Friday, February 4, 2011

Hatchet 2

I may have mentioned here before how the original Hatchet was, in my opinion, one of the best slasher movies to be made since the 1980s. Naturally, I was eager to see the sequel, particularly since it was being released in theaters unrated and uncensored, something fairly unheard of for a horror movie, and a trend that I really hope continues. Sadly, I wound up having to wait for the DVD, as there was so much outrage over the fact that such a gory, unrated movie could ever get a limited release that it was yanked out of theaters after one day. Naturally there was no hope of it living up to the kind of ridiculous build-up that put in my head, but now that I’ve finally seen it, I have to admit that while it’s not as much fun as the original, it’s definitely one of the most gruesome movies in my collection. And people, I own a large chunk of Miike films.

The films starts at the exact moment the first film ended, with our heroine (Danielle Harris of Halloween fame, replacing Tamara Feldman) on a boat getting attacked by the monstrous Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). She fights him off, and after encountering a nearby woodsman to supply the opening kill, she makes her way through the swamp back to New Orleans, talks to voodoo tour guide Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd, who is by far the most fun character in the film), who gives her some added backstory on Crowley and assembles a team of yokels and idiots (including Harris’ uncle, who Zombie demands she bring along) to hunt Crowley down once and for all. Once that whirlwind bit of plot development and hasty character introductions is over with, it’s back to the swamp for everyone to die horribly.

And wow, do they ever die horribly. People get beheaded, shoved into spinning propellers, rubbed down into nothing with a sander, chainsawed in half, take hits to the crotch with an axe, chopped in half, curb stomped, and even skinned alive. What’s more, he spends several minutes on each victim -- not just chasing them down, but outright mutilating each one -- to the point where it eventually stops being fun and gross and starts being a little uncomfortable. I didn’t think I’d ever say this about a gory horror movie, but I think writer-director Adam Green could have dialed it back a tad here, and maybe give us a few more minutes of character development so we could have a reason to care when most of them die. While Crowley has an appropriately tragic back story (and in proper slasher movie fashion, his back story is made both larger, more ridiculous, and more muddled in this sequel), there’s no real reason given for him to be this ridiculously pissed off at everyone that he can’t just kill them, but has to beat them around, chop bits of them off, slap them around a bit, call their mother names, and then kill them. For instance, take one of the early kills. He springs out of the bushes onto the guy, knocking him on his back. Crowley has his hatchet in hand, but rather than using the blade, he instead decides to slam the blunt top of it into his victim’s mouth over and over and over and over and over again, until the poor guy’s face has been completely caved in and just looks like a pile of goo. What the hell, man?!? Calm down!

Really, the two main stars of the film are Hodder (well, I guess the violence is the real star there, but he’s the one dishing it all out) and Todd, in his best role since his star turn in Candyman. Yes, Candyman was a star turn for him, just ask any horror junkie. He completely hams things up as Reverend Zombie, trying to warm up his crowd of hillbillies with guns by waving his shaman staff around and shaking his hands frantically around their heads, and while we’re supposed to view him as a bit of a villain for his secret plans regarding Crowley, I have to say that I was rooting for him all the way to the end. He was a great deal more fun than Harris was. I don’t know what her deal was, but she was perfectly fine in Rob Zombie’s Halloween, so I have to assume she just made a terrible acting decision to appear miserable and lost the whole way through the movie. She’s such a killjoy, it seems almost necessary for Green to have made it so she shared most of her scenes with Todd so that he could keep the fun going.

I don’t mean to put the movie down like this. It is indeed a good, mostly fun modern slasher. If it’s not as good as the original film, well, sequels often aren’t (I’d say almost never are, but that’s not really the case with horror franchises). All I can really advise is that when Hatchet 3 comes around (and yes, I have to assume it will), Adam Green should spend a little less time on the gore effects and a little more time on character development, and perhaps get a more energetic lead. Also, bring Tony Todd back, he was all kinds of awesome. Also, given the quick reference, a Victor Crowley, Leslie Vernon team-up would be all kinds of sweet.

Rating: ***

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