Dir. Adam Green (2006)
A group of tourists in New Orleans are hunted by a deranged maniac named Victor Crowley.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The opening salvo in Adam Green’s assault on the nearly dead slasher genre is Marilyn Manson screaming over the assembled crowd in Mardi Gras in the streets of New Orleans. “This is the new shit, stand up and admit, do we get it? No. Do we want it? Yeah.” As someone who longs for the old days of cheesy kills and gratuitous nudity, that answering was a resounding “fuck yes,” and Hatchet was a breath of fresh air, or at least the kind of fresh air that you buy in a bottle from somewhere that’s way better than the shithole you live in. In the middle of a decade dominated by torture porn and found footage, Green wanted to make horror fun again, and by God he knew all the right buttons to push to do it.
Hatchet is the story of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a handicapped and severely deformed maniac who is, basically, a ghost. His father accidentally hit him in the head with an axe while chopping down the door of their burning cottage, trying in vain to save his child after the house was accidentally set aflame by some young ne’er-do-wells. Ever since then, he has roamed the swamps, killing any who come across his path on the search for his father. Unfortunately, this includes a group of tourists on a moonlight ghost tour through the swamp, led by Shawn (a phenomenal Perry Shen), a new tour guide who is seeking to make some extra money by running tours in areas of the swamp that have been shut down by the authorities. When their tourboat sinks and one of the passengers (Richard Riehle, the “Jump to Conclusions” guy from Office Space) is bitten by an alligator, the group is stuck in Honey Island Swamp with a really pissed off Crowley who desperately wants to tear them limb from limb. The blood comes gratuitously courtesy of effects master John Carl Buechler, who worked the effects and makeup departments on legendary films like From Beyond, Troll, and Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (which he also directed.)
Creating a “new icon of horror” isn’t easy, and there have been hundreds of dimestore slashers that have swung and missed on creating a character that would compare with the likes of Freddy, Jason, and Michael. While the characters themselves rightly get a lot of the credit for their lasting impact on the genre, a lot of their staying power is due to the movies that they’re in being just generally good or iconic movies as well. I’ve made it no secret here that Halloween is my all-time favorite movie and what I consider to be the perfect horror film, but there are countless others who would argue the same thing about A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th. These other movies are so popular because they’re fun movies that you can watch with friends, plopping yourself on the couch and enjoying every single trope that the genre is known for presented in glorious, blood-splattered celluloid.
But let’s be honest: it’s not just the first film in the series that is held in such high regards with horror fans. In fact, some horror sequels are beloved even more than their premier films. While most film series experience the diminishing returns with each new sequel, slashers are often the exact opposite. Each new sequel embraces the ridiculousness of the original premise, poking fun at the lore of their respective originals while delivering an escalating level of hilarious and inventive kills. Because the fans are here for the kills more than anything, these sequels deliver some classic scenes that are consistently listed as the best in the genre. People often want to compare Hatchet to the original Friday the 13th, but this one feels more like Jason X, a movie that never took itself seriously and focused on everything that its fans came to see. Hatchet’s Victor Crowley tears through the tour group with seemingly any tool at his disposal but a hatchet (which, to be fair, is really more of an axe than a hatchet anyway), at times using things like belt sanders and shovels but usually deciding to rip people to shreds with his bare hands.
That’s why Hatchet ultimately became an overnight success and a savior for the slasher genre. It pulled in old faithfuls like Hodder, Robert Englund, and Tony Todd, and more than anything else, it remembered the words from its opening driving rock soundtrack: sex, sex, sex and don’t forget the violence. It doesn’t view itself as a movie that has to make excuses for its content, never seeking to be anything more than it is, which just so happens to be exactly what we want. Adam Green made a movie that only a true horror fan could make, and he did it for all of the people just like him. Hatchet is one of the first movies I’ve ever seen that felt like it was made just for me and people like me, and that is why it’s spawned three sequels (so far,) multiple comic book series, and countless toys and memorabilia. It’s a stellar slasher movie with some of the best effects in horror history, and if you somehow haven’t seen it yet, rectify that immediately.
Who this movie is for: Us, All of us, Even you!
Bottom line: Writer/director Adam Green really does create the new icon of horror with Victor Crowley. He’s an incredible character, and the legendary Kane Hodder plays him to perfection. The writing is smart and hilarious, the storyline is fantastic and self-deprecatory, and the gore is some of the best I’ve ever seen. I fell in love with this one immediately and Green quickly became one of my all-time favorite directors, and I highly recommend checking out every one of his films, because there’s not a bad one in the bunch. With the whole series based in New Orleans around Mardi Gras, this is the perfect time of year to binge watch all four films in the Hatchet series, and you’ll definitely want to make the time to watch at least the first three pretty close together because they’re basically one big movie. Check this one out at your earliest convenience