Hatchet (2006) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

The new episode of the Revisited video series looks back at Adam Green’s 2006 slasher Hatchet, starring Kane Hodder

The episode of Revisited covering Hatchet was Written by Emilie Black, Narrated by Niki Minter, Edited by Kier Gomes, Produced by Tyler Nichols and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

By the start of the 2000s, there were so many slasher films out there that it was difficult to figure which ones were worth the time and which were not, something that hasn’t changed much since then. However, the mid-2000s saw a few fun surprise slasher films make their way onto screens including films like Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and today’s film of interest, Hatchet (watch it HERE). Coming from a writer-director who knows the genre and has tremendous respect for it, Hatchet was one of those films most of the public didn’t see coming, one that was a bit out of left field if you didn’t pay attention to Fangoria magazine and had not seen his previous feature Coffee & Donuts, this film was a complete surprise. 

And what a great surprise it was. The film premiered at film festivals and soon fans were looking for a way to see it locally. Of course, depending on one’s situation, how they saw it varied. Some of us saw it as a screener, some saw it at a festival, while most saw it on home video when it was released by Anchor Bay in December of 2007. It sadly took me way too long to get to see this one, but once I finally got to watch it, I wanted more. It was a solid film and I would have given it top marks back in the day. Nowadays, I still love it, but I can better watch it with a critical eye having added years of experience as a film reviewer. These days, I’d give this one a good 8 out of 10 in terms of quality and enjoyment.  

To justify this, let me start by saying that slashers are my thing, my jam, some of my favorite films in the horror genre. I adore all the classics from Friday the 13th to A Nightmare on Elm Street to My Bloody Valentine and the more cult classics like Return to Horror High, Curtains, and Deep in the Woods. There’s something about slashers that makes them almost always fun, even when they are terrible. In Hatchet’s case, it’s a very well-done film with so many positives to it, it’s hard to put it into words.  

Hatchet Revisited

So, let’s start with the story here, it’s a classic, a wronged person turns supernatural to get revenge on the locals. That is not particularly original, but the way it’s handled is what makes it good. As opposed to random high schoolers, here we get a bunch of tourists who willingly go into the swamp in the hopes of seeing something scary, possibly even the slasher killer that lives there, or rather haunts the swamps where he grew up and died by an axe to the head. Or, as some would call it, a hatchet. He is rumored to be killing anyone that ventures in his swamp, so why not hire a shady boat operator slash tour guide to take you there and see if it’s true. Go right into the territory of a gruesome slasher instead of staying in the relative safety of the French Quarter looking at boobies and drinking beer.  

And that’s the basic premise for most of the characters, who, it should be mentioned, are all adults. So, we get given a brand-new crop of annoying people who are all old enough to know better. The characters here all have something that will get on the nerves at some point, but they are clearly written that way and honestly, a lot of people get odd and downright stupid under pressure, so why not make these people say and do dumb things. It’s the slasher way anyway. Also, and that’s important here, the characters may be a bit cliché, they aren’t the usual clichés. There is no jock, no Primadonna princess, no goth kid, we get an older couple on vacation wanting to see the sights, a creep with a camera and the two girls he roped into it promising fame, the love-lorn dude with his friend, and the final girl who is clearly so from the get-go. Add to that a stereotype of a tour guide, a voodoo priest who knows too much, a few rednecks at the start, and a slasher killer written and designed for Kane Hodder. The film has some of the expected and quite a few unexpected characters thrown in. Its cast of characters is not as generic as some would expect from yet another slasher film and that is a big plus here. The characters are decently written, some expected character traits show up of course, but they are at least not the usual generic messes seen in the early 2000s. 

The cast here is where this film hit a homerun. The film starts with Robert Englund in a boat with Joshua Leonard, both being the opening kills. Knowing that slasher killer Victor Crowley is played by Kane Hodder, this is the kind of opening that gave horror fans what they wanted, thus setting the tone that this film isn’t messing around… And that being a Freddy vs. Jason type of situation with the actor most folks wanted in the Jason part in that film. No offense to Ken Kirzinger, but Kane Hodder is Jason for most people. Now, he’s also Victor Crowley. Hodder is one of those folks who can get in a character like this and make them more than a killer. The fact that he also plays Crowley’s father in the flashbacks gave him more to do here and allowed him to flex his acting muscles in a way we don’t see nearly often enough. Another major horror actor shows up in a part meant to give exposure, but given it’s Tony Todd, it’s all good baby. That man’s voice can tell any story he wants, and I will listen. This man enjoys scaring fans at conventions by the way and he really enjoys telling stories, he’s great to listen to in person as well as on film. 

