Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #546
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: April 27, 2006 (Tribeca Film Festival), September 7, 2007 (United States)
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 93 minutes
Director: Adam Green
Producers: Scott Altomare, Sarah Elbert, Cory Neal
Screenplay: Adam Green
Special Effects: John Carl Buechler, Dan Edwards, Josh Hakian, Joe Montenegro
Cinematography: Will Barratt
Score: Andy Garfield
Editing: Christopher Roth
Studios: ArieScope Pictures, High Seas Entertainment, Radioaktive Film
Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Stars: Joel David Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Mercedes McNab, Parry Shen, Joel Murray, Joleigh Fioreavanti, Richard Riehle, Patrika Darbo, Joshua Leonard, John Carl Buechler, Tony Todd, Robert Englund and Kane Hodder as Victor Crowley
Suggested Audio Candy
Marilyn Manson “This is The New Shit”
Victor Crowley has every reason to be pleased with himself. By 2006, it had been around thirty years since the slasher genre begun its extended hiatus and, despite a brief post-Scream resurgence, things were pretty slim on the ground and inspiration at an absolute premium. The early eighties had been stomping ground for all manner of death-dealing juggernauts but things swiftly dried up and it appeared as though we may have seen the last of these single-minded murder junkies as they fell out of favor with cinemagoers. However, it was inevitable that we would eventually travel full circle and, once we did, Adam Green was ready to kickstart a well overdue slasher revolution.
Hindsight is a glorious thing and the Massachusetts born and bred director made the very most of his filmic upbringing when bringing Hatchet to the table. Having cut his teeth with Coffee & Donuts in 2000, Green was ready to give us content-starved blood hounds something to really scream about and knew precisely the way to achieve the desired effect. Enter Kane Hodder and who better to play the deformed deviant than the man behind the mask, the indefatigable Jason Voorhees? The 6′ 2½” man-mountain, nicknamed Cement Head, was primed for a fresh project to sink his teeth into and Green provided precisely that.
The Hatchet series has since gone on two spawn two sequels, neither of which brought any shame to the game and, while Green passed the directorial baton to B.J. McDonnell for the third, it has become a firm favorite with slasher aficionados worldwide. While the upturn in slasher is largely down to Green defibrillating the genre’s long-ailing fortunes, he has continued to ply his trade in the realms of horror with the likes of Spiral, Frozen, popular TV series Holliston, and his well-received 2014 film Digging Up The Marrow proving that he has no intention of being pigeon-holed as a one-trick pony. Hats off to him as I was beginning to lose patience by the time Crowley burst onto the scene and, whilst not the sharpest tool in the shed, he sure knows how to make his point in no uncertain terms.
Love it or hate it, the Hatchet franchise could never be accused of being stingy in the grue department and, pound for bloody pound, there are few trilogies quite as magnanimous with regards to splashing about the red stuff. Having spent many hours wading through the gloomy New Orleans bayou where he bases his mass destruction, I can state with assurance that never once has he been anything other than generous with his dispatches. Originality plays second fiddle to audience satisfaction and Crowley is disinterested in tearing strips from his quarry if the lens doesn’t have him framed beforehand. That is the unique selling point here, perhaps the only one, and you won’t see any complaints from a seasoned Gruehead such as I.
His story is the stuff of local folklore. Severely disfigured and lacking any kind of interaction to brush up on his social skill set, Crowley was hidden away in a run-down shack deep in the swamps of Louisiana by his doting father (also played by Hodder), away from the prying eyes of the locals. However, their secluded existence was compromised one day as a group of snot-nosed ankle-lickers decided to play a trick on young Victor that spectacularly backfired culminating in the cabin going up in flames. In an attempt to free his son from the blaze, pops accidentally sank a hatchet into his boy’s cranium, killing him outright. Like any embittered spirit, Crowley refused to rest in peace and it was only a matter of time before a band of wayward thrill-seekers unwittingly decided to trespass on his turf.
After straying from the Mardi Gras parade, recently dumped Ben (Joel David Moore) talks his skeptical best friend Marcus (Deon Richmond) into partaking in a harmless boat tour of the swamp in question. Led by inexperienced tour guide Shawn (Parry Shen), and joined by ditzy porn star wannabees Misty (Mercedes McNab) and Jenna (Joleigh Fioreavanti), their sleazy director, Shapiro (Joel Murray), Minnesota tourists Jim (Richard Riehle) and Shannon Permatteo (Patrika Darbo), and hot-tempered loner Marybeth (Tamara Feldman), the group head off into Victor Crowley territory and you don’t need a compass to know where they’re headed.
Green is more than happy to play the patient game and we are afforded ample time to hang out with the mismatched human cargo before they’re forced into dropping anchor. His dialogue is playful, characters colorful and chirpy, and tongue never strays too far from cheek as he lines up his dominoes. From hereon in, we are soundly in stalk and slash waters as, one-by-one and in rapid succession, the numbers are subtracted by our rowdy resident as he makes full use of any territorial advantage. Crowley isn’t choosy about his weapons of dispatch and just as content with tearing them apart with his bare hands, which is great news for anyone hankering for grue as it positively gushes once gears are shifted.
Will Barratt’s cinematography creates just the right ambiance and the mist-strewn setting makes for an ideal playground for the hulking harasser. However, Green doesn’t linger too long on building tension as the true pleasure derives from guessing how the next body will hit the ground and in how many pieces. Subtlety is not Crowley’s strong point and neither is biding his time, this is search and destroy all the way and makes no bones about its direct approach to the jugular. Despite ultimately amassing to little more than lambs for the slaughter, the characters are affable enough, with Moore and Feldman giving a stellar account of themselves as reluctant heroes and Richmond making the most of hamming up his token black guy role.
There are also a number of crowd pleasing cameos, from veterans Tony Todd and Robert Englund, SFX maestro John Carl Buechler, and The Blair Witch Project alumni Joshua Leonard. However, this is Hodder’s show and his overbearing presence is much appreciated as Crowley roams with the conviction of a man more than familiar with this kind of setting and the potential for butchery it offers up. Ultimately it is his task which is most significant as victims may come and go but iconic killers have the opportunity to grant themselves a return ticket, should their prowess be considerable enough. He does more than enough in this department and peels back the years as though slasher hasn’t spent the last thirty years languishing in the doldrums.
Hatchet is exactly what it is and nothing more. Green’s intention is never to reinvent and instead purely to revitalize. He does so by playing the homage card and painting by the numbers provided by the likes of Jason Voorhees and his eighties cohort, while honing in on what audiences hankered for first time around – the all-important kills. It isn’t big or clever, doesn’t tread fresh ground or concern itself with fixing what isn’t broken. But it does provide the key ingredients to a bankable slasher and remind us that what goes around, will ultimately come back around in time. I, for one, will never shirk good old-fashioned familiarity.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Buechler has something of a hootenanny here with body parts flying left and right with gay abandon and enough deep red splashing against bark to fill even the largest bloodbath beyond its capacity. Limbs are pulled from their stumps like mosquito wings, heads prised wide open to reveal flapping tongues, faces sanded down with industrial tools, entrails relinquished from gaping cavities, spleens too, and it is no small wonder that Hatchet caused a stir when unleashed on unsuspecting audiences back in 2006. Not once is discretion preferred to excess and, after such a long time in the wilderness, it provides just the shot in the arm that slasher so desperately needed. Moreover, T&A is not deemed surplus to requirements and both McNab and Fioreavanti reveal their chest tokens at every last available opportunity. I’m so glad that Green did his homework and an A for effort has never been so justified. Yeehaw!
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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