Hatchet II (2010)

Hatchet II (2010)

Victor Crowley Lives Again

After Marybeth escapes from the clutches of swamp-dwelling maniac Victor Crowley, she finds out the truth about her family’s connections to the madman. With the help of Reverend Zombie, she leads a group of hunters back into the swamp to retrieve the bodies of her family and put an end to the legend of Victor Crowley once and for all.

 

Adam Green’s much-heralded 2006 slasher Hatchet might not have been the blood-soaked return to old school horror that it was cracked up to be but it was a solid gore ride which knocked the socks off any big budget slash that the mainstream Hollywood had produced for years. I’m not sure whether the genre needed another throwback slasher (as a lot of recent slashers proclaim themselves to be in order to distinguish themselves from the rest – but in doing so they create a new norm) and I don’t think it would have been a genre staple along the lines of The Burning had it been released in the decade it so craves to homage. But it was alright, certainly there are a lot worse out there. It met with a lot of critical praise whilst it did the festival rounds and its connection to the core audience meant that a sequel was inevitable. A few years later, and with a reported budget of only $800,000, Hatchet II comes along and follows on from where the previous one left of, albeit it with a different actress in the lead role.

Hatchet II had a bit of a choppy ride before it was released. The film was originally released in a handful of US theatres without a rating in an attempt to act a shining light to similar-minded film makers (not just horror film makers but anyone sick of the MPAA holding them back). Unfortunately it didn’t work out and after a bit of bad press, the film was pulled with the official response explaining this decision as ‘poor box office performance’ – but what do you expect when you only offer it to a small percentage of the population – you’re not going to get a Skyfall-esque opening weekend. The film has since been released onto DVD with the MPAA getting their way in the end and with it, the brutal crushing of a potential rebellion against the ratings system. Ah well, at least someone had to try.

So on with the review itself! If you’re expecting the same sort of over-drenched, tongue-in-cheek carnage as the original then you’re in the right place as Hatchet II does a faithful job of recreating the same sort of feel and atmosphere as the original. It does take time getting started and it takes over thirty minutes for the film to eventually get back into the swamp. Before then, you’ve got flashback footage of how Victor Crowley came to be. Let’s face it: people don’t normally watch sequels unless they’ve seen the first so anyone watching this should already know his back story and what happened. To me it just seems like a lot of filler to pad out the running time.

Even when the film switches focus to the swamp, there’s little real story to keep things moving. The group of hunters split up and then proceed to get killed off one-by-one before the final showdown with Crowley and the survivors at his ramshackle hut. Everything in between the kills seems like a real slog to get through. A lot of slashers have always been built around their set pieces and this is evident in Hatchet II, with stilted dialogue, thinly-sketched new characters and a tepid atmosphere which lacks any real tension keeping the pace of the film bogged down into the swamp. Clock watching until the next kill shouldn’t really be on the agenda here but it is. But at least they’re worth the wait.

Hatchet II ramps up the red level from the sublime to the ridiculous at times and the kills here are some of the most satisfying you’ll see for a long time. If it isn’t Crowley ripping off the jaws of his victims, he’s battering their skulls to pulp with hatchets, decapitating them using table tops and a conducting a final kill which has to be seen to be described. I mean basically the film is just a series of inter-linking jaw-dropping kills which are brought to life with amazing practical effects – you’ll not seen a sign of any CGI here. This is old school gore that Tom Savini would be proud of. It’s a slowly dying art but it’s nice to see people still have the passion and the ability to produce the goods when they need to.

Kane Hodder is back as Victor Crowley and he’s as physically impressive as ever. I dare you not to laugh out loud at the moment his deformed killer strides out of the woods carrying THE biggest chainsaw ever committed to film. Tony Todd had a cameo in the first one but his role is given centre stage this time around and the film is all the better for it by having such a genre great in a pivotal role. Todd oozes class and charisma and his Reverend Zombie character is one of the best parts of the film, switching between protagonist and antagonist whenever the situation suits him. Danielle Harris is a perennial favourite of mine for obvious reasons but she brings little to the role that she took over from Tamara Feldman other than her good looks. The rest of the cast is made up of generic-looking actors who fulfil the variety of redneck and psychotic hunter character roles without even trying. If you look like a redneck, that’s good enough characterisation for this film as the audience does the rest.

 

Hatchet II is just about as good or bad as the original depending on whether you like your slashers gloopy, gorey and a bit dopey or want a bit more meat to your meal. The film is definitely not up to the hype and publicity it received but it works fine as a low budget slasher homage. I was going to suggest that film makers leave the whole “80s slasher throwback” cliché alone for a while as it’s in danger of becoming saturated but then I have seen that there is a further sequel in the works. At this rate, The Hatchet series is going to become part of the problem, not the solution.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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