PLOT: Following the events of HATCHET II (ARROW'S REVIEW HERE), Marybeth must once again confront the killer spirit of Victor Crowley.
REVIEW: I never thought watching dismemberment could be so monotonous until HATCHET III made it so. The third and (I hate to say it) hopefully final installment in Adam Green's trilogy about a monstrous ghost who exists to rip apart whoever enters his swamp, HATCHET III continues the downward path of the once-promising franchise. The second one was dull and poorly paced, compensating for its weaknesses by splattering untold buckets of blood on the screen but never rising to the first film's genuine freshness and energy. HATCHET III is about on par with the first sequel, and finds writer-producer Adam Green stuck in a similar cycle as his gruesome antagonist: it's destined to repeat itself over and over again hopelessly.
Events pick up immediately after HATCHET II. Our heroine Marybeth (Danielle Harris) has just absolutely demolished the skull of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), supposedly ending his reign of terror in Honey Island Swamp. Of course, Victor isn't really dead, so she's forced to kill him yet again in the opening minutes. For whatever reason, she assume this last time is the final time, so she confidently strolls into the town's police station, overseen by a high-strung sheriff (Zach Galligan), and announced that she's done in boogeyman.
For her troubles, she's thrown in jail while the whole police force rushes out to investigate her claims. No one really believes her tale, except a nosey reporter (Caroline Williams) who happens to know everything about Victor's past and Marybeth's. It's her belief that the key to bringing down Victor's spirit for good is to confront him with the ashes of his father (in case you haven't seen part 2, Victor has daddy issues). While they go to retrieve the ashes, the sheriff and a SWAT team (headed by Derek Mears) run into Victor Crowley in the swamp and subsequently get turned into mincemeat.
The set-up for HATCHET III is, thankfully, not as painfully drawn-out and plodding as HATCHET II's, which took an unforgivable amount of time to get things going. However, Green and director BJ McDonnell still end up slowing the movie down to a crawl whenever their characters start spouting exposition. Which is often. It's a fair bet that anyone walking into HATCHET III looking for brainless fun does not need the specifics of Crowley's curse spelled out for them ad nauseum, but the filmmakers have included so much information that anyone looking to create a Victor Crowley Wikipedia page (assuming there isn't already one) will have their hands full.
When it's not droning on verbally, HATCHET III spins its wheels by displaying shot after shot of a man or woman getting their limbs ripped off or their heads torn off. Just as in my review for HATCHET II, I find myself oddly unnerved by my own complaint in this department. In this day and age, should I really be finding fault with a movie that joyously sprays blood by the gallon, utilizes practical effects and is more or less aimed directly at a gorehound like me? I'd like to give HATCHET III the benefit of the doubt and say "ah it's all good dumb fun," but sadly, I'd be lying to myself. The issue is, HATCHET III doesn't provide thrills or a sense of urgency or anything else stimulating; Green and McDonnell are on autopilot. They've got that one key visual in mind (Crowley rips somebody's body part off while blood fountains messily from the stump) and that's about it. It's kind of exasperating seeing the same thing happen a dozen times; god help me, but I don't think I'll ever be invigorated be a decapitation again. HATCHET III doesn't offer a single creative death, and even flubs what should be a major showdown between Crowley and the SWAT leader: it's Kane Hodder versus Derek Mears, two former Jasons, for crying out loud!
HATCHET III's biggest fault may not even be its repetitive nature, however, but its ham-fisted attempts at comedy. Not unlike HATCHET II, HATCHET III has a tongue-in-cheek attitude, frequently winking at the audience and knowing full well that the target demographic loves a laugh as much as it loves a head-squashing. But watching HATCHET III try comedy on for size is like watching an amateur comedian die a slow death on stage. There's no timing or wit, only profanity lashed about in the hopes that someone out there is willing to chuckle at zingers like "go f*ck yourself!" and the like. Characters repeatedly insult and demean each other with all the authority of grade-schoolers. And I'm ashamed to even mention an absolutely painful scene where Sid Haig (in a cameo) trots out casually racist jokes to humiliate an African-American deputy (Robert Diago DoQui); the quips here aren't just offensive, they're staler than year-old bread.
Sorry, gang, to deliver this bad news. You might be thinking that I'm asking too much from a movie called HATCHET III, and hell, it's possible that I am. But I know what I like, and I know what works - not just on a fundamental level, but as bloodsoaked entertainment. The first HATCHET does indeed work on both of these levels, and the latest HATCHET does not.