I’ve said some pretty harsh things about Hatchet in my time (and in an upcoming On The Stick I will be saying very harsh things about it in the future). The problem for me was for a film which sold itself as a recreation of “Old School American Horror” there was very little in Hatchet that felt old school, particularly American flavored, or for that matter Horrific. Hatchet didn’t feel like a slasher movie, it felt like your friend describing a slasher movie to you after he snuck a viewing on HBO one night, ate six bowls of Frosted Flakes, and then told you all about the film in one breathless monologue.
This in itself might sound strangely appealing, but remarkably Hatchet wasn’t very much fun either. It did everything save having Adam Green run in front of the camera shake it and scream “TITS ‘N BLOOD, ROBERT ENGLUND, TONY TODD, WHOOOOOO!!!!” to convince you that you were having a good time. But the good time did not materialize. Instead Hatchet was just vaguely exhausting, with unlikeable characters, a faintly misogynistic air, ugly camerawork, cheap sets, and blood and nudity delivered like a parent forcing their child to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes, after catching them sneaking a puff.
So let us give Hatchet II some credit. It at least manages to be quite a bit of fun. While it still might not have the feel of a true eighties slasher movie, it at least recaptures the all important rhythm of the sub genre. As a result the set pieces and bad behavior seems like a treat rather than an assault. Hatchet II is in every sense the movie that the first Hatchet should have been.
The film picks up right were the last one ended, with the perpetually pissed off undead, hillbilly, bog monster laying a hurting on our heroine. They’ve traded up from the bland original actress to the diminutive Daniel Harris, who makes a much more appealing heroine, despite sporting the world’s spottiest Southern Accent. Harris is spunky and aware enough as an actress to help diffuse the misogyny that the first film had. And to give credit where it is due, Green himself has dialed back this element a bit. While the T&A of the first film had an off putting frat boy entitlement to it, Green scales it back to a couple of gags here, and is self aware enough to give what looks suspiciously like a Mea Culpa.
Eventually Harris and a crew of monster hunters return to the island, led by the great Tony Todd. Todd is as underused an icon as the horror genre has, and it’s nice to see him take center stage here. When they arrive on the island things go kind of how you’d expect them to go when you land on an island that is home to a deformed, eight foot tall unstoppable killing machine. Once again I have to stress that Green does a much better job setting up and paying off the gags, than he did last time, actually building momentum and anticipation instead of just continuously throwing underwhelming pay off after pay off at you.
The film does have some flaws. The pacing is just a bit off with a long unnecessary retelling of Victor Crowley’s origin (in all fairness long unnecessary retellings of origin stories is part and parcel of the slasher subgenre) and a fairly saggy midsection filled with unfunny “comic relief.”
Also the whole “Movie THEY won’t let you see.” thing turns out to basically be a marketing ploy. I’m not saying that the film doesn’t make good use out of its Unrated designation. Particularly during a beat which steals the crown of “Best Sex Whilst Decapitated Gag” from Eli Roth and two suitably OTT moments at the end. Compared to most of the torture porn stuff that gets an R rating with no problem. The gore in Hatchet II has an enthusiasm to it that is almost innocent. But there’s nothing here that a horror fan hasn’t seen a bunch of times before.
Which is, lets face it, part of the charm. Hatchet II doesn’t push the horror genre to new heights, but it provides a well made, nostalgic ride rich in bad taste, that manages to be actually fun rather than “FUN!!!”