by Jason Coffman
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Adam Green’s Hatchet came complete with an ad campaign touting the film as “Old School American Horror.” Placing the Old School in the early 80’s, Green’s likable, familiar slasher tribute grafted a strong comedic bent onto Friday the 13th Part 2 and won Green a lot of fans in the horror community. After four years and other slightly more high-profile projects like Frozen, Green has delivered the Hatchet sequel that its rabid fans were clamoring for.
Or, maybe more accurately, he has delivered a sequel that may or may not be the one the fans wanted. Hatchet 2 strips most of the comedy element from the formula and puts a stronger emphasis on ridiculously gruesome death scenes with some impressive practical effects. However, the amped-up gore doesn’t really make up for the lack of personality— much of the first film’s success was due to Joel Moore’s performance as Ben, who anchored the proceedings with a sympathetic lead character. It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever seen a slasher film that of the male and female leads (Moore and Tamara Feldman, respectively), only one of them carries over into the sequel.
Picking up literally the second the first film left off, Hatchet 2 opens with Marybeth (now played by Danielle Harris) escaping from the clutches of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). She flees to a small cabin where a one-eyed redneck drops a sinister hint about her father’s past and sends her to find Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd). Zombie, who rented the boat carrying the victims of the first film into the swamp, takes up Marybeth’s cause and agrees to put together a team of hunters to go into the swamp, recover his lost boat, and destroy Victor Crowley.
Once the team is in the woods, they all split up and become fodder for Crowley’s bloodlust. Characters are decapitated, cut in half vertically and horizontally, and otherwise dispatched in a series of scenes that become more cartoonish as the film goes along. The practical effects are pretty great, but for the most part it’s hard to feel too bad for the characters since, for the most part, they’re not that interesting. The first film spent a long time setting up its main character so the audience had at least one character to root for. This one spends a long time setting up some mild retcon of the mythology established in the first film and then delivers quick sketches of the characters before they get chewed up and spat out on the scenery.
On that front, at least, Hatchet 2 delivers. Gore fans will not be disappointed by the quantity and quality of the kills, but anyone looking for much else will likely find that the film comes up short. Here’s hoping that by the time Hatchet 3 comes around, Green will find the balance between comedy, character, and gore that made the first film so popular in the first place.
Dark Sky Films released Hatchet 2 on DVD and Blu-ray on February 1st. Extras include commentary tracks with Adam Green and cast and crew members, trailers and TV spots, and a making-of featurette.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org.
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