Cult Horror Corner: Hatchet
Directed in 2006 by Adam Green, who went on to direct underrated ski lift horror Frozen, Hatchet is a vaguely postmodern horror about Mardi Gras partying friends Ben (Joel Moore) and Marcus (Deon Richmond), who leave their drunken friends to join a ‘haunted swamp’ themed boat tour. The tour includes a clueless guide (Parry Shen), two aspiring actresses/porn stars (Mercedes McNab and Joleigh Fioreavanti), and a cold, quiet loner (Tamara Feldman). On the tour, the group learn of the legend of Victor Crowley, a disfigured boy who was burnt alive and continues to haunt the swamp. One boat crash later, the group is left wandering, and the true story of Crowley is discovered.
On one level, Hatchet succeeds as a fairly entertaining pastiche of eighties horror films; the clichéd characters (token bimbo, black guy, nerd, strong female etc.), use of familiar faces (Elm Street’s Robert England, Friday the 13th’s Kane Hodder and Candyman’s Tony Todd), and central, infamous monster (Victor Crowley, played by Hodder, has a weirdly unique, Elephant Man-esque look and titular weapon) all work together to create a film that does have a certain feel of the retro, mixed in with the modern comedy beats of the American Pie films (there’s plenty of titillation for the teenage audiences). Occasionally, films that appear to be an homage to others have the tendency to feel quite cynical (see: The Cabin in the Woods), but Hatchet clearly has a genuine affection for the horror genre, with numerous references to classic horror.
Sadly, in most other areas, Hatchet simply fails. As a horror film, it fails to really frighten, even with a few well timed jumps. There’s very little atmosphere and some scenes are so dark, you can’t even see what’s supposed to be scary. Taking a cue from the slasher genre, Hatchet is filled with lots of over the top gore, but this is either boring or ridiculous. You can only see so many dangling entrails and severed heads before they lose all interest. Unlike the Nightmare on Elm Street series, which offered Johnny Depp being pulled into a bed and turned into a shower of blood, or the Friday the 13th series, which had a girl in a sleeping bag being hammered into a tree, Hatchet is disappointing in its lack of inventive or original kills. There could be some great fun, but instead, Crowley simply appears and stabs people, over and over. As for that ending? I get the intention, in that they wanted to avoid a typical last act, but it’s so sudden, you’ll be disappointed.
Though Adam Green clearly loves the genre he’s referencing, and there are a couple of decent jokes in there, Hatchet just doesn’t have the level of entertainment, nor the scares, of classic horror, nor the fun and invention of horror homages. Not as loving as Shaun of the Dead, as clever as Scream or as funny as Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Hatchet is a decent, brainless time but not nearly as enjoyable as it could have been.
By Harry Ford