As someone who requires a heavy body count in my entertainment diet, I appreciated ADAM GREEN’s first HATCHET movie for its direct approach. It didn’t have an original bone in it’s corpse but at least it was committed to reveling in gore and rejected the sport of leading the viewer on. A cinematic slasher booty-call, the bloody goods were available for the taking if you were willing to forgo anything deep. The objective may have been to provide a loving throwback to classic eighties slasher films, but the end result was more of an echoing of the fun but diluted sequels that followed them. That’s not a jab really, I think I’d take a low budget salute to FRIDAY THE 13th PART WHATEVER over the big budget remake any day of the week. If you want to take me on a walk down VHS memory lane you better be willing to get gritty, get bloody and most importantly drop the gloss. HATCHET II is no improvement over GREEN’s first trip to the swamp but it may be slightly more worthwhile. Don’t thank GREEN for that though, thank DANIELLE HARRIS.
HATCHET II, like any considerate sequel, begins at the exact point the first movie ended but miraculously, through the art of behind the scenes severed relationships, DANIELLE HARRIS replaces TAMARA FELDMAN as the surviving lead. What that means is that if you’re looking for an objective review of HATCHET II, you have to go elsewhere on account of I might dig it somewhat on the HARRIS factor alone. Say what you will about GREEN (and I will shortly), but he knows how to throw horror fans a bone or two. There’s plenty of pander casting in the film already (TONY TODD, KANE HODDER, TODD HOLLAND et al.) but HARRIS (who was replaced once herself in HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF YOU KNOW WHO) carts around enough heavy duty meta-baggage to keep this sometimes annoying excursion afloat. Besides the fact that I just respect HARRIS for being a non-bimbo scream queen who embraces her horror heritage fully, she’s pretty good in this. She’s got a more determined aura than usual and even though it’s a humorless role once you get a load of what passes for humor in this movie, you’ll be thankful. The catharsis she brings to the film’s conclusion is a long time coming and is grander than the film itself.
Remember a while back when I was singing the praises of the writing in GREEN’s other effort FROZEN? Well, you needn’t worry about a repeat of that. I didn’t get the humor in this movie at all. It’s alienating and crude and I suppose it could be considered another throwback to bygone days, but it’s not really broad or winking enough to work as such. I’m thinking a sick goofy tone similar to the SLEEPAWAY CAMP films would have been perfect but there’s nothing in HATCHET II nearly as clever. I don’t have a particularly sophisticated joke palette, so believe me when I say in that area the film is a lead balloon factory employed by crickets. In other wonky writing news, there’s a painfully long and boring assembling the troops scene and frankly, I expect my killer to not be dead a couple more times rather than an 86 minute runtime. I know that’s a cliché but I was of the understanding that that was the point of all this. Maniac Crowley’s final stomping out works as wish fulfillment if you ever wanted to see Annie topple Michael in ROB ZOMBIE’s HALLOWEEN movies, but this venture is already hanging on too many coattails.
I may be asking too little of movies that sometimes my only requirement is to not feel like I’ve been mugged in an alley when the credits roll but that’s where I’m at with HATCHET II. For me, there’s a permeating odious glibness that insures I’ll never be passionate about it but it earns a certain space of interest just by throwing every possible horror fan hand job against the wall and watching the Pavlovian puppies roll. Some of this stinks to high heaven, but GREEN is clearly making the film that he as a fan would like to see and I commend that; thankfully some of the stuff he wants to see I want to see too; that would be imaginative no holds barred gore and DANIELLE HARRIS. I’d give him a MERCEDES MCNAB star too but the hermaphrodite joke she’s required to utter kind of cancels that out. I guess ultimately this sequel is serviceable filler if you’re in need of the red stuff. GREEN’s FROZEN makes me know better than to write him off completely but you might be better off not thinking of this as a real movie but more as a complacent, shrug-off goof with the bonus of an upgrade in the final girl department.