Review: Hatchet II, starring Danielle Harris and Tony Todd

Hatchet II, starring Danielle Harris and Tony Todd
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PLOT: Picking up immediately where the last film left off (so if you haven't seen the first one, I advise you stop reading), our terrorized heroine Marybeth barely escapes the clutches of Victor Crowley, ultimately finding some refuge with the shady Reverend Zombie. Together, the two mount a hunting party and head back out into the swamp in an attempt to put an end to Crowley's reign of horror once and for all.

REVIEW: When Adam Green's HATCHET came out in September of 2007, its tagline was simple yet, for horror geeks, smelled just like catnip: "Old School American Horror". Not a peek into the film's plot as much as a hint of its mindset, which was to hearken back to the slashers of the late 70s and early 80s, when plots didn't matter as much as gory, imaginative kills, and the man doing the murdering had a spooky background best spoken of by the campfire. For folks like me, a picture like that was more than welcome, and when HATCHET was ultimately unveiled, it more or less delivered on its promises: A crazed killer systematically picked off a group of unlucky tourists in a swamp, each death sequence more outrageous than the last. Sweet and simple...

Of course, in keeping with tradition, a sequel is in order, and here comes HATCHET II, which arrives with significant fanfare: it will be the widest unrated theatrical release in more than 20 years, giving gore hounds a prime opportunity to witness some no-holds-barred bloodshed on a big screen. And if any movie deserves to be seen unrated, it's HATCHET II right? Right... Sorta.

The film brings the blood, no question. As in the first one, the red stuff sprays like shaken champagne, sometimes hitting the screen, mostly just dousing the swamp and anything within striking distance of the severed artery. Heads are hacked off, bodies ripped in two, faces bashed in - everything you could hope for... And it's all rather uninspired and repetitive. It seems an odd complaint, especially since I've already mentioned how I adore movies of this ilk, but in the case of HATCHET II, it gets old fast, feeling like the same gag over and over. A person stands there, Victor Crowley approaches them (Green never really attempts tension or suspense) and mincemeat is made out of said person's jelly-like body. Perhaps I've seen one too many beheadings in my time, or maybe HATCHET had raised the bar too high, but it's dispiriting to find that Green never truly takes things to the next level here, opting for the same humdrum murder sequence over and over. There's certainly nothing even approaching the epic face-ripping in the first film, I can tell you that with assurance.

My issues with HATCHET II don't stop there. If the deaths seem a tad on the monotonous side, it's really nothing compared to the outright boring first act of the picture. After Marybeth (a good Danielle Harris, subbing for the departed Tamara Feldman) escapes Crowley's clutches, there's a brief scene featuring the entertaining disembowelment of a grizzled hunter, but after that there's an interminable amount of time spent hanging out with Tony Todd's over-the-top Reverend Zombie and his gang of crusty locals, none of whom make any sort of memorable impact. Horror fans will initially appreciate seeing the likes of Tom Holland (director of CHILD'S PLAY, here playing Harris' concerned uncle), R.A. Mihailof (Leatherface from, well, LEATHERFACE) and A.J. Bowen (THE SIGNAL, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) in supporting roles, but unfortunately their characters are so inconsequential that spending time with them becomes a chore. And while the original movie had scenes of genuine charm and humor thanks to its likable leads (specifically a sorely-missed Joel David Moore), HATCHET II's attempts at levity are completely lame, and the designated comic relief, in the form of comedian Colton Dunn, is not the least bit funny.

Another big problem: the majority of HATCHET II's second half - when we're in Victor Crowley's neighborhood - was quite obviously filmed on a soundstage. This is an unavoidable detriment ( no matter how much easier it made the production) because it's never convincing for a moment that we're in an actual swamp. The actors in HATCHET, thanks in large part to its tangible locations, were noticeably in a grimy, sweaty, humid environment, adding to the overall icky feel of the film. HATCHET II never brings that level of authenticity; you get the feeling that just off to the right somewhere there's a coffee machine sitting on a folding table.

Maybe I'm being too hard on it, a case of high expectations getting the better of me. After all, Green isn't trying to reinvent the wheel - far from it. But if I'm to judge it solely on the idea that Green wants to better his first film and dish out a gorier, grislier experience built to get an audience cheering, HATCHET II misses the mark, and misses wide.

4.5 out of 10

Extra Tidbit: HATCHET II hits theaters on OCTOBER 1st.



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