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Fantastic Fest 2010 Review: HATCHET II

Brian Kelley

by: Brian Kelley
September 27th, 2010

Rating: 3/5

Writer: Adam Green
Director: Adam Green
Cast: Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, AJ Bowen

Picking up immediately where HATCHET left off, Adam Green's sequel (one that the writer/director had planned before shooting the first film) is bigger, louder, and gorier. Marybeth (Danielle Harris) survives her final encounter with Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) and makes it back to New Orleans relatively unscathed. When she meets with Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd), though, he convinces her she needs to return to the swamp to get her revenge on Crowley and to find the bodies of her family. The reverend assembles a team of hunters, including Marybeth's Uncle Bob (Tom Holland), and the group sets off to face off with pure evil.

While seeing HATCHET before its sequel is ideal, the plot from the first film is covered extensively in HATCHET II. The legend begins with a man who cheats on his dying wife only to have their bastard love spawn cursed. The deformed child, Victor Crowley, is so hideous his mother dies when she first lays eyes on him. Thomas Crowley (also played by Kane Hodder) raises his son the best he can, but Victor remains the object of other children's torment. When a prank goes wrong and Victor is trapped in a burning house, Thomas tries to rescue his son by cutting through the door with a hatchet. Unfortunately, Victor is on the other side of the door and is impaled in the face. Now Victor has come back as a killer ghost who stalks the swamps.

HATCHET II's first fault is spending too much time on too little plot. Much of what is divulged by Reverend Zombie is to bring new viewers up to speed. He expands upon the mythology as one would expect in a sequel, filling in details that provide motivation for the hunting trip - he thinks he knows how to end the curse - but adding little interesting to the mix. The explanation should be quick and simple but instead is long and repetitive. Flashbacks provide some early hints at the great gore gags to come, but this period of the film feels weighty.

Once the hunt begins, though, the pace picks up but it is hard to say it becomes that much more interesting. The script deficiencies of the first film were mainly masked by a charismatic cast, especially Joel Moore. HATCHET II has nobody as interesting to watch, the one exception being up-and-comer AJ Bowen (SIGNAL, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) in a very small role, and brief moments where Tony Todd seems like he's actually connecting with and interested in the material. The weakest link here is Tom Holland as Uncle Bob. His acting is so abysmal as to be distracting. One could almost make the assumption that some of the lower-quality acting was on purpose, an additional level of '80s throwback. However, the issue with this is that when you have greater resources to make other elements of the production above-and-beyond what was achievable in most '80s slasher films (cinematography, practical effects, etc.), maintaining the low-grade actor shtick is counter-intuitive to the upgrade.

When one begins to look at what is actually good about the film, many of the above complaints are rendered almost completely moot. Like the films it is paying homage to, HATCHET II works well in its most primal moments - the splatter. Over-the-top does not begin to describe some of the scenes of human destruction in the film. It is the inventiveness and the execution of some of these key moments that elevate the overall enjoyment potential to something far more than the sum of its other mediocre parts. Fortunately, after the lull of the first section of the film the money shots come frequently. It really works as a crowd film, eliciting cheers when each new way a body can be demolished is introduced. Splatter fans will be pleased.

The best way to enjoy HATCHET II would be to watch it immediately after the first film. As it picks up the very second the first ends, the sequel works mainly as a giant act three for the Victory Crowley saga. In terms of old school American horror it follows the formula well by abandoning a good bit of plot, adding a bit to the mythology and ramping up the bloody payoff. Script deficiencies, uniformly poor acting, and some weakness in direction during more action-filled scenes makes for an overall poor film. If what one is searching for, though, is the violent goods, one could do far worse in the theater.

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