Danielle Harris - Marybeth
Kane Hodder - Victor Crowley/Thomas Crowley
Tony Todd - Reverend Zombie
Tom Holland - Bob
R.A. Mihailoff - Trent
Parry Shen - Justin
AJ Bowen - Layton
Genre - Horror/Slasher/Sequel
Running Time - 86 Minutes
In 2007, Adam Green presented HATCHET, a modern slasher film that he believed would bring "Old School American Horror" back to the glory days of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH. Gory, explicit in its nudity and language, and housing a big brute for a killer, it had a mildly successful limited theater release and had good success on the DVD/Blu-Ray market. While Green had done short films before HATCHET, the film put him on the map - giving us one of the freshest horror filmmakers in modern times.
Green would continue directing good horror films after HATCHET, especially with SPIRAL and FROZEN [and producing GRACE]. But Green had always intended to continue the world he created with HATCHET, wanting to make the sequel gorier and more over-the-top than the last installment. Danielle Harris, most famous for her roles in both versions of the HALLOWEEN franchise, replaced previous Final Girl Tamara Feldman [who didn't seem to want to even be in a sequel for whatever rea$on], giving HATCHET II more of a buzz than the previous film held. The buzz increased when Green himself stated that he would release the film in limited distibution in Unrated form, refusing to let the MPAA butcher his vision. So in October, HATCHET II was released 68 AMC theaters - to a dismal response. The film did so badly that it was pulled out from theaters after its opening weekend, going straight to On Demand channels and eventually to DVD/Blu-Ray on February 1st.
It's really a shame it didn't get a chance to shine in limited distribution because HATCHET II isn't a bad film at all. It's almost as fun and entertaining as the original. But it's not a perfect sequel, as it does things better than its predecessor, while sacrificing certain aspects that made the original a fan favorite. Let's see why HATCHET II shouldn't get the axe completely.
Continuing right after HATCHET left off, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) has luckily escaped the wrath of deformed killer, Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). She returns to New Orleans, seeking the aid of Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd), the man in charge of the swamp tours that butchered everyone but Marybeth in the original. Knowing that Crowley has the remains of her departed father and brother, Marybeth wants Zombie to go with her to give them proper burials. Zombie, having ulterior motives of his own, decides to make it a hunting adventure. Grabbing a group of money seekers including Shawn's twin brother Justin (Parry Shen), enforcer Trent (R.A. Mihailoff), and Marybeth's uncle Bob (Tom Holland), Marybeth and Zombie lead through the swamp to retrieve the bodies and take care of Victor Crowley if necessary. It's safe to stay that only a few will survive.
HATCHET II is what you would expect from a horror sequel - stereotypical characters, more gore, a quicker pace, and a bigger budget. HATCHET II definitely has a ton of awesome kills by our deformed monster villain, but unfortunately loses some of the charm and atmosphere that the original HATCHET held. So the question is - do you want a really gory film without much charm and atmosphere? or do you want a film that relies on atmosphere and charm to give that gore more of an impact?
The narrative by Adam Green is an extension of what he brought forth in HATCHET. Green's main focus is obviously to continue the story of Marybeth and her arch-nemesis, Victor Crowley. In this aspect, I think Green does very well. We understand her desperation and fear to bring back the bodies of her father and brother by going back to the swamp that Crowley is master of. And of course through Marybeth, we finally understand Reverend Zombie, whose swamp tours seem to have ulterior motives that some of us suspected in the original but are answered fully in this film. The way the story connects the two things that lead to a pretty thrilling finale work due to the fact that Green purposely held back information in case a sequel was green-lit to reveal the rest. And I thought it flowed well and made sense, even though a certain twist at the end made Zombie look like an idiot since he seemed so knowledgeable and sure of the consequences of his actions [probably the main flaw of the story]. But the story moves quickly and flows well, while making sense most of the time. So I can't complain too much about it.
The main sub-plot with HATCHET II is the origin of Victor Crowley himself. While the original film pretty much implied that Victor Crowley was just a regular deformed child who was accidentally "murdered" by his father, who was trying to save him from a fire caused by a horrible Halloween prank, Green decides to change it a bit. Now it seems that Crowley is actually a supernatural, cursed "demon" who was placed upon Thomas Crowley by his dead wife as revenge for cheating on her. And apparently Victor Crowley can't die unless he gets revenge on those who burnt him when he was younger. While I appreciate a more detailed explanation of the events behind Crowley's motivations, I was completely satisfied with just having him be a deformed, strong, un-killable son of a bitch. Why explain the need of his supernatural abilities? The fact that he can't die as easily as you or me pretty much implies that. It just felt as if Green needed to explain who Crowley is, like HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS did with Michael Myers, or JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY did with Jason Voorhees. It's not really necessary, even if it did motivate Zombie's character. It doesn't hurt the film, but it just seemed like it had to be there in order for the sequel to even exist rather than it just coming out naturally.
