Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hatchet 2 - Home Video Review

Release Date: October 1, 2010

I had heard through the "web"-vine that this was supposed to be one of the goriest and purposely cheeseball horror/slasher films in recent memory. I had never seen the original one (nor did I ever have the intention to) but this sequel kind of intrigued me a bit. So I plopped down my $2.50 at the local video store and said what the hell. I can honestly say now that it lives up to the hype of the gory death scenes it has been beating its chest over but does that mean it was an honest to goodness good slasher film...?

Review Vital Stats:
Format: DVD
Player: Xbox 360
Picture Quality: Standard Definition
Sound Quality: Standard 5.1 Surround

Loves: Ridiculously over the top gory movies
Likes: Tony Todd 
Neutral: Slasher films in general
Hates: Long build up times and quick payoffs

Adam Green returns to make the sequel to his modestly successful first feature film, and cult hit Hatchet, (which I have NOT seen). These days it is pretty difficult to reach the cult status that other classic horror films such as Evil Dead or Friday the 13th has attained because most films of that genre seem to be aiming for it instead of just making a film they want to make. It has become more of a goal than something that eventually happens and that mindset has crippled the horror genre by giving us such lack luster entries like House of 1,000 Corpses and more recently Piranha 3D. While there is debatadly nothing inherently wrong with those films or their director's intentions they have clouded what a true cult horror film is or should be. And I believe that is what I like most about Hatchet 2, it most certainly feels like it was made with that same intention but it somehow has sidestepped that awkward feeling of somebody TRYING to achieve cult status while actually attaining it.

It is night time in the middle of some unnamed swamp when we get thrown into the action immediately as Marybeth (Danielle Harris) is fighting off this deformed monstrosity known as Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). Victor Crowley has killed her entire family and just as he is about to finish Marybeth off she catches a lucky break and gets the hell out of there. She eventually makes her way back into town and gives a surprise visit to the man, Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd), that put her family on the tour boat that led them all to their demise in the swamp. It takes a little convincing but soon enough she has talked Zombie into going back to that swamp to not only retrieve her family's bodies but to take Victor Crowley out once and for all.

Danielle Harris doing a worthy eyebrow raise.

This film is very light on plot, as it should be. Characters are pretty one dimensional and you know their intentions from the very beginning. Marybeth wants simply to go back in there, get back her deceased family to lay them to rest and perhaps rip Victor Crowley to pieces if given the chance. She isn't timid, scared or hesitant and knows what she wants. I found that having a lead female character this determined and unflinching in your typical slasher film architecture to be a rather refreshing take on the scream queen type. Plus Danielle Harris does an amazing job and gives it her all, either when she is screaming, crying or just plain going crazy on somebodies ass I was rooting for her all the way and as anyone knows me would tell you, that is one of my three rules for a successful horror film, give me somebody to care about.  

The same thing can't be said for all the other "characters" stuffed into the film. Reverend Zombie is an amazing character only because it is Tony Todd playing him. Watching the behind the scenes feature informed me that just about all the little nuances infused into that character came from Todd and his interpretation of what was on the page. Little things such as him acting like he knows magic even though everyone knows for a fact that he doesn't is priceless. Moments like when he makes these weird hand movements or shuts his eyes like he is speaking to the spirits before he answers questions are funny as hell and Todd plays it all straight which makes it even better. I would be remiss to mention that one of Tony Todd's greatest assets, his mesmerizing voice, is put to good use as well. When he narrates the effective and strangely endearing origin story of Victor Crowley, it was his voice that had me at attention through the whole thing. Listening to him talk is like having a loved one read a story to put you to bed...albeit a really gruesome and disturbing story but its not the words that matter, its how they are said.

Candyman and Leatherface meet at last.