The rest of the cast is basically there to be fodder for Crowley, but they all do fairly well. Of course, a few of the characters are a bit on the annoying side, but that’s how they are meant to be, so the performers making them so means they did what they needed to do. The cast here is led by Tamara Feldman as Marybeth, daughter of Robert Englund’s character and the only one who is not a tourist in the tour group as she’s going to the swamp for revenge. In the tourist group, the lead is definitely Ben played by Joel David Moore who gives a good nerdy dude who doesn’t know who to approach women without being fully a creep. This gives the character and the performance a chance at not being hated and Moore really makes this part. His performance helps the film a bunch as played any other way, Ben would have been just another creep that the audience wants to see die. These two are set up early on to be the leads and well, to make it until the end of just about. The rest of the killer-fodder here is played by Deon Richmond, Mercedes McNab, Joel Murray, Joleigh Fiore, Richard Riehle, and Patrika Darbo as the tourists and Parry Shen as the world’s most annoying tour guide. These folks all play characters that could be seen as cliché but here they work. Yeah, some of them as predictable, but so what? There are rules to slashers, there are rules to making slashers that work. This one works because it follows some of the rules, bends others, and just gives viewers fun.  

Because it is about the fun here. Adam Green as a writer and director has given us some more serious pieces like Frozen and Spiral, but he’s a fun dude who has a variety of talent when it comes to filmmaking. His career as a whole is interesting and has a good mix of features and short films, something many filmmakers set aside once they do features. He’s also one of the nicest people you can meet at a convention or festival, and he is one of those generous dudes who genuinely wants the best for the industry. Seeing him make fun films is just a perk to him being who he is. If you follow the man on social media, you’ve seen his online live screenings he did during lockdown in the pandemic and the work he does with the Yorkiethon gathering funds to help the Save a Yorkie foundation save more dogs. He’s the kind of dude you see in interviews and think you could be friends with him and in person he’s just the same. So, for his films to be fun and feel like they are made by a bunch of horror fans with a budget is not surprising. For him to understand the importance of people like Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, and Tony Todd in the industry and to fans is something that makes sense. His getting to have them all together in one film, getting to write parts for them and then directed them as well as he did here is the dream of many horror fans and he seems like a deserving horror fan to get to do this. His work here is solid and the fact that there had been 3 sequels and there’s a whole Hatchet Army of fans proves that he has something special in this film and did it right by fans of the genre. Enough fangirling here from someone who has gotten to work with him in photography or else people will find me to be too much. But yeah, Adam Green shows his talent early on with this film and he is a legit good dude.

Hatchet Revisited

Another thing that is work mentioning her is the special effects. This is a bloody film, and it knows it. It needs to be seen uncut of course, something that is not all that difficult to do these days with all the releases out there. The team behind the design of Victor Crowley and his kills is amazing here. Like really great work on a budget that was not all that large. That being said, they definitely made the most of it. The kills, the blood, the gore, it’s all on point and it’s all practical, which is something horror fans are attached to, and this horror fan absolutely loves it. It’s one of those things that can elevate a horror film when done properly and it can really take a set piece from just interesting to downright impressive. The work here shows an understanding of what genre fans want to see and how to bring this to the screen in an effective manner. That head rip kill where Crowley grabs a woman by the lower jaw in one hand and the upper jaw in the other to pull her skull apart? That’s beautiful, like gory poetry. If that single scene doesn’t sell any horror fan on this film, on top of that cast, I don’t know what could to be honest. 

Add to all this good nerdy stuff that the film is well shot by Green’s usual partner in cinematic crime Will Barratt, the score works with some soundtrack songs that are truly mid-2000s, and a wardrobe that screams 2006, this film is a fun watch that looks good, has some era specific goodness in it, and it’s just about that most fun one can have watching people getting ripped apart.  

The fact that it seems like this film is not getting the love it should be these days is criminal. Criminal! It should be on more best-of lists, more listicles about best kills, best slashers, best ensemble casts in horror, best a lot of things. It’s one of those films that shows when you put horror fans with talent in charge, you get something great. Yeah, it’s not perfect. Yeah, it’s oh so very 2006, but it’s also so much fun, so bloody, it doesn’t hold back, it shows the goods, may they be boobs or blood, it has a reverence for the genre it’s in, it’s a film worth watching over and over, worth picking up in its uncut version. This is the kind of film that when it came out, it told us who Adam Green was, what he was capable of, and what to expect from him in the future. The fact that we got part 2 in 2010, and it was released unrated in theaters for a very short time, and it was then followed by Hatchet III in 2013, and Victor Crowley, a lower budget, shot in secret fourth film in 2017 shows how the film created a franchise with lasting effects. The Hatchet Army is still clamoring for another Hatchet film at this point and seeing how the fourth film was produced in pure secret, something not so easy to do in the horror industry, who knows if we’ll get another one, but I know if we do, I’ll be first in line to buy a ticket.  

Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!

Source: Arrow in the Head

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