Dir. BJ McDonnell (2013)
After Marybeth escapes from Honey Island Swamp with the scalp of Victor Crowley, the police visit the swamp to find the bodies she claims are there. They find Crowley himself and all hell breaks loose.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The third in Adam Green’s slasher magnum opus, Hatchet III forms the closing chapter in what could easily be called the Hatchet Trilogy. Opening exactly where the second film leaves off, just as the second did with the first, 3 finds Marybeth finally defeating Victor Crowley and escaping with his scalp. She takes the hairpiece into the New Orleans Police Department, covered in blood and carrying a shotgun. Naturally, they’re a tad suspicious, so they throw her in a holding cell and take every man on the force to storm the swamp and look for survivors from what they suspect to be her murder spree. When they find that Crowley doesn’t need a scalp to be a one-man wrecking crew, the violence escalates again and Marybeth finds herself embroiled in a plan to rid the world of Victor Crowley once and for all. Spoiler Alert: there’s another sequel, which we’ll cover next.
The first in the series not to be directed by Adam Green, Hatchet III is helmed by BJ McDonnell, who was a camera operator on the first two films and eventually went on to direct Studio 666 as well. Thankfully, Green still penned the script, so we get a lot of the same witty banter and charming dialogue that made us fall in love with the series in the first place. That’s not to say that McDonnell in any way lets his predecessor down, because the film contains the same gritty, grindhouse-y visuals that made you fall in love with the first two films. To be quite honest, it wasn’t until looking up some details to write this review that I even noticed that Green didn’t direct the film, the look is that similar to the rest of the franchise. As someone who loves them dearly and regards the Hatchet series as arguably the best, most consistent franchise in horror, McDonnell made incredibly wise decisions by following the pattern that was already established.
Parry Shen again returns as yet another character, and Zach Galligan (Gremlins) and Derek Mears (2009’s Friday the 13th) join the cast as more additions from the halls of horror history. I’ve never made it a secret that I’m a huge fan of Green and Ariescope, but it still amazes me how many people in the horror genre he’s able to call in for his projects. It’s one thing to have Kane Hodder play your big bad, because he does that in a ton of really bad movies as well. It’s another to maaaybe call in a favor and have Danielle Harris in your cast. But the sheer volume of incredible talent that swarms the Hatchet franchise is completely insane. And the films are all the better for it.
Green has adamantly refused to use any CGI in his gore effects in this series, and the challenge is always deftly met by the associated effects crew. While Hatchet III does seem to lack a few of the insane kills from the first two films, there are still plenty of brutal moments to slake your bloodlust. The script also shies away a bit from the humor, though it is still certainly funny at times, focused more on the story progression than the one-liners that often permeated the previous installments. One of the more interesting developments (which I won’t spoil here) is the use of ashes in the film, perhaps a direct reference to the timeline of Mardi Gras and its related “holidays.” I’m not sure if that was intended or if it was just the natural progression in the writing process behind the story, but if so it was a brilliant inclusion that seems to have flown over most people’s radars.
All in all, Hatchet is one of the more entertaining horror franchises around, never failing to provide fan service to the folks who have been with it from the beginning. Green recognizes what the horror faithful want in a slasher film, as illustrated by the previous two films, and McDonnell does a phenomenal job of making sure the third installment fits the series like a glove. The gore is still aplenty, the writing is as good as expected, and it’s one of the few horror examples where nothing at all seemed to be missing from the film. If you’re a slasher fan and you somehow haven’t seen at least the first three films in this series, you owe it to yourself to make it into a marathon and watch them all as they were intended. See if you can spot the scene that Halloween Kills almost completely ripped off while you’re at it.
Who this movie is for: Slasher lovers, Ariescope fanboys, People who wanted to see the firefighter scene from Halloween Kills eight years early
Bottom line: Hatchet III is a worthy successor to the franchise despite the change in director, as all of the things that you loved about the first two remain. Green’s script remains faithful to everything you loved about the first two, and the inclusion of Zach Galligan and Derek Mears manages to make up for the lack of Tony Todd. Danielle Harris is gorgeous as always, and she has a special badass streak near the end of the movie that further cements her legacy as one of the best to ever do it. Check this one out posthaste.