Victor Crowley

| February 7, 2018

When the first Hatchet film was released, filmmaker Adam Green’s intentions were made clear with the film’s tagline: “Old School American Horror.” “Old School” in this particular case meant very specifically 1981, the year Friday the 13th Part 2 was released: Hatchet was a fun, gory throwback to the heyday of slasher movies. Hatchet II followed in 2010 and made some waves when it was released unrated in a handful of theaters, but that was honestly the most notable thing about it. Green had followed the blueprint of the 80s slashers a little too closely here, amping up the gore but otherwise offering more or less a carbon copy of the first film. 2013’s Hatchet III gave the formula a tweak by pitting Victor Crowley, the supernatural killer at the center of the franchise, against a small army of police. That film, which significantly re-energized the series, was directed by BJ McConnell with Green producing. While Green had occasionally hinted that it would be the last Hatchet film, the series has once again mimicked its 80s inspirations with a new entry after a five-year break. After shaking things up with Hatchet III, where could Green take his slasher epic next?

While the first three films took place over the course of three highly eventful days in and around Honey Island Swamp, Victor Crowley jumps ahead 10 years. Former paramedic Andrew (Perry Shen), sole survivor of the emergency response team slaughtered by Crowley (Kane Hodder), has turned his ordeal into a career. He’s done the talk show circuit and now has a book, I, Survivor, hitting the shelves in time for the 10th anniversary of the massacre. But there are a lot of people who suspect Andrew is responsible for the deaths at Honey Island himself, and his book tour is not going so well. His agent Kathleen (Felissa Rose) gets an offer Andrew should refuse, but soon enough he’s on a plane back to Honey Island Swamp with to do an interview with his ex-wife, talk show host Sabrina (Krystal Joy Brown). They are set to arrive right around the time aspiring horror filmmakers Chloe (Katie Booth) and Rose (Laura Ortiz) are preparing to shoot a pitch for their independent horror film based on the Crowley legend. Turns out Chloe was a little too into authenticity for the project, and they accidentally raise Victor Crowley from the dead. Andrew’s plane crashes in the swamp, conveniently providing Crowley with a whole new crop of victims to creatively dismember.

The first half of Victor Crowley is all catching up and setting up the characters for the eventual slaughter, and while some horror fans might find this narrative dawdling to be frustrating. A pre-title scene set in 1964 provides a little gore, but after that the film moves into more or less straight comedic territory. This would be a problem if it weren’t for the game cast and some great writing, fleshing out the characters enough to get the audience invested in their fates beyond just giving us familiar faces to do that work for the script. Chase Williamson plays a major role as Chloe’s long-suffering boyfriend, and Felissa Rose (best known for her iconic turn in Sleepaway Camp) is given a chance to show off her comic chops. It’s fun enough that when the limbs start flying, it’s almost a shock. The second half of the film veers into more familiar slasher territory, the only questions really being who might live and how they’re going to pull that off with a nigh-invincible killing machine bent on their demise.

The slasher lives and dies by its kills, and it comes as no surprise that Victor Crowley continues the series tradition of impressive practical effects. Digital effects have made the stock “blood splash” animation far too common in independent horror films, but Green is determined to do things the old-fashioned way. This approach sets the Hatchet films apart in a few different ways from its low-budget contemporaries, giving it both a more immediately visceral quality and a sort of handmade charm. Green was encouraged to make another Hatchet film by legendary director George A. Romero, and inspired by the passing of the similarly revered Wes Craven. The film’s credits include a dedication to both men, and it’s a fitting tribute that it’s both very funny and relentlessly gruesome. An obligatory credits scene sets the stage for another return to Honey Island Swamp, and hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.

Dark Sky Films released Victor Crowley on Blu-ray and DVD 6 February 2018. Special features include cast commentary and “technical” commentary (both including writer/director Adam Green), an interview with Green, a “behind the scenes” featurette and the film’s trailer.

About the Author:

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He is author of "The Unrepentant Cinephile," and a regular contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly as well as a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He is co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society and proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's "Guru, the Mad Monk." Follow his long-form film writing on Medium:

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