“Hatchet” is an overall more conventional form of slasher film than last year’s “Behind The Mask”, also released by Anchor Bay, but apart from that one detail it does have a lot going for it. As a connoisseur I can tell you that it’s not bad at all. It’s fun for damn sure. It’s got great pacing. The characters are not cardboard cutouts waiting to be killed. The story behind the maniac stalking our people is inspired by the best of the genre. It’s well directed, well acted and the effects are top notch. Hell, you even get to see Kane Hodder EMOTE. It’s a complete and rounded slasher film.
The story is about Ben and Marcus, two friends visiting New Orleans for a weekend of fun and drinking. Ben’s just been dumped and doesn’t feel much like getting blotto, so he suggests that they go on a midnight ghost tour of the bayou by boat. Marcus thinks this is a stupid idea, but agrees in the hope that pacifying his buddy will snap the guy out of his funk so that he can come back to the party. They’re joined on the boat by the Asian tour guide whose down home country accent suspiciously comes and goes, the softcore porn producer and his two sexy starlets, the bickering older couple who you just f*****g KNOW are gonna die first, and the quiet girl who doesn’t want to talk about why she’s on the tour even though she’s from around these parts.
The particular swamp they’re visiting is haunted by the restless spirit of Victor Crowley, a deformed boy who was tormented as a child and who died when his house was burned down by bullies year ago. His specter still stalks the swamp and will rip your arms off and beat you with the stumps if he so much as sees you. Crowley makes for a great old-school villain, a huge deformed backwoods maniac with a daddy complex. “Hatchet” easily lives up to its old school American horror label that it applied to itself. This film may not be the evolution that “Behind the Mask” was, but it’s the next best thing: A retro throwback to 1986 era slasher movies that’s so faithful to the style that you’d need a time machine to get anything more authentic.
Soooo… why didn’t it completely blow me away if I’m such a slasher movie geek?
Well, you see, it’s like this: A slasher film, in its simplest possible incarnation, is about a group of people being stalked by someone and killed one at a time. Now there’s two ways to do it. One is to have the victims not know they’re being stalked, even after most of them are dead. The majority of older slasher films used this technique because it allowed for more character development, and less technically complex chase scenes. The other is to have the characters realize they’re in danger, crowd together, and try to get out of the mess while being slowly picked off. I don’t like this second technique much. Done badly it can turn into a Scooby-Doo cartoon. “Hatchet” does it the second way; the way I don’t like. But to its credit, it does it very well. In fact, it does it better than just about every other movie I’ve ever seen that uses it.
I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say with all this over-analysis is that, even thought it’s not my preferred vintage; this is still a fine wine. “Hatchet” delivers on all points. It is an expertly executed slasher film done by someone who genuinely loves the genre and if you’re a fan you’ll enjoy it.