I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Hatchet III

tn_hatchet3Ever since I was a little kid (give or take decades) I’ve always wanted to like the HATCHET movies. They talk a good game about bringing back “old school horror,” they’re throwbacks to the ’80s slashers I’m in love with, they have Kane Hodder as a deformed hillbilly swamp maniac and some funny gore ideas. I also kinda liked writer/director Adam Green’s other movie FROZEN, which of course is sweeping the nation and capturing the hearts of little princesses of all ages who want to see a thriller about people stuck on a ski lift.

On paper HATCHET and HATCHET II are right up my alley, but in practice they took a different street. They’re not comedies, but I found them too self-conscious, too jokey, not atmospheric enough, not structured correctly to be an effective slasher story. I remember the first one as a bunch of actors walking around in a big group on a small, fake-looking swamp set pretending to be lost. I just couldn’t get into it.

So I’m proud to announce that I finally pulled it off. I really liked a HATCHET movie! Part III specifically. Maybe we can credit new director BJ McDonell (promoted from steadicam operator on the first two in the series), but to be fair I-II director Green did write this and was very hands-on as a producer from what I’ve read. Maybe practice makes perfect. After 10,000 hours of making HATCHET movies you get really good at it, like Malcolm McDowell says.

It benefits from being treated as the finale to the trilogy, so it has a great opening and ending and a simple, action-packed plot that’s over in 80 minutes. Actually it feels like a feature length third act.

mp_hatchet3It starts where part II ended. I don’t remember it well enough to be sure if they repeated footage or not, but Final Girl Marybeth (Danielle Harris, MARKED FOR DEATH, THE LAST BOY SCOUT) supposedly kills the undead swamp slasher Victor Crowley. She shoots him in the face and punches through the hole and fist fucks his head. Then she stumbles into the Jefferson Parish Police headquarters covered in blood, toting a shotgun and Crowley’s scalp, and mumbling “I killed him. I killed him!”

This does not go over well with the police. The redneck chief (Zach Galligan from GREMLINS) arrests her and stupidly believes this little shit-talker in yoga clothes is responsible for the gigantic massacre of parts I-II, which an army of officers and medical examiners are sent out to clean up after. (I guess believing Bruce Campbell killed the whole police station in MANIAC COP isn’t that bad after all.) There are many bodies, including the headless Crowley, who does not take kindly to being put in a body bag.

I didn’t like how HATCHET had everybody walking around together in a big group instead of the slasher tradition of splitting up and getting picked off one by one. But here it works because the group are all cops with guns and when they find Crowley it’s time for a sustained sequence of action and over-the-top gore. Four cops surround Crowley and beat him with night sticks, but this turns into reverse police brutality pretty quick. He sends them flying like bowling pins. Then he raises a guy above his head and tears him in half, chops off a guy’s head, slices a guy’s leg out from under him, pins a guy down and rips both his arms off, etc. I think my favorite is the guy he grabs and flips while his gun is firing, then stomps on his head with his big work boot and turns it into mush.

He takes the rampaging berserker type of slasher to the extremes you always wish they would go but never think they would. Also he answers that common question “Why don’t they shoot him?” Well, in this one they shoot him many, many, many times, with no effect.

Meanwhile a reporter who has been disgraced by her belief in the Crowley’s ghost urban legends (Caroline Williams, Stretch from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2) and who is the chief’s ex-wife manages to get Marybeth out of jail because she believes she’s the only one who can stop Crowley from continuously resurrecting like the ghosts in Pac-Man. This is the weaker part because after that badass opening it confines Marybeth to a car for most of the movie. Also, her fuck-you attitude starts to seem less Snake Plissken and more Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II director’s cut. But she gets to have a good climactic showdown.

There are more guest appearances by horror luminaries and what not, all more organic than Tony Todd and Robert Englund’s corny appearances in the first one. I’ll SPOIL just this one: Derek Mears (the remake Jason Voorhees) is an alpha-cop who comes face-to-face with Hodder (part VII-X Jason). He calls him a pussy or something but Crowley punches into his belly and pulls out his spine and skull and wiggles it around in victory.

There’s a little bit of the stilted acting and dialogue of the other ones, but mostly it comes off more natural and gets the right tone I’m looking for: enjoyably absurd but not exactly tongue-in-cheek. Or at least it’s a very dry sense of humor. One way it’s funny is in its brutal treatment of the characters. It sets up all these relationship b-plots and stuff but then these characters who I really thought would survive just keep getting torn up. For example one character (SPOILER for what happens to unnamed character) suddenly gets his/her head ripped off, blood sprays out of the stump and then Crowley hurls the severed head like a baseball and beans Marybeth on the head with it. Ouch! That’s what I want to see.

