Writing a review for Hatchet is almost pointless. Devotees of the horror genre will see this no matter what the critics say. In fact, a certain rhetorically named fanboy website that prides itself on cool news has already lauded the movie’s villain as the next horror icon. While I wouldn’t be too sure about that, Hatchet does make one thing clear at least, and that’s that writer/director Adam Green has undeniable talent. Structured largely as a parody of the Friday the 13th films, Hatchet casts legendary Jason Voorhees stand-in Kane Hodder as Victor Crowley, the deformed son of a backwoods Louisiana bayou fisherman (also played by Hodder) who was presumed killed years earlier in a house fire started by a bunch of tormenting local kids.

Green follows the stock formula for such movies: take a bunch of folks, find an excuse to strand them in monster country and let the audience revel in watching them get picked off one-by-one. Where Green excels, however, is in his smartly written, comically-paced script that is chalk full of genuinely funny inside jokes that are blatant winks at the audience and along the way establish more of a bond with Sean of The Dead than Halloween. In terms of horror movies, there’s nothing going on here that is particularly inventive or even scary, but Green clearly isn’t out to achieve that. Rather, he’s paying homage to a genre that he grew up with, as is clear by the cameos he’s given to icons Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street) and Tony Todd (Candyman and numerous others).

Bolstered by good acting, top notch production values, and intentionally rubbery costume effects, Hatchet panders to the fanboy crowd in glorious revelry. Clearly Green knows his audience likes to sit back, kick the Fangoria magazines off the couch and watch somebody take a belt sander in their kisser. While I think labeling Crowley as the next horror icon in the same vein as Jason, Michael Myers, and Freddy is complete preposterousness, saying Adam Green is someone to keep an eye on is a more realistic and complimentary laurel.

On the plus side... a horror movie with an 18 certificate. Blimey. Hur-bloody-rah and about time too. And it’s deserved as Hatchet delivers up several gruesome murders courtesy of the unstoppable freaky psychopath and the general incompetent visitors who’ve stumbled into his N’Awlins swamp home. On the downside... it’s worse than Day Watch. It’s worse than Mrs Ratcliffe’s Revolution. Hell, it might even be worse than Norbit — and that’s a sentence I really hoped I wouldn’t have to write for at least five years.

Set around a Mardi Gras visited by, apparently, 37 people — most of whom are female with a predilection for flashing their lady bumps — Hatchet is a defiantly old school horror. As well as featuring the now customary self-referencing nods to the genre courtesy of cameos from Robert ‘Freddy’ Englund and Tony ‘Candyman’ Todd , it also appears to have been shot on 1980s VHS stock. Back in the day, deformed Victor Crowley died in a house fire. Now the remote bayou-set Crowley House is the stuff of legend. And, as a group of unfortunate tourists discover, it’s not without foundation. Victor didn’t die at all. He’s alive, not so well — he looks like he’s made from pastrami — and has a large variety of sharp instruments at his disposal.

And so, as this half man, half doner lumbers around, you get death by jawsnapping, death by head-twisting, death by spade and, hopefully, death at the box office as horror fans stampede to the ticket counter for a refund. Hatchet is so inept it’s frequently impossible to tell if it’s deliberately tongue-in-cheek or just plain shit, although I’m plumping for the latter. ‘I’d rather skin my own dick,’ says one of the characters — sparkling dialogue huh? — and you’ll know how he feels. Given the choice between self-genital mutilation and sitting through this again... well, let’s just say the scalpel, however rusty, looks remarkably attractive. Not scary, not funny and not any bleeding good whatsoever. The campaign for lethal injections for those responsible starts here.

THIRD OPINION | Stuart O'Connor **
On the plus side ... the movie's got plenty of boobs. Remember the character Harmony, played by Mercedes McNab, in the TV shows Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel? In Buffy, she was a high school friend of Cordelia's who got turned into a vampire. In Angel, she was firstly a girlfriend of Spike's and later Angel's PA. Post Angel, Mcnab's biggest claim to fame (so far) has been getting naked in Playboy (the November 2006 edition, for those who are interested). It looks like she's getting pretty desperate for work, cos all she does in Hatchet is scream and flash her breasts. Not that I'm complaining, mind. But her breasts are pretty much the highlight of this low-rent gorefest that tries so hard to be funny and knowing, but ultimately fails. Is Victor Crowley, as Aint It Cool's Harry Knowles declared, the next great horror icon? Sorry, Harry, but no, he's not. The character is far too similar to the greats, Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, to have any real lasting impact. And Hatchet itself? The plot is derivitive, the jokes forced and the acting sub-par. The only high point was the gore factor — some of the killings were actually pretty decent. But apart from the occasional exposed breast, this film has little to recommend it.

Official Site
Hatchet at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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