loving, gore-packed tribute to 1980s slasher cinema. Fun, but also excessively
lightweight and wildly overhyped.
“Amongst the greatest slasher flicks of all time”? I think not. “So
indescribably awesome that you just cannot conceive”? Not quite. HATCHET,
the object of those raves, isn’t bad, but those superlatives do it no favors.
This 2007 film is a low-budget effort partially lensed in pre-Katrina New
Orleans. It was the premiere feature of horror enthusiast Adam Green, a true
“character” who can always be counted on to make a big splash at horror
conventions. It featured the genre icons Robert Englund (a.k.a. Freddy Krueger)
and Tony Todd (Candyman) in cameos, with Kane Hodder (Jason) as the heavy.
The film also marked the first-ever theatrical release
by the popular DVD outfit Anchor Bay Entertainment, who gave it a limited
theatrical engagement in the summer of 2007 (by which time Green had already
completed his second feature SPIRAL). Unfortunately the film was in and out of
theaters all-too-quickly (at least on the West Coast), depriving horror fans of
the chance to experience this quintessential audience picture on a big screen.
A group of punks find themselves in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Two of
them break off from the group, electing to take a boat cruise; along for the
ride are an elderly couple, two lesbians, an intense young woman searching for
her lost brother, and the boat’s goofball Asian tour guide...who quickly sinks
The passengers all disembark without drowning, but do so in front of the
house of Victor Crowley, a severely deformed man who as a child was picked on,
abused, set on fire and had his face slashed. He’s grown into a psychopathic
Our protagonists find this out first-hand when Crowley bursts out of his
house and chops the elderly man in half, and then splits the guy’s wife’s head
open. Everyone else scatters, but they don’t stand a chance: Crowley stalks
them through the swampland and offs each in a different horrible manner. One
guy gets his head literally twisted off his neck, another has his arms ripped
from their sockets, and another is impaled on a stick. It seems our heroes have
the upper hand when they manage to set Crowley on fire, but a sudden downpour
dampens the flames--and Crowley continues after them, more pissed off than
This film is very much of the Eli Roth school of moviemaking, juxtaposing
raunchy comedy with intense splatter. But HATCHET never quite bridges the
transition between comedy and horror. It’s funny (best line: “I was going to
Hollywood to become a movie star and now I’m stuck here with you assholes!”),
but the killings are so over the top they’re impossible to take seriously.
There’s also the problem of the patently artificial bayou sets (actually shot in
Southern California) and wildly overlit “night” scenes. Thus we have a flick
that’s likeable and entertaining but never particularly scary.
But as a gore spectacle it’s hard to beat. The joy and enthusiasm Adam
Green and his special effects technicians take in their work is infectious,
resulting in many unforgettable splatter set pieces. My favorite is the
twisted-off head, which all-but brought down the house when screened for a
2007 Fangoria convention audience.
This of course brings up another problem. HATCHET is
enjoyable enough on DVD, but I believe it must be experienced in an auditorium
packed with splatter fans to get the full effect--and right now it appears that
few of us will ever get that chance.
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Director: Adam Green
Producers: Sarah Elbert, Scott Altomare, Cory Neal
Screenplay: Adam Green
Cinematography: Will Barratt
Editing: Christopher Roth
Cast: Joel David Moore, Tamara Feldman, Kane Hodder, Deon Richard, Mercedes
McNab, Parry Shen, Joleigh Fioreavanti, Joel Murray, Richard Riehle, Patricia
Darbo, Joshua Leonard, Tony Todd, Robert Englund