You say you want an old-school slasher film like they did it back in the 70’s and 80’s? How would it sound if we gathered up Freddy, Candyman, and Jason and put them all in the same movie? Would that get your attention? Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about Hatchet, a little quality slasher just like your uncles Craven, Cunningham, and Carpenter used to make. Okay, I exaggerated about that Freddy, Candyman, and Jason bit. You won’t really find any of them in Hatchet. You will find their alter-egos Robert Englund and Tony Todd in amusing cameos, while Jason’s best man plays Victor Cowley, the main attraction in this sweet throwback to classic slasher films.
“That’s right. There is the home of a real famous Louisiana legend, Victor Crowley, hatchetface. Now legend is that he was a deformed man whose own father went nuts and whacked him in the face with a hatchet one night, probably on account he was so ugly or something. Anyway, he died. So, the story goes that if you’re ever near that ol’ Crowley house late at night, you still hear old Victor Crowley cryin’ for his daddy.”
Or maybe it’s that axe ol’ Victor Crowley is cryin’ for. Hatchet finds a group of strangers all gathered for a haunted swamp tour. The film is populated with an eclectic-enough group to provide plenty of fodder for Ol’ Crowley. You’ve got Ben (Moore) who is down in The Big Easy to forget being dumped by a girl, along with his obligatory buddy. There’s the porn king wannabe Shapiro (Murray), who has brought along a couple of naive chicks to film flashing their boobs at every corner. There’s the old couple, who are on an innocent vacation, and then there’s the grieving daughter, Marybeth (Feldman) who’s come to find out what happened to her dad and brother. Hint: one of them was Robert Englund’s rather short and tragic cameo to start the film. They’re all led on this haunted boat trip by Shawn (Shen) with a Cajun accent about as bad as they come.
When the boat crashes, the haunting party find themselves marooned in the dark and rain directly at the foot of the Crowley house. Crowley welcomes them each in his own unique way. While the film might be called Hatchet, rest assured that Crowley has other tools in his arsenal, including a shovel and a power sander. Marybeth knows a thing or two about the Crowley legend, and it isn’t quite the same story that Shawn tells. It all leads to a classic “rainy night in the woods” slasher. The kills are pretty old-school as well.
The cast here is actually a pretty enjoyable one. About the only character I found weak was the Ben one. Joel Moore just doesn’t ever appear to get on a roll. Every time he talked he kind of took me out of the film. There just isn’t any chemistry with the rest of the cast. Tamara Feldman as Marybeth is an entirely different story. She has that “tough chick up against a monster” thing down cold. I suspect she’s watched more than her share of horror films. Of course, she’s too young to have enjoyed them back in the day. The real standout here is Kane Hodder. This guy knows from menacing. He’s a method actor who never really warms up to his fodder cast. He likes to instill that fear in his cast as well as their characters. No one can run around in disfigured makeup like Hodder can. The stuntman turned actor has played Jason more than any other actor and was the first to ever repeat the role. Having Hodder in this movie should be enough to recommend it, by itself.
Hatchet is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The high definition image is brought to you by an AVC/MPEG-4 codec with a nice 30 mbps bit rate. This is a dark atmospheric film that I did get to see a couple of years ago on standard definition DVD. This is an awesome improvement and well worth the upgrade. Gone is all of that nasty compression artifact that drove me absolutely crazy in the original release. The night images offer splendid shadow definition and detail. In fact, the downside to all of that detail is that some of the gags don’t look quite as good in HD. You can really tell when the bodies are dummies. The makeup work on Crowley does hold up to the increased scrutiny however, and is a real treat for horror fans.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 offers the typical wilderness sounds but little in the way of surrounds. There is a fullness to the audio that really adds a little more bite to those bone-crushing and flesh-tearing sounds. The sound designer did a pretty good job with those effects. Dialog is clear at all times.
There is an Audio Commentary with several cast and crew. It’s one of those great reunion tracks where they swap stories and have a little fun looking back on the movie and their experiences together.
Unfortunately, the bonus features are all in Standard Definition.
There are 5 featurettes that string together for a look behind the scenes that is over an hour in length. You can play them individually or use the handy play-all feature. The topics are: The Making Of Hatchet, Meeting Victor Crowley, Guts And Gore, Anatomy Of A Kill, and A Twisted Tale. This thing covers it all.
Gag Reel: (3:43)
This kind of movie always takes me back to my high school years. I was fortunate to be a teen at the time the original wave of slashers was playing in the local movie houses. They were always great times. Today, it’s an entirely different experience. We were innocent enough then and certainly not as jaded about our horror films. It was the perfect escape, and it always helped you get a few clinging moments with your date. I know the kids today look down on the older stuff. Just shut up and watch what a real slasher is supposed to look and feel like. “Don’t make me throw you into the swamp, boy.”