A major issue to the screenplay is the lack of character development. While the original HATCHET didn't excel at this either, at least there were only a small group of characters we followed. That allowed their interactions to really shine through, even if you disliked the character portrayals. In the sequel, there are too many characters and they're pretty stereotypical. Some of them are actually interchangeable for the most part. And most of them weren't all that interesting. Even Marybeth, who's supposed to be our Final Girl, is pretty much a non-factor and uneventful character until the finale where she gets her revenge. To be honest, the best characters were Reverend Zombie, Justin, Bob, and probably Trent. That's only because they had distinct personalities compared to the other characters and they actually brought stuff to the table. Every one else was just there or just annoyed me. Especially that Vernon guy. If he was supposed to be the comic relief, he failed BIG time!
That's another issue with the narrative - it tries to be funny like the original but it only made me chuckle a few times. It's as if the humor is ill-timed or the jokes aren't funny. It kind of sucks since the original HATCHET actually had humor that worked, which makes it why a lot of horror fans seem to enjoy it. To be honest, I think this should have been a more serious affair instead of making it goofy. Oh well.
I do appreciate the homages in the film though. From the long chainsaw that plays tribute to LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III [R.A. Mihailoff played the title character], to a mention of Glen Echo [the setting of BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON], to the clip of Parker [from FROZEN] discussing about suing the ski resort, to even the cameos from Lloyd Kaufman and Adam Green himself, it's cool to see a horror fan like Green give us nostalgia trips. And seeing favorite characters from the original, such as Jack Cracker and the two porn star airheads, is awesome as well.
While the screenplay isn't as good as it could be, at least we have massive amounts of gory kills. And by God, this film is insane with its murder sequences. No wonder Green wanted the MPAA's hands off of this project. We get pulled intestines, a hatchet to the cooch, jaws pulled off faces, heads and bodies split in half, a propeller death, sliced faces and throats, and the double chainsaw-to-the-balls death. If you want a gorefest, HATCHET II is the film for you. And while the atmosphere and mood could have been better, I'm not gonna lie - these death scenes were awesome regardless. And I gotta love the beautiful breasts that were presented to the audience as well. Hot damn! It reminded me of a FRIDAY THE 13TH film, but more in-your-face and over-the-top about it. Definitely the film's highlight for sure.
The direction by Adam Green is a bit better than it was for the original. While some of the mood is lost, at least the film moves pretty quickly and gets to the point of the matter - watching these idiots die. It's definitely a true slasher sequel. I liked a lot of the framing and compositions of the shots. I thought the editing was good. And I think Green shot the action scenes quite well. I do have an issue about the really abrupt ending and some of the first act is a bit off at times. While no FROZEN, I still think Green did a good job with what he was given.
The acting in HATCHET II is above average. As much as I love Danielle Harris, I think she was terribly miscast and wasted as Marybeth. Tamara Feldman did a good job in the original because she evolved as the film ran, creating a believable character. Harris isn't really allowed to do that, pretty much whining and screaming for most of the film [which is understandable from a character standpoint, but it's not all that fun to watch]. Plus the accent went in and out at times, which was noticable in some spots. It's always a pleasure to see her act, but I don't think this role was for her. I did love her during the final act though, but that was only because she was allowed to do something other than standing around and crying. I still love you, Danielle!
Tom Holland was okay as Bob. I had no idea the writer/director was an actor. He wasn't horrible, but not great either. R.A. Mihailoff did a bit better as Trent, the enforcer of the group. He's used to action sequences and he did well during those scenes. Parry Shen was good as Justin, the twin brother of Shawn from the original. He had some funny moments and I believed his fear and confusion as well. Kane Hodder was cool as Victor Crowley like he was in the original. The man is still an intimidating force after all these years. Nothing was more scarier than that sex scene he was in. Wow. But the best actor, by far, was Tony Todd as Reverend Zombie. Maybe it's because he was the most developed character and had the best dialogue. But Todd bit and chewed the scenery any time he was on screen. I really enjoyed watching him enjoy himself.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE NEVER TAKING A SWAMP TOUR
- One of Shapiro's porn stars was his 5th grade history student. Apparently he taught her the Emancipation Proclamation when she freed his penis out of his pants.
- Thomas Crowley had an affair with his cancer stricken wife's Cajun nurse for two years until she passed. His wife then came back from the dead to curse them both with the birth of Victor Crowley. Damn, John Edwards better watch his back!
- Bob claimed that Reverend Zombie is only a reverend of being an asshole. If that's the case, I would like to attend one of his sermons.
- Cletus happily shot a booger from his nose, disgusting the rest of the squad. That s'not cool, man!
- Chad got his face smashed in. Someone call Dr. 9021-oh...nevermind.
- Two men got chainsawed from the bottom up, showing their balls dropping. Nice to see them finally hitting puberty!
- Justin trapped himself in Crowley's house, putting himself in a lot of danger. He obviously didn't do his homework, proving why stereotypes are around for a reason.
- Bob had trouble dealing with Crowley. I guess he realized this FRIGHT NIGHT was no CHILD'S PLAY...
THE FINAL HOWL
HATCHET II is a fun film to watch and it will certainly entertain you. In fact, it's your run-of-the-mill slasher sequel, which is why I enjoyed it for what it was. It's not a film everyone will love, especially since the mystery and the comedic value was done better in the original. But it makes up for it in fun cameos, better pacing, and a whole lot of blood and cool death sequences. If you're a fan of the original film or love really gory flicks, definitely check out this film. If you're looking for something deeper than that, get off this swamp tour pronto.
3 Howls Outta 4