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Picking up where the previous film left off, Marybeth Dunston barely escapes the vicious Victor Crowley with the help of a swamp-dwelling fisherman named Jack Cracker. After a brief conversation with Cracker, Marybeth makes her way back to the shop of Reverend Zombie, who agrees to help her get the bodies of her brother and father back from the swamp where Victor Crowley is roaming about. To do so, Zombie assembles a team of hired killers to help retrieve the bodies, and so he can rid the swamp of the ghost of Victor Crowley forever.
To me, HATCHET was nothing more than an excuse to see Kane Hodder back doing what he does best, and the gore that followed from the results. It was a flawed piece, but seeing Hodder ripping people a new one makes up for his departure from the almighty hockey mask. So now along comes HATCHET II, with Hodder once again taking on the role of Victor Crowley. The film stirred up controversy with its unrated antics when it was screened in Toronto and Montreal (people are wusses). But amidst all of that, did HATCHET II bring more to the table?
For starters, the main attraction (and the reason the film got pulled from threatres) is the gore. Oh, the gore! Right away, the film starts off with some fantastic kill scenes, and the trend continues throughout the movie. These aren't the computer-generated type, either, which makes things all the more entertaining since they don't have that certain something that lessens the effect. Plus it's not often you get to see someone's jaw ripped off or a death involving a belt sander. These are some of the most clever and well-executed kills I've seen in a while.
The other thing I liked about HATCHET II was its cast. Yes, a lot of the cast was flawed, but there was still a dependable Tony Todd here to chew scenery and do that creepy thing he does so well. His role was greatly expanded from the first film, and as such he's all that more enjoyable. Danielle Harris takes over from Tamara Feldman as Marybeth, and proves to be just as feisty. I will say that her role was more emotional thing time around, and as such it kind of annoyed me that she looked as if she was ready to burst into tears at the drop of a hat, but given what the character had been through, I'll let it slide. As for everyone else, from the cameos to the regulars, it's all standard stuff. I will say that it's nice to see R.A. Mihailoff again. The guy still rivals Gunnar Hansen in my book as the definitive Leatherface.
With all that said, HATCHET II unfortunately suffers from some rather big problems. The first of which is the pacing. After the bang-bang action of the first act, the film slows to a crawl as Marybeth and Zombie get everyone together to head back into the swamp. This wouldn't be so bad if this all didn't take up 30+ minutes of the film's 86 minute runtime. Also, as I mentioned above, the cast isn't perfect, with the one-dimensionals and the stereotypes running amuck. Despite his profession, comedian Colton Dunn isn't so much funny in this one as he is desperate to make us laugh. And Tony Todd, as much as I love his stuff, just seems to not have enough to do in this film, which is exacerbated by the slowed pacing.
To be honest, I was disappointed with HATCHET II. Maybe it was because of the fact that I saw Green's amazing FROZEN first that I expected more. Maybe it was the fact that I wanted more of a Ripley-esque character from Marybeth. Or perhaps it was a combination of things that if it weren't for the saving grace of the gore, the film would have been a disaster. Compared to the original, which kept things going with likable characters and balanced out the gore, this just seems to pale in comparison. It's not terrible, and I would watch it again, but it could have had so much more to it.
Video: Presented in 1080p/AVC 1.78:1 widescreen, HATCHET II looks good, despite some unusual hiccups. First off, the film was shot in 1.85:1, so why the decision to change the framing was made, I don't know. Second, the compression of the video really takes a dive around the 3 and ½ minute mark for just a moment, followed by a few aliasing problems and a weird glitch in the top right corner of the picture around the 70 minute mark of the film. In spite of that, the film manages to maintain detail amidst a dark picture, and the colours are consistently subdued throughout, much like the first film.
Audio: The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack offers up some great audio carnage to compliment what's happening onscreen. Clear and immersive, the mix really does put you in the middle of the Louisiana swamp. Insects, wind and birds all come together amidst the chainsaws and the arterial sprays to give the picture life. Dialogue is free of distortion and is balanced with the rest of the mix.
First up is an audio commentary with director Adam Green, cinematographer Will Barratt and special makeup effects supervisor Robert Pendergraft. This track obviously covers the technical side of the film, with Green leading the discussion and covering how certain shots were done and why they look the way they do. The trio have a sense of humour and certainly keep the conversation engaging.
Following that is a second audio commentary with director Adam Green and actors Tony Todd and Kane Hodder. Obviously, this commentary covers what happened in front of the camera, with Green again leading the discussion. Topics covered include the boom mike operator who quit over a certain kill, the film's almost immediate shutdown in cinemas, and of course Kane and Tony discuss their characters and experiences in making the film. This track serves as a compliment to the first one, but is still worth a listen.
Hatchet II: Behind the Screams is a 34 minute piece that covers pretty much everything about the film's production. There's a genuine enthusiasm to this piece which I love to see, as people seemed to love being on the set and working. Adding to that are the various bloopers that are spliced in throughout the picture, including Danielle's shower scene. There are also a few good storyboard-to-screen comparisons, as well as on-set footage.
Following that is an eight-minute Hatchet II EPK, which is your condensed version of the previous featurette. This obviously focuses on the promotion of the film, and how great of a film it is. It's okay, but we know better.
The Killing Machine is part of what I love about films like this: the FX team. The team goes over the film's gory moments and kills, as well as describing how some of the most memorable scenes came together. It's a shame that it's only six minutes, but if you're a junkie like me for extras like this, you'll eat it up.
Finishing things up is the film's theatrical trailer and teaser trailer, a TV spot and a radio spot. There are also some startup trailers when you first start the disc.
Apart from the radio spot, all of the extras are in 1080p.
Despite the addition of Danielle Harris and the returns of Tony Todd and Kane Hodder, HATCHET II suffers from pacing and suspect characters. The inventive gore saves this film from being aggravating, but it definitely could've been better. The extras help to balance out the film's shortcomings, and the transfer makes the gory details that much sweeter.