The rest of the cast is made up of the headhunters Zombie hires to go after Crowley. Their man purpose is to die and die horribly which for the most part they do, and do well. You get every cliche horror movie character you can think of in this one group. The big and burly guy Trent (R.A. Mihailoff), the squirley sex addicts Layton (AJ Bowen) and Avery (Alexis Peters), the non-believer looking out for himself Cleatus (Ed Ackerman), the funny guy Vernon (Colton Dunn), Zombie's scared assistant Justin (Parry Shen), and of course Marybeth's overly innocent Uncle, Bob (Tom Holland). There is no doubt in your mind that when they head out to that swamp that they are all going to die, but the one thing that I wasn't expecting was the large number of grissley and disgusting ways they would go out.

From what I can tell Hatchet 2 was made solely as a showcase for some of the most over the top and gratuitous deaths you have ever seen. Now, I know what you are probably thinking (cause I was thinking it too when I rented it), just how many different ways can someone die from a friggin hatchet? It turns out that there are quite a few ways for a Hatchet to kill someone but most importantly, and this a a theme with all the deaths in the film, Crowley uses the hatchet mostly as a way to incapacitate his victims and then he pulls out some other type of tool to finish them off with. This is not Jason Vorhees and a machete, this is not Freddy Kruegger and his knife fingers, Victor Crowley has a veritable whos who of different weapons ranging from a gasoline powered sander to probably the most ridiculous chainsaw you have ever seen. I dare not give away how these are employed during the course of the film but suffice to say when our group of victims, er hunters get off that boat in the middle of Crowley's swamp that faces will get smashed, heads will roll, brains will be splattered and people will die badly.

He has a splitting headache...

Now, with this being a sort of self-aware horror film it is pretty pointless to level any complaints against it. I suppose one could argue that it doesn't quite hit the mark it was shooting for but let's get serious here, the mark was to have people die....a lot of people die. How anyone could say they didn't accomplish that is beyond me, but I do believe they could have gotten to the good stuff quicker. There is quite a bit of lingering going on in the first half of the film that could have easily been truncated to get us to that swamp quicker. The flashback of Victor Crowley's origin was well done and gave him a myth worthy of the horror icon greats but at the same time it seemed to go on forever, only Tony Todd's narration made it bare-able for its length. The recruitment segment and the ride on the river all felt like padding to extend the films length, which was barely 90 minutes. I just wish the filmmakers could have found some other way to get us to that swamp quicker because once we are there shit hits the fan quickly and it is all over before you know it.

So, what is my overall assessment of the film? I have to say that I kind of liked it for what it is. I knew going in that this was supposed to be a send up or homage to the slasher films of yesterday and I mostly came out of it feeling positive. The gore is done with all practical effects and looks appropriately cheesey while also giving you some of the craziest deaths you have ever seen. It is a strange feeling that the slasher film evokes in people, mild mannered people like myself just can't seem to get enough of seeing stupid people meet their end to some sort of supernatural being that has no other purpose than to thin out our population in the grandest and most absurd ways imaginable. On that level I believe this film is a success and anyone looking for a quick thrill could do a lot worse. Whether or not it becomes the cult hit that it was made to be only time can tell but from the looks of it I think it has got a good shot at getting there. So, if you want some brutal deaths along with some classic gore effects then...


I'm sorry but that chainsaw is just awesomely ridiculous.

What's on the disc?

Behind the Scenes Featurette (33 minutes) - This was a lot better than I thought it would be, you get to see how every kill was filmed along with some storyboards and interviews with the cast and crew. And it wasn't until I saw this that I realized they had Candyman (Tony Todd), Leatherface (R.A Mihailoff) and Jason (Kane Hodder) in the same movie together which is a real treat for horror fans. It also helped instill the feeling that everyone involved in the films production knew exactly what they were making (winning an Oscar was clearly not on their minds) and that they all felt very passionately about what they were doing, really good stuff.

Trailer - I wish I had seen this in the theater because it is a really fun Grindhouse style trailer.

Teaser Trailer - Just a shortened version of the main trailer.

TV Spot - Censored and short version of the main trailer.

Radio Spot - This was a weird one, but it was kind of cool due to all the sound effects used.

Hatchet II [Blu-ray]


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