Combustible Celluloid
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With: Joel David Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Kane Hodder, Mercedes McNab, Parry Shen, Joel Murray, Joleigh Fioravanti, Richard Riehle, Patrika Darbo, Robert Englund, Joshua Leonard, Tony Todd, John Carl Buechler, Rileah Vanderbilt
Written by: Adam Green
Directed by: Adam Green
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody horror violence, sexual content, nudity and language
Running Time: 84
Date: 04/27/2006

Hatchet (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Swamp Sling

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I tried to review this movie when it was new, but failed to get my hands on a screener. I couldn't help but notice that there was some strong buzz before it opened, followed by a mainly disappointed and fairly harsh response from critics and horror fans. This new 2010 Blu-Ray is the first chance I've had to see it. Oddly, I watched it not too long after seeing Piranha 3D, which has received a very positive response. The two films are very similar, not only in some of the plots and characters, but also in the quasi-comical, playful tone. It just goes to show how much hype can influence the reaction of a movie, with hardly any attention paid to the movie itself.

Yes, I enjoyed Hatchet quite a bit. I was never scared, and I can't say I laughed out loud much, but it has a very gleeful tone that invites the viewer in. It's set in New Orleans. In a prologue, two redneck fishermen -- one played by horror legend Robert Englund -- are killed while fishing illegally in the swamp. Later we meet the uptight twentysomething Ben (Joel Moore), who isn't in the mood to party at Mardi Gras with his buddies. (He just broke up with his girlfriend.) He'd much rather go on a scary swamp tour, and his best friend Marcus (Deon Richmond) reluctantly agrees to join him.

Also on the tour, we have the kindly old Permatteos (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo), the softcore porn director Shapiro (Joel Murray), his two starlets Misty (Mercedes McNab) and Jenna (Joleigh Fioravanti), the goofy Asian tour guide (Parry Shen) who fakes a Louisiana accent, and the mysterious and sullen hottie Marybeth (Tamara Feldman). They receive the typical horror movie warning before heading off into the swamp, and before long the boat sinks. Then they learn the tale of Victor Crowley (played by Kane Hodder, who played "Jason Voorhees" several times). He's a horribly disfigured creep who lives in the woods and kills anyone who comes around, apparently avenging the death of his father. Like Jason, he's vaguely supernatural, and for no reason he tends to get back up every time he's shot, burned, or stabbed.

And so we get the usual "killed-off-one-by-one" plot, but with tongue planted in cheek. The writer/director Adam Green (Frozen) has a great time playing with this stuff, including a long, unbroken take in which the characters try to investigate a noise in the bushes, or a hilarious spit-take made of blood. And as in Piranha 3D, there's gratuitous nudity whenever the mood strikes. I'd heard complains of a lousy, too-dark, low-budget picture, but the cinematography on the Blu-Ray looks terrific; Green lights the swamp just right, with tiny swaths of blue moonlight illuminating just what we need to see. Likewise, the movie is notable for its refreshing use of mostly old-fashioned latex-and-liquid gore effects, rather than the typical CGI. (This led to the tagline: "old school American horror" that many viewers probably objected to.)

Perhaps Hatchet isn't serious enough to be taken seriously, but I didn't care. I had a much better time at this than I have at many other more ambitious horror pictures. Anchor Bay's release comes with tons of extras including a new commentary track by Green and Hodder, as well as the old commentary track from a few years ago. There are also tons of featurettes, a gag reel and trailers.

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