The Hatchet franchise is one steeped in notoriety. Adam Green’s homage to 80s horror first made waves on the horror scene with the first installment in 2006, but didn’t receive much fanfare except within the horror community itself. Its sequel received its fair share of publicity in 2010, when AMC famously agreed to distribute the film in its unrated format. The gore-filled follow-up was pulled from theaters after its first weekend. Now, Hatchet III is finally making its way to DVD/blu-ray after its release earlier this year. Fans of the franchise know what to expect (gore, Looney Tunes-esque splatter, and a fair share of ridiculous plot contrivances) but its all in the name of good, not-so-clean fun for writer, producer, and former director of the Hatchet series.
Forgive me fans, for I am about to sin. I think the greatest thing Hatchet III has to offer is the fact that Adam Green, who directed the first two installments, has handed over the keys to his kingdom. The first Hatchet showed so much promise, but by the time the second film was released, Green had let the business get the better of him. His nonsensical sequel strove for body count (rumored to be one of the highest in horror history) and little else. Hatchet III finds a way to reconcile the story and the splatter with admittedly mixed results. Still, Green staying on in the capacity of writer guarantees the same humor and outlandish story elements while letting first-time director BJ McDonnell try his turn at the franchise.
McDonnell proves himself more than capable as director, but Hatchet III is a difficult first piece for anyone. The problem is, Hatchet III is so disjointed as it tackles two storylines, that it’s hard to make the two disparate storylines come together. McDonnell does his best, but it’s almost impossible to escape the feeling while watching one of the storylines, that you’d give anything to be watching the other. Truth be told, Marybeth’s storyline is a necessary part of the story, but given that so much of it takes place outside of the swamp and away from Victor Crowley, it’s hard to invest too much in her mission. After all, how many of us actually watch these movies for the story? While Hatchet II had virtually no story to speak of, Hatchet III tries to overcorrect, leaving us with a B-plot no one really asked for. Still, the time in Honey Island Swamp does its best to make up for the necessary evil of more Marybeth.
Hatchet III manages to redeem itself with its renewed sense of humor. The first film is a great example of horror and comedy working in unison, while the second in the series became cartoonish in its gorier aspects. Hatchet III has a little bit of both to offer. There’s a fair share of juvenile humor (I’m, of course, referring to the five or six jokes about balls being hung from a tree, cuz, ya know, balls aren’t usually on tree branches… get it?) but most of the true laughs are derived from its sense of self-awareness. One of the more memorable moments of levity in Hatchet III comes from the Sheriff recounting Marybeth’s adventures (i.e. going into the swamp, narrowly escaping with her life, and returning to the swamp anyways) to which he responds, it all seems a little too contrived and convenient. Jokes like these, along with a host of horror greats in cameos and various roles, elevate Hatchet III from its mediocre predecessor, but it still doesn’t pack quite the same punch as the original Hatchet.
Hatchet III is, obviously, the third film in a franchise. As such, its burdened with the expectations of a sequel, yet first-time director BJ McDonnell doesn’t let that distract from his vision. While it’s true that the villain of Victor Crowley and the heroic exploits of Marybeth Dunston are wearing thin, none of this detracts from what Hatchet III has to offer. The film doesn’t fall into the same body count trap that Hatchet II did. Rather, it uses its placement as the most recent film in a franchise to its advantage. It pokes fun of the horror sequel traditions in all the right places while still staying true to the practical effects of its 80s horror movie inspirations, to create a gleefully gory addition to Adam Green’s Hatchet film series.
Hatchet III will be released on DVD and blu-ray on August 13, 2013. Special features on the blu-ray include two commentaries, several featurettes, as well as a teaser and a trailer for Hatchet III.