SEPTEMBER 7, 2007
A quick search of Hatchet will reveal I’ve plugged the film some 49059785 times on this blog, but now that it’s actually in theaters (!!!) I feel I should back up my praise.
Suffice to say, this will be one of the easiest reviews I’ve ever written.
Quite simply, Hatchet is the type of movie that can re-ignite someone’s interest in slasher films, after said interest had been all but completely annihilated by lame sequels (Halloween: Resurrection, I am looking at you), unfocused remakes of slasher classics (do I even need to name an example?), or worse, failed “throwback” alleged slasher movies like Dark Ride, Drive Thru, and A Brush With Death.
Those last examples are the worst offenders. The filmmakers are seemingly of the impression that all you need in order to make an effective slasher ‘homage’ to the classics of the early 80s is excessive gore, idiotic characters, and rampant nudity. The problem is, they are missing one very large and important ingredient: basic CHARM. There is absolutely nothing endearing about Drive Thru, a film which constantly insults its audience, is cynically produced on every level, and rips off other films blind without even the slightest bit of evidence that the filmmakers understand why those older films have endured. When some new format comes along to replace DVD, Halloween and Black Christmas will be upgraded to the new format due to fan demand and appreciation. Dark Ride will not be so lucky.
Hatchet, however, will be placed along those aforementioned classics (at least, if there’s any justice in the world). Because writer/director Adam Green succeeded where many others have failed, and made a film that not only oozes with genuine appreciation for the genre, but also proves that a new slasher film can be made in the post-Scream era.
For starters, Green has taken the time to infuse his script with genuine CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. Shocking, I know, but it’s true. Sure, there are a few characters that you’ll want to smack in the mouth more than once, but even those folks are given more than ample time to grow, resulting in the rare slasher film that will actually make you feel bad when one of them dies. But therein lies part of the genius of Green’s script. No one is simply stabbed or whatever. No, Victor Crowley literally tears apart most of his victims, making each death scene unique and memorable. So while you like the characters, you’ll still cheer at their demise because of the basic awesomeness of it all.
In addition, the movie is flat out FUNNY. And the humor is genuine and natural, thanks largely to the well above average performances of Deon Richmond, Perry Shen, and Joel David Moore (who endeared himself to me by wearing a Newbury Comics shirt throughout the entire film - I love a good New England shoutout). They aren’t winking at the audience, or turning the film into a parody, they are just REAL. One of the funniest lines in the film simply comes from Richmond’s affinity for a particular Denny’s meal. Nearly all of the jokes sound like something any normal human would say, as opposed to something like Jason X, where someone watches their close friend die on a random corkscrew and then says “He’s screwed.” That’s not funny, and no one would ever actually say that (well I might, but I'm an unfeeling asshole). But Moore’s “Oh you gotta be fucking KIDDING ME!” is something anyone might say in the situation, and I laughed just as much the 2nd time as I did the first (a rarity for ANY movie humor for me). The balance between humor and horror is near perfect, with one never overpowering the other.
So are there any flaws? Well, no, not really. Some might wish the killing would start a bit earlier (despite its marketing campaign, the film’s pace is closer to that of the original Halloween than a Friday the 13th sequel), but that didn’t bother me in the slightest, as I enjoyed ‘hanging out’ with these characters. And the carnage and mayhem that ensues is nearly nonstop once it starts, which should more than make up for any ADD viewer’s problem with going a half hour or so without any kills. I wish the marketing campaign had emphasized this a bit more, but oh well. It's also a bit short (82 minutes), so I would have liked maybe another obstacle or something to spread out the mayhem in the film's third act. Not that it feels rushed, but another 5 minutes or so certainly wouldn't be a problem with me.
Also, I should mention the gore. It’s been widely reported (well, on horror sites and messageboards anyway) that the film had to be edited to receive an R rating. Well that’s true, but I have seen both versions of the film, and I only noticed one cut. It’s still balls out gory, with plenty of blood spraying and limbs torn asunder in each and every kill. This isn’t My Bloody Valentine or Friday the 13th 7 (films that were rendered incomprehensible at times due to the MPAA hackery). Green and makeup supervisor John Carl Buechler (ironically, the director of F13 7, probably the most MPAA-abused film of all time) were smart enough to make the kill scenes WAY over the top, which gave them bargaining room with the MPAA. So let’s say in a normal slasher movie, the killer will take one or two hacks with a machete. The MPAA would say “no machete hacking can be seen”. Green and Buechler, on the other hand, had THIRTEEN machete hacks. So the MPAA allowed them four or five. The result? Four or five more machete hacks than you’d normally get.
I cannot stress enough how fucking good this movie is. I’ve watched 230 of these goddamn things in a row, and anyone who has read the site enough knows I very rarely flat out love a film. And more importantly, the film was made 100% independently, and even its theatrical release is born out of hard work and self promotion. Some of you might not even know the film is playing (there are no TV spots or billboards, and the trailer aired with few films). It’s only playing in about 80 cinemas, which almost guarantees that some of you won’t be able to see the film this weekend. But if the film does well over the next three days, it WILL open wider. Halloween Remake will be dropped by lots of theaters next weekend (the 14th-16th), and any theater would love to have a new horror movie take its place. If Hatchet performs well this weekend, you can almost guarantee that the film will be playing in your area in the next week or so.
And if it IS in your area, I IMPLORE you, PLEASE buy a ticket and show your support this weekend. If you’re reading this site, you must have an interest in horror movies, so there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be interested in this. Come on, do you really want Halloween to be the only horror success story this year? Even if for some reason you dislike the movie (I’d LOVE to know why if that’s the case), you have to agree that we need more films like this in theaters. Much like the upcoming Wrong Turn 2, a film made without studio enforced limitations, and made by genuine horror fans, will always be better than committee-written, focus-group appealing studio shit.
Regardless of the film’s theatrical success, Adam Green and his crew deserve every prop in the world for getting the film into theaters in the first place. It’s like horror’s own version of Rocky. And if I haven’t sold you on the film yet, just Google “Adam Green” and “Dee Snider story”. It’s the story of how Adam’s inspiration to keep at his dream, of which Dee inexplicably played a huge part. He told it at Comic Con and damned if I didn’t almost shed a tear (something I NEVER do unless Bruce Willis is saving the world AND his daughter’s fiancée with one rip of an oxygen tube). If you watch that story and still aren’t inspired to check out what the fuss is all about, then you’re just not human, and there’s nothing else I can do to convince you that Hatchet is the best horror film in a very long time.
Oh wait, you also see Harmony from Buffy’s tits.
OK now I really got nothing left.
What say you?