Fantastic Fest Review: Adam Green's Gutsy Sequel 'Hatchet II'
by Jeremy Kirk
October 7, 2010
Both Victor Crowley and the notion of horror franchising are still alive and well. When we last saw Crowley - the mutated ghost with a penchant for ripping people's heads open of Hatchet fame - he was pulling young Marybeth, the heroine of the first film, out of a lake by her hair. As with any decent horror sequel, this is precisely the moment we're thrown in at the start of Adam Green's Hatchet II. Luckily for Marybeth, now played by Danielle Harris, as well as the producers behind the Hatchet franchise, she escapes and becomes a survivor who then takes a team back into the woods to finish Crowley off once and for all.
This is the basic premise for Hatchet II, and it takes the Alien/Aliens upgrade in stride. Where the first film was about a group who didn't know and/or wasn't prepared for the terrors they were in store for, this second film features a team of hunters, armed to the teeth for any dangers they might encounter. If Hatchet taught us anything, though, it's that it will take quite a lot of firepower to keep Victor Crowley from tearing your arms out of their sockets.
This team, by the way, is made up of more than just nameless fodder for the film's slasher villain. There is ample amounts of development in Hatchet II, and this establishment becomes both the film's saving grace and its ultimate hindrance. The problem many had with Hatchet, those who didn't particularly care for it anyway, was that there was very little to root for in the people stranded in the woods. When Crowley killed them, it rarely meant anything to anyone watching. Hatchet II's writer and director Adam Green aims to keep that sense of carelessness at arm's length. The first hour of Hatchet II is practically all character development or backstory. Any images of Crowley or the insane violence he inflicts on his victims is relegated to flashbacks.
The idea of this much development is one thing that makes Hatchet II a far superior film to Hatchet. This is especially noticed in Tony Todd's character of Rev. Zombie. Only a bit part in the original film, he has a much larger reason for being in Hatchet II. It's believable, it's understandable, and it actually makes you appreciate how little you learned about him in the first film. We find out more about Marybeth and her overall purpose to the franchise, as well. Her presence in the Hatchet films has meaning, and, as we learn, it could be the very key to defeating Crowley once and for all.
This notion of defeating Crowley is another positive from the first film to the second. There is a reason this group is out in the woods. It's more than just a group of unintelligent tourists looking to get scared who get trapped out in the swamp. This team has a goal at hand, and it is Crowley's appearance and freight train tendencies that brings the succession of that goal toppling down.
But, Jeremy, you might ask, why the hell do we care about character development and plot establishment in a film like Hatchet II? We're here for more of the same cartoonish and visceral bloodletting we were privy to in the original film. Is this violence on display in Hatchet II? Absolutely. Is it as entertaining or even comical as it is in the first film? Not so much.
The main reason in this is in how much time is spent on that character development. Sure, we are given a lot of establishment, but that makes up nearly 2/3 of a slasher film, and the final 30 minutes of the film becomes one elaborate death after another. The kills in Hatchet II come so fast and furiously, some right at the same time, we hardly have time to settle back down in our seat before we're right on to the next one.
While the establishing first hour of Hatchet II is very much appreciated, especially in the slasher genre, Green should have also taken some confidence in pacing out his kills better. Even adding an additional 10 to 15 minutes to the film's overall running time might not hurt. Anything to stretch out the last half and make Hatchet II feel more like an all-around slasher film rather than a trek through the swamp with a whole bunch of kills at the end would benefit it immensely.
Those kills, though, are quite elaborate, quite graphic, and as inventive as they are bloody. Green has no problem coming up with original ways to kill of his characters, and Kane Hodder, back for another go as the film's central monster, stomps through those kill scenes with absolute gusto.
And, really, this level of gusto, the energy on display, is what makes the Hatchet films so much fun. They might not be particularly good. The comedy thrown out rarely sticks (one character's mantra about chicken, biscuits, and gravy is downright hilarious, though) and the pacing is all off for this second go-around, but there is something to be said in Hatchet II being a finer piece of film making than Hatchet. If you want non-stop limb-ripping and axe-swinging, you may want to look elsewhere, but if you don't mind wading through the welcome swamp of progression and plot establishment before getting to the carnage, Hatchet II might just be the massacre you're looking for.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 6.5 out of 10