Wow! This film hit me like a ton of bricks. For so long filmmakers have been remaking Friday the 13th into various states of disappointment. Using the archetype of teenagers in the woods getting killed off by some sort of psychopathic monster to create a few memorable horror films like Sleepaway Camp and a whole mess of crappy ones. So when I heard about Hatchet, I didn't think much of it, just another crappy try at the Friday the 13th thing that I'd forget five minutes after it was over.
The film opens with the pretty standard gag, of having a horror icon cameo, in this case it was Freddy himself, Robert Englund, getting killed in the first few minutes. What grabbed me was the use of gore, usually after someone gets killed in one of these crappy horror films, it's over in a second, or not shown at all. But the filmmakers went to great care to get down and nasty here, ripping limbs off and having guts spill everywhere. The whole point of these films is to see people get killed in disgusting ways, and they do that extremely well in Hatchet.
The film moves to Marti Gras, where are hero Ben, played by Joel Moore (currently in the awful looking Hottie & the Nottie), is having an awful time. He's bored of the drunkenness and the bare breasts. Why? Because his longtime girlfriend just broke up with him... but who cares, let's get to some more carnage! After another cameo from the Candyman, Tony Todd; Ben and his friend Marcus, played by Kenny from the Cosby Show, are unwittingly lead into the swamp by a con-artist running his first boat tour. Also on board are a dim-witted redneck couple, a shlubby guy directing a porno and his two slutty actresses, to make sure there are a couple of titty-shots, and a hot-loner-girl with hidden motives.
After they predictably crash their swamp boat in the very spot that Robert Englund was killed a few scenes earlier; the film kicks into high gear. It turns out the loner-girl is Robert's daughter, she's looking for him and her brother who went missing in Victor Crowley territory a few days back. She tells the tale of local legend Crowley, a retarded-mutant boy, who only knew the love of his father, and was then accidentally killed by his father thanks to a couple of jokesters who set their cabin on fire. He now haunts the swamp surrounding his burnt down shack.
The redneck husband breaks his leg, and being skeptical of the girl's story, him and his wife make their way to the only visible home, despite the other's warnings. In an instant Crowley pops out of his cabin and is upon them like a rabid dog. Both are dispatched in gruesome ways, including maybe the best kill I've ever seen in any movie of this type; he grabs the wife by the mouth and splits her head open like a Pez dispenser. The group splits up and runs terrified off into the woods. I was pumped for how Crowley was going to get the rest of them. The filmmakers don't wimp out on a single one in the group, each has their own disgusting death. When only two are left, you can probably guess who, they decide that striking back is their only means of survival. They're successful to a degree only possible in horror films, and the film ends with an appropriate shocker and satisfying "twist".
Writer/Director Adam Green announces himself as a major new talent in the horror genre. Even though he offers nothing really new, he get everything right in Hatchet. The tone successfully jumps from scary, to funny in the blink of an eye. He pushes his effects crew to gross out the viewer, but keeps it campy enough, that it's not disgusting, more nastily humorous. His creation of Victor Crowley, is the best mutant-psycho since the days of Freddy, Michael Myers and Jason; with him appropriately played by Jason's stunt-man Kane Hodder.
I haven't heard much about this film, outside die-hard horror fans, but I think now that it's on video more people will discover it's sickening genius. I wouldn't be surprised to see a sequel within a few years and for Victor Crowley to turn into the next Jason Vorhees with a whole series of ever worsening Hatchet flicks.