Whilst on a tour of a haunted swamp, an eclectic group of people are stalked by the ‘local-legend’ Victor Crowley – a deformed boy killed years ago by his father in a freak accident.
‘Hatchet’ starts off very well and initially, it looks as if the picture is blessed with an all-star horror cast including Robert Englund, Tony Todd and Kane Hodder. That is until you realize that most of these parts – excluding Hodder’s as ‘Victor Crowley’ – are mere cameo appearances. The plot of this movie is best-described as “vintage” and I liked the back-story to Crowley’s maniac (beguiling, if unoriginal) as well as the atmospheric setting of a rain-drenched and gothic swamp.
The first and foremost thing that hits when you watch ‘Hatchet’ is a gore content set admirably and lovingly above the levels of ‘torture-porn’. Some slasher fans may find this aspect imploring but it should more appropriately set alarm bells ringing; gore has never been a good guide to this genre.
For a film which claims to follow the slasher genre so closely, the absence of suspense is hard to swallow. The most interesting characters are regrettably killed off early in the movie, leaving a group of wooden actors to see proceedings through in a manner which isn’t too far off tortuous; and leads inevitably to the audience experiencing ambivalence as the film goes on. Of course, ‘Hatchet’ doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a campy and fun tribute to ‘dead-teenager’ movies. Nevertheless, even on this level, the film’s comic aspects go far beyond the subtle parody of ‘Scream’ (1996) and enter the depths of nonsense.
Furthermore, the killer is uninteresting and jester-ish, owing more than a nod to the pathetic ‘Madman Marz’ from the dire ‘Madman’ (1982). Lamentably, the audience see Crowley – ‘warts-and-all’ – far too early in the picture. The film-makers reject any element of mystery surrounding the killer’s appearance; unfortunately, once the ‘slasher’ has been revealed and shown on-screen in full view, the impact of further appearances are sadly nullified and the film really suffers for it. (Think of movies like “The Burning” (1981) for the opposite effect, where a ‘full-frontal’ of the killer is held back until a consequently hotly-anticipated finale).
The script has its witty moments and whilst it is quite regaling to pick out the many references to movies of the past, ‘Hatchet’ ultimately has little of the charm of the movies it claims to homage. Aside from the sometimes rousing visuals, slasher affectionados looking for a new nostalgia may end up feeling circumvented. This one did.
hotdog rating: 4/10