[BD Review] ‘Hatchet III’ Improves on the Previous Entry, Not Much Else

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Kane Hodder returns once again for the third (and final?) time as the deformed, undead killing machine Victor Crowley in Hatchet III. While it’s not quite the same as Hodder in hockey mask mode (not much is), it was still quite the consolation, thanks in part to Friday The 13th: Part VII director (and Hodder friend) John Carl Buechler handling the film’s gory effects. While the first film was a blast with it’s creative kills and downright nastiness, the second film lagged with pacing and character issues (in spite of the gore). Now, with the previous films’ helm Adam Green leaving the director’s chair for the writer’s desk, and newcomer BJ McDonnell at the helm, what does Hatchet III hold? Other than gallons of arterial spray, that is.

Picking up immediately after the events of Hatchet II, Victor Crowley has had his head perforated with a double-barreled shotgun and met up with a chainsaw, and Marybeth has escaped. She makes her way to the local police station, where based upon her bloody appearance, she is locked up. At her request to verify her claims, Sheriff Fowler sends out his men to confirm the massacre in the Honey Island Swamp. After his men confirm the worst, Fowler clears out the station to investigate the scene, leaving Marybeth with a lone deputy. Eventually, Fowler’s ex-wife/journalist and Crowley expert Amanda Fowler shows up at the station and explains to Marybeth that Crowley isn’t as dead as they think he is. Turns out Victor Crowley is cursed, and the only person who can stop him once and for all is Marybeth herself (with a little help from Abbott McMullen, a Crowley relative).

In keeping with the previous films and their black-and-red comedy, Hatchet III will not disappoint. It’s definitely more gory than the previous films, with victims leaking and spraying like sieves as heads and limbs are torn off, folks flayed and heads stomped into goo. The dark humour is also present, as well as a few pokes at Adam Green from himself over the previous film’s shortcomings. What’s even better is that for the practical effects nuts (of which I am one), there’s no CGI when it comes to the bloodletting, which more often than not cheapens effects when it shouldn’t.

Speaking of the previous film’s shortcomings, McDonnell seemed to be aware of the pacing issues, and has responded with keeping things moving in this film. As well, the aforementioned tone as well as the atmosphere of the series is retained, despite the change in directors. Acting-wise, previous players maintain their mojo. Danielle Harris, despite not being as busy as she was in the previous film, shows off good intensity, though the decision to give her character a reluctance towards facing Crowley again is not the best of decisions. She’s supposed to be a strong heroine, not Ash Williams. Caroline “I was Stretch from Texas Chainsaw Massacre II)” Williams fills out her role nicely, even if it doesn’t seem likely that she’d be able to convince people to go with her story. Zach Galligan as Sheriff Fowler is great, as one never expected to see Billy from Gremlins as a snarling, cynical cop (and an effective one at that). Derek Mears aka the other Jason carries himself pretty well as asshole S.W.A.T. cop Hawes, and as expected, meets a rather grisly end. As for Mr. Crowley, well, therein lies some problems. Not just for the film, but rather the series itself.

Don’t get me wrong, Hodder is a great actor, and he absolutely relishes being behind whatever makeup/mask he puts on. I love the guy’s stuff. The problem is the character of Victor Crowley himself. Specifically, the curse. It’s kind of a lame addition to the series, but then again, the character of Victor Crowley is kind of a poor man’s Jason Voorhees. Think about it: both characters seek vengeance for their parent’s death, both are deformed, both were played by the same actor in Kane Hodder, and both end up coming back as undead killing machines. The only problem is that Crowley apes Jason, and Green hasn’t done enough to differentiate his creation from Victor Miller’s. The only real differences are that Victor runs like Jason did in Part 2, roars and drools. They’re minor, and don’t make the character interesting enough for us to gravitate towards. The introduction of the curse only cheapens the character, and makes for lame storytelling.

In addition to that, the film is doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and instead recycles the main ideas from the previous films: Marybeth, Victor, and gobs of fodder for Victor to annihilate in absurd ways. It’s still fun on a certain level, but boiling it all down leaves us with rehashing the same stuff as before. It might be hypocritical, since Friday The 13th is guilty of that in a couple of cases, but at least attempts were made in that series to try and bring in something new.

As for if I liked the movie, I have to reiterate that it was fun on a certain level. The mean spiritedness and black humour combined with over-the-top gore is fun, but at the same time we’ve seen this all before. It’s unfortunate, since I’m a sucker for practical effects and clever kills. Fans of the first two films will enjoy this entry just as much, while those who are looking for something beyond gore galore will be left wanting.

Video/Audio:

Hatchet III arrives on Blu-Ray with a 2.35.1 AVC-encoded 1080p presentation. Sporting some great detail with excellent colour (particularly red), the transfer checks off all the right boxes. Black levels are strong, with great shadow detail. Grain is minimal and print damage is nonexistent. Overall, a great-looking transfer.

As one would expect, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is appropriately loud. Almost too loud, at times. Dialogue is easy to discern, with good use of directional effects. Levels are cranked up when appropriate, so if you’re in the mood for rattling windows, this is your chance.

Supplements:

First up are two audio commentaries. The first has producer Adam Green, director BJ McDonnell, cinematographer Will Barratt and makeup effects artist Robert Pedergraft. Of the two, this is the technical track, with discussion of how certain shots were achieved and issues that came up with shooting in Louisiana. Always interesting and never a dull moment with trivia tidbits. The second commentary has Green and McDonnell joined by Kane Hodder. Not as lively as the first track and at times overlapping it, this track does hold some interesting tidbits. Hodder chimes in with his perspective on the film, as well as things such as how he gets in character, wearing the makeup and stunt coordinating some of the film’s stunts.

Next up are three featurettes. The first, Behind The Scenes, is your typical talking heads featurette mixed with behind the scenes clips. The second, Raising Kane, predictably focuses on Kane Hodder and the makeup crew as they go about adding on fifty pounds of latex to the guy. I’m always a fan of these types of featurettes, so it was neat to see. The third featurette, Swamp Fun, looks at the locations in Louisiana that were used in the film, along with cast and crew interviews and goofing off.

Rounding things up are the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers, as well as other Dark Sky Films trailers.