen in other low budget horror films all playing the atypical country bumpkin stereotypes we have seen countless times before.
I can’t remember the first film that well but Hatchet 2 is an ugly looking film whereas I think the first was shot on film and at least looked cinematic. This is shot on digital and it shows up so badly lending the whole thing an air of cheapness that doesn’t help matters. It’s also very obvious in certain scenes where they shot on soundstages instead of on location in the swamp, again this doesn’t help the film's cause.
If this was 1992 and I watched the film with one hand down my pants whilst all hopped up on cherry coke then I probably would have loved it. Alas I am now a grown man and what entertained teenage me no longer cuts the mustard. Hatchet 2 represents a low point for Adam Green who can and should do better if he wants any kind of career longevity.
Hatchet 2 is out now on DVD/Blu-ray