Back in 2006, when Bloody Disgusting was pretty much the sole horror website in town, we caught wind of, and championed (with the help of SpookyDan) an indie slasher by the name of Hatchet. Adam Green took his childhood obsession of 80’s slashers and created his own lore, featuring Victor Crowley (played by Kane Hodder). Even though films like Saw, Hostel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and House of 1,000 Corpses paved the way for Green, he was the first to translate that into an indie production – while also injecting some fun into a decade littered by the term “torture porn.” At the time, he not only plastered the screen with insane amounts of gore, but also cast horror icons (Robert Englund, Tony Todd and Kane Hodder) in fan fodder that was reminiscent of Rob Zombie’s House of 1,000 Corpses. It was “cool” back in 2006. Two sequels later, Hatchet plays more like a Friday the 13th fan film than an original slasher that could elevate the genre. It’s a bit stale.
BJ McDonnell directs this time around, but the screenplay is still by Green. This ties McDonnell’s hands and turns him basically into a “work for hire.” Instead of turning this franchise into something special, it sort of treads in similar waters, hoping that a higher body count is enough to impress the “Hatchet Army.”
Hatchet III opens immediately after the last film’s finale, Marybeth (played once again by Danielle Harris) has apparently just finished off Crowley. He sits right back up (an homage to Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th films) and engages her in one “final” battle that ends in epic form. It’s astoundingly violent, chaotic and fun. Marybeth drops into the Sheriff’s station with Crowley’s scalp, “I killed him.” He’s dead, for now.
While a team is sent to investigate the grounds and clean up all the bodies, Marybeth sits in prison, acts like a complete jerk, and (literally) spits in the face of multiple police trying to help. This time Caroline Williams is the new “old school” horror actress to join the motley crew, starring as Amanda, an ex-reporter hoping to clear her name after embarrassing herself with a Crowley piece. She knows that Marybeth can prove her right after all these years and simultaneously lift the curse that resurrects Victor night after night. They embark on an extremely boring adventure to Sid Haig’s (another cameo!) house to collect the ashes of Crowley’s father…
Meanwhile, the cleanup crew is decimated by Crowley and a new team is sent in, this one headed by Derek Mears (another horror icon, get it?!). Mears is actually pretty great in his role as Hawes, playing a bully with way too much confidence. Clearly the stage is set for a battle between him and Crowley.
From here on out the audience will enjoy a plethora of death sequences that range from beheadings to entire spinal columns being ripped out. The story, well, who gives a shit at this point as it clearly gets lost in its effort to BE the ultimate Friday the 13th film…
It’s not. One reason is because it’s a Hatchet movie. Another reason? Well, Victor Crowley kind of sucks. While I’m not insulting the film’s effects crew, who did a tremendous job, Crowley is a poor man’s rendering of Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th Part 2. With him running around roaring like a bear and clearly being shown in more than one place at the same time, it becomes apparent that what we’re watching is, as I stated before, a Friday the 13th fan film. It’s incredibly disappointing to me that no effort was taken to elevate Crowley to a new level… instead Green injects a loophole that brings Crowley back to his original form each and every night. As a “repeater” he’s immortal in his initial form, disallowing him from sustaining further deformities or physical injuries for more than one night. So Hatchet III basically becomes a rehash of the first two films. Been there, done that.
This comes as a shock as Green clearly listened to critics after the second entry, he even pokes fun at himself showing he learned from his mistakes (when a character starts to explain the mythology, again, another character immediately shuts him up). But the biggest problem is that he doesn’t seem to understand that “goofy” isn’t the same as “fun.” Hatchet III rights the ship a bit with the humor, but the characters play as hokey instead of deadpan serious. Humor should lay in the situation, not because Adam Green makes two cameos as a Marti Gras partier in a cell opposite Danielle Harris. Still, he deserves some props for injecting humor and giving us some lighter fare that’s more entertaining to watch…
The biggest upside, besides the gore, is the film’s pacing. Other than Amanda and Marybeth’s side plot that curbs the energy, Hatchet III tears along on a rapid pace. It’s essentially 100% better than Hatchet II.
I can’t speak for the entire horror community, but I feel as if they want to see elevated horror in 2013. Filmmakers should be showing their love and admiration for classics by furthering the genre (see You’re Next) instead of harking back to the classics with 100 cameos and geek references (Crowley sits up Jason-style twice). I think McDonnell did an absolutely incredible job with what he was given and at the very least delivers some gore and thrills that hardcore horror fans are going to eat up. I had a pretty good time, even though I couldn’t shake the feeling I was watching a 10-year-old’s vision of Friday the 13th.