Has anyone else made that joke before? I’m not sure, but I like it. Hatchet II is the Citizen Kane Hodder of slasher sequels. What the heck does that mean? It means the movie is gratuitous, hilarious, ridiculous, and insidious. It’s not every day you get to use all those adjectives in a positive way. But then again, it’s not every day you get to see an unrated horror film in cinemas either.
Hatchet II picks up right where the original left off á la Halloween II. The very first frame of the film? A tight close-up on Victor Crowley’s mangled, gurgling face of course! Next we see Danielle Harris take on the role of Marybeth, as she frees herself from Crowley’s grasp and emerges from the swamp. After rounding up a group of hunters with Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd), Marybeth returns to the swamps to defeat Victor Crowley and avenge her family. While the formula is similar to the original, there are many differences that I appreciated.
Jamie's uncle is the boogeyman!
The origin story is more detailed this time, as more supernatural elements are weaved into Crowley’s identity. While this may be a strange route to go with a slasher film, I think it capitalizes on the mythos often found in bayou culture. Plus, we get to see more of Kane Hodder without makeup (playing Crowley’s father again). I was rather impressed with Hodder’s performance and hope this results in more face time in other films. The only downside to the more extensive backstory is the overlap for fans of the original film. The tricky thing about sequels is finding the right balance between recapping information from the first film for new audiences and not boring the crap out of those who have already seen the original. Unfortunately, a little too much time was spent on exposition, causing the first act to feel pretty long.
Speaking of pacing...Much of the pacing problems from the original were improved upon. In the first film, it took too long for the main action to get rolling. Hatchet II gets the cast into danger much quicker (or at least it feels that way) and it was much appreciated. The characters, while not as diverse, are more fun to follow and the character jokes work better. Yes, we all got a little tired of the cat fighting between the airheads in the original. The sequel brings us a colorful collection of rednecks with names like Cleatus and Layton.
The Projects or New Orleans...take your pick.
This film had a lot to live up to in terms of gore. Victor Crowley’s methods of dispatchment are so over-the-top, they are played as comedy. Revolting but funny. Personally, I like the death scenes in the original better, but that doesn’t mean the sequel doesn’t deliver. Intestinal gore, boat propeller to the face, the return of the belt sander, and so much more make Hatchet II the crazy blood bath that it is. In grand sequel tradition, the body count is much grander, including a fantastic montage of deaths at the swamp. Was that a Joe Lynch cameo I saw? Heehee.
Cameos and nods. There are lots of them. Not just in the form of actors either. Adam Green’s directing credit hits the screen next to a shot of the director himself puking the nastiest looking vomit ever. Green inserts lots of little references to his films and others. In Reverend Zombie’ s shop, there’s a little advertisement for the “Jack Chop” with Paul Solet’s smiling face. He’s also watching something on the news about a group of skiers caught in a chairlift. My personal favorite reference is from one of the hunters talking about how he knows of a legend like Victor Crowley in a place called Glen Echo and a man who goes by the name of Leslie Vernon. As a huge fan of Behind the Mask, I was gleeful upon hearing that well-crafted plug.
Crowley mostly comes out at night...mostly.
Through and through, Hatchet II is all about having fun with the horror genre. It’s never making fun of horror; it celebrates the outlandish nature of the genre. Perhaps there are some moments in the beginning when Danielle Harris’ performance is a little too somber and Green is taking the characters a little too seriously, but none of that lasts long before we are treated to mutant-redneck-ghost mutilation.
In the end, Hatchet II is an improved film over Hatchet. The actors, jokes, and structure are better, even if I do prefer some of the deaths from the original. Shot for 2 ½ million dollars without studio support, Hatchet II does a lot with very little. With about zero advertising, it will be difficult for Hatchet II to make money this weekend, which is unfortunate because it deserves a chance to be seen.