Adam Green’s Hatchet attempts to mine 1980s horror movie tropes in an effort to recommit the process to an old school ethic, but the film doesn’t seem to know the difference between mocking and bathing in clichés. There is very little original substance to Hatchet, from the timeworn villain to the stereotypical characters, and Green does nothing with the potential for humour and/or criticism.
Perhaps Drew Goddard’s masterful The Cabin in the Woods has ruined the idea of horror satire (or finally perfected it), but Green’s Hatchet doesn’t cut it. While some horror movies attempt some form of philosophical examination or attempt to carry some sort of point, this 2006 flick seems most interested in stacking up photocopies of other better horror films and then photocopying those photocopies.
The movie opens with a couple of redneck types (Robert Englund and Joshua Leonard) doing a little alligator hunting in a swamp. Before long, they are both attacked by some sort of monster. Later, the audience is introduced to a group of friends. Ben (Joel Moore) and Marcus (Deon Richmond) break off from the group to go check out a haunted swamp tour.
It turns out that the tour, led by Shawn (Parry Shen), isn’t legitimate. The tour group, which includes a porn star (Mercedes McNab), a “serious actress” (Joleigh Fioreavanti), a “director” (Joel Murray), a couple from Minnesota (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo), and a mysterious woman named Marybeth (Tamara Feldman). When the tour goes horrible wrong, the group finds themselves at the mercy of the same monster that took out the pair at the beginning of the film.
Hatchet attempts to piece together a mythology around the monstrous villain, a creature named Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). Unfortunately, Green’s insistence on using clichés winds up delivering a character that has little actual terror or interest. There is certainly plenty of potential for a brand new brute in horror films, but Victor Crowley isn’t it.
The presence of Englund, Hodder and Tony Todd makes Hatchet feel more important than it really is in the horror pantheon. Hodder lurches around and seems to have fun under a bucket of make-up and effects, while Englund is as fun as he usually is when called upon to play an absolutely sleazebag. Todd, as the enjoyable Reverend Zombie, has too little screen time.
Unfortunately, the other performers can’t live up to the veterans. It probably doesn’t help that their characters are paper-thin stereotypes, of course. From Richmond’s shtick to Feldman’s emotional rollercoaster, it’s hard to find a single character to care about. The constant catty arguments between the actress and the porn star only serve to further undermine Hatchet’s low opinion of women.
In terms of graphic violence, Hatchet sometimes fits the bill but hardly innovates. Because Crowley looks sillier than he does scary, it’s hard not to chuckle when he starts cleaving off limbs or skewering folks on shovel handles. Green’s insistence on plopping a bucket of blood on any nearby object gets old in a hurry, too, and the water fountain blood isn’t convincing or humorous.
Hatchet is a disappointment. Green seems to have his heart in the right place, but his ideas are trite and his management of said ideas is unremarkable and boring. With insipid characters, an unexceptional villain, monotonous and silly violence, and a go-nowhere plot that can’t even elevate to a decent shock ending, this is one horror movie that doesn’t hack it.