Day 1: Hatchet (2006)
Reviewed by Mateo Keegan Burbano
2 October 2019
In the first ten minutes of Adam Green’s Hatchet we get the hat-trick of aughts horror movies: Cameos from slasher film veterans Robert Englund and Tony Todd, plenty of gore and dismemberment, and free-range titties. The film begins with a setup familiar to anyone who’s seen a horror movie from the 2000s. A group of college-aged horny men travel to New Orleans during Mardi Gras to find the most decadent of experiences. The film’s lead, Ben (played by poor man’s Adam Driver: Joel David Moore), is harshing his dudebros’ vibes as he whines about a recent breakup. After a sequence of a dozen fake bare breasts, plenty of homophobic jokes, and some not at all homoerotic horseplay, Ben convinces comedic relief, token black guy, Marcus, played by Deon Richmond, to go on a haunted tour of the Bayou swamp.
The film is set in New Orleans and rural Louisiana, but ninety percent of the cast is white. I might be giving the film too much credit, but it seems aware of its whitewashing with its nods toward important black figures in New Orleans history, and mentions of key moments of African American history in the area. The film also plays around with the tropes of film representations of New Orleans, undermining them with a wry wink, such as with Tony Todd’s appearance as a voodoo practitioner who readily admits to being a fraud.
Ben and Marcus join a tour led by purported local who, we soon learn, is leading only his second haunted boat tour. Other tour participants include two models and the director of their Girls Gone Wild type video. Buffy fans will be pleased to hear that one of the models is played by Harmony actress, Mercedes McNab, whose first appearance in the film is with her boobs out. Other members of the tour group include Amara Zaragoza playing Marybeth, the mysterious girl next door hardened by something in her past. We know she’s hard because she wears a military surplus jacket. The group is rounded out by a middle-aged Midwestern couple: a know-it-all husband and his subservient wife.
The film boats full steam ahead when we hit the swamp, stacking one horror movie homage (rip-off?) on top of another. As they start off their trip down the river, a yokel floating in an inner tube yells, “Don’t go in there! You’re all going to die.” He then proceeds to drink from a hospital bottle filled with his own piss. These absurdist, comedic twists keep the homages from descending to Scary Movie stupidity.
After the boat breaks down and sinks, and a fumbling escape from gators and uncooperative vegetation, the group make it to shore. One of them is injured, and the group slowly trek through the swamp to find help. The slasher villain, Victor Crowley, aka Hatchetface, as played with drooling mania by Kane Hodder, stalks them. It’s fitting that Victor Crowley is played by the Jason Voorhees actor, because Hatchetface’s origin is a barefaced rip-off of Friday the 13th’s killer. Victor and Jason could be brothers. They are both physically deformed, CrossFit obsessive, mute, butchers. Victor swaps out Jason’s machete for a hatchet (get it, it’s the film’s name!) and hides his face in a burlap sack just like his brother before he upgraded to the hokey mask.
What saves Hatchet from its b-list cast and pedestrian script is its use of practical effects, gore, and buckets of blood. What Victor lacks in one liners he more than makes up for with inventive kills. Every body part imaginable is severed, pulled, and twisted from every other body part imaginable. The group is killed off one by one until only Ben and Marybeth remain. They seem to defeat Victor and enjoy their victory as they drift down the river in a found rowboat. Anyone who’s seen the first Friday the 13th film knows what happens next.
Overall, Hatchet doesn’t have anything new or interesting to say in the slasher genre, but it does keep things fresh with some comedic self-awareness and over the top gore. If you’re looking for a horror film that entertains by stupidly hurling buckets of blood and viscera at every surface, then Hatchet may be worth a watch.
Score: 3 out of 5 Halloween Pumpkin Peeps
Available to stream on Amazon Prime.