Saturday, September 8, 2007

Hatchet (2007)

“Old School American Horror.” This was the tagline as well as the promise of Hatchet, the little indie horror film that could. When rejected by a major studio for not being “a remake, a sequel or a Japanese one,” director Adam Green took that rejection and turned it into the movie’s selling point. After the glut of PG-13, remakes and sequels that clogged the movie market, horror fans were hungry for a return to their 80’s roots. They wanted an original, brutal slasher film that wasn’t a remake or a sequel and that was fun, complete with copious amount of blood and boobs.

In answer to those fans’ prayers comes Hatchet, a film that has been completed for two years but has only now been picked up by Anchor Bay and given a theatrical run. Director Adam Green himself says that he has been on the road promoting the film for a straight 17 months. It’s obvious that the film is a labor of love for all involved and it is inspiring to see how much dedication and hard work went into getting this movie made and released.

I had the pleasure of seeing it opening night, September 7th, in Hollywood along with most of the cast and crew and I’m pleased to report that Hatchet is exactly what it promised, “Old School American Horror,” and buckets of fun (along with buckets of blood ‘n’ boobs!).

To get over a recent breakup, Ben (Joel David Moore) is dragged to Mardi Gras by his buddy Marcus (Deon Richmond). Not being interested in all the boobs and booze, Ben convinces Marcus to go on a haunted swamp tour instead of partying. They are joined by two questionable “actresses” Misty (Mercedes McNab) and Jenna (Joleigh Fioreavanti) and questionable “producer,” Shapiro (Joel Murray), an older couple (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo) and a mysterious local named Marybeth (Tamara Feldman). When their lingually-challenged guide (Parry Shen) crashes their boat onto a rock, they must abandon ship and head into the Lousiana swamp. Marybeth tells them how she is there to search for her missing father (Robert Englund) and brother (Joshua Leonard) and the legend of Victor Crowley. The specific area they are in belongs to Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a horribly disfigured monster of a man who cannot rest after what happened to him years ago. Can the group survive the hatchet-wielding madman and make it out of the swamp alive?

Hatchet was great fun to watch in a sold-out theater with the cast and crew present. The crowd went absolutely wild at many parts of the movie, clapping, screaming and laughing together. THIS is how a fun, slasher movie should be seen. This is how I imagine watching Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street in theaters must have been in the 80’s. Not only are we treated to some amazing deaths (courtesy of special FX maestro John Carl Buechler) and impressive arterial sprays, but the script is peppered with jokes (both funny and corny) that keep the film firmly planted in “fun” territory, where nothing should be taken too seriously.

The death scenes are the most impressive thing about the film, featuring lots of blood and grue. The MPAA came down hard on this independent film, so it has been trimmed, but the full, over-the-top brutality will be on display for the DVD release of the film. Still, even with some scenes being trimmed, the film’s gore will not disappoint. Director Adam Green and director of photography Will Barratt did a wonderful job with each scene, especially the death scenes that feature no cut-aways and gruesome sprays of blood. Some of my favorite gore scenes include a guy getting repeatedly chopped at with a hatchet, a woman getting her face ripped in half when Victor Crowley pulls apart her jaws, a woman getting her lower jaw cut off with a power saw (correction: it was a belt sander; sorry, my knowledge of tools is limited at best!) and the many dismemberments. If gore is what you’re looking for, you’ll most certainly find it here.

Guys will be delighted to find that the film is saturated (especially in the first half hour or so) with boobs. It feels more like Porky’s or Girls Gone Wild (or Bayou Beavers as producer Shapiro calls the softcore film he’s making) than horror, but once the blood starts flowing (which does take a while) it doesn’t stop. I’m not a big fan of mixing sex and scares (I’ve got my own pair of boobs, thank you very much), but here it’s just sticking to the well-defined slasher formula.

It sticks so well to the formula, in fact, that it brings along all the problems and baggage that 70′s and 80′s slashers have. I don’t believe it was ever Adam Green’s (who also wrote the script) intention to fix the flaws, instead his focus was on faithfully recreating the feel of our much-beloved but seriously flawed slasher flicks. Hatchet has annoying characters (why are all the girls written as annoying, stupid, hysterical and/or slutty?), silly dialogue (some of it is truly insipid and Green should stick to directing) and ludicrous plot holes (ah, yes, I understand they want to make a sequel, hence the convenient plot holes,…but weren’t they against that in the first place?). Hatchet has ALL these flaws and more, but that, my friends, is the POINT of the movie, and kind of its endearment. In its homage to the fun and brainless horror films of the 70’s and 80’s, it has decided to poke a little fun at what inspired it. Which is why, it really DOES deserve to be called “Old School American Horror.” It plays it straight and features both the flaws and the strengths of the genre.

Hatchet is a step forward for the horror genre and will hopefully open the door for more independent horror films. It may not be original and there are far better independent horror films out there, but it stays faithful and true to its claims of “Old School American Horror,” flaws and all.

Hatchet is a fun film, one that’ll make you reminisce about all the crappy movies that came out in the 80’s and make you love it for doing so. It is a straightforward slasher film whose focus is building up the body count as opposed to building up the suspense, but for horror geeks like myself that love a brainless, FUN horror movie that ISN’T a remake or a sequel once in a while, it’s a treat.

Available from Amazon!

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