I am a firm believer that people in real life don’t always think of the smartest possible thing to do, and therefore it is not usually worth criticizing when the people in a movie don’t either. But I do have to point out that the Jefferson Parish Police Department is foolish for not calling in the Sheriff’s Department. I know they say the only person who can kill Victor Crowley’s ghost is the last remaining relative of the guy who killed his living body. But the fact is he could also be killed by Deputy Chief Steven Seagal – that’s right, Steven Seagal – and the rest of his crew from Steven Seagal: Lawman.

So anyway, this one made sitting through the other two worthwhile, though you could watch it on its own.

http://youtu.be/8xSrUgv13L8

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, December 18th, 2014 at 1:40 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

16 Responses to “Hatchet III”

  1. I kinda like all of the HATCHETs. They’re goofy and often not that well made, but they’re fun and I have a lot of affection for the horror lifers who made them. Part 1 has my favorite gore effect of the 21st century (the part where he pulls the top half of that guy’s head back like a Pez dispenser), and Part 2 and 3 have Danielle Harris, which if I’m being honest is more than enough to get me onboard. There’s just something about that girl. As long as she’s onscreen, I’ll burn my eyes out before I look away.

  2. Had me at “80 minutes.”

    To the internet machine…

  3. Is the music at least better than the first one? God, the first HATCHET’s score made it painful to watch. Sounded like some dude made it on his laptop.

    Bad synthesizer music will make me turn my back on a movie pronto. It’s the main reason I couldn’t ever watch SMALLVILLE and the one thing I hate about cool movies like PRINCESS BRIDE and LADYHAWKE. My brain just automatically rejects it.

  4. I have seen the first one of these and it was alright but not good enough for me to be compelled to check out any of the sequels. I would be on board if Seagal shows up in the 4th one. Lets see Crowley come back form the dead after Seagal gouges his eyes out with his thumbs, breaks his back, and throws him down an elevator shaft.

  5. The Original Paul

    December 19th, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    “Is the music at least better than the first one? God, the first HATCHET’s score made it painful to watch. Sounded like some dude made it on his laptop.”

    YES. I don’t think people appreciate how much effect bad scoring can have on a movie. The example I always cite is Shyamalan’s THE VILLAGE – apart from the dialogue, the only thing that really kills this movie for me is the fact that they keep scoring what are clearly meant to be deadpan comedy moments with Hilary Hahn’s drippingly emotional violin strokes. It kills the comedy and just ruins the moment.

    Anyway, back on topic… I had this problem with HATCHET as well. Sounds like #3 is better in some respects. Does it also beat out the original HATCHET in terms of scoring?

    Majestyk: “There’s just something about that girl. As long as she’s onscreen, I’ll burn my eyes out before I look away.”

    I know exactly what you mean. I can’t even put my finger on a particular performance that she’s given that I find “best”. She just brings so much “cute” to every character she plays that I find myself constantly rooting for her.

  6. This review is spot-on. Each time a new installment comes out, I’ve been excited and then let down, wondering how a dude like this can make a movie like Frozen and then somehow bungle what should be an easier exercise. I think they hit the nail on the head this time. Its really the only one worth recommending as a good slasher.

  7. grimgrinningchris

    December 20th, 2014 at 9:02 am

    I really wanted to like this one more than I did. BJ is a good buddy of mine and my roommate plays a (non speaking) cop in the jail scenes.

    I even took my nephew (who is a huge horror fan) to a private screening BJ held here when the movie was first finished so I saw it under optimum conditions too.

    I found it just as silly as the first two and the kills TOO over the top- in a trying too hard way.

    I don’t blame BJ. He was stuck with Green’s template. I really hope he gets another shot to do something more his own. I know he has tons of ideas but keeps so busy with big budget steadicam work (from Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter to The Interview- oh is he ever pissed right now) but his passion really is horror. Fingers crossed that he can find the time and backing to get one of his original ideas off the ground soon.

    I dunno. Maybe if I watched it back to back with the others I’d see the improvement that Vern sees.

  8. I hate all three Hatchet films. They just aren’t good and not a throw back to slasher films from the 80s in in the least.

    Also, I really like Frozen, though, but I finally figured out the one thing they could have done to get themselves out of the predicament up high. They should have gone all jail break and taken their clothes and tied them together to create a rope. Then when they get to the bottom they take their ski shit and ski to the lodge, break into a window and call for help. Though from now on if I ever go skiing I’m taking rope with me just in case. lol

  9. grimgrinningchris

    December 21st, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    I will say that it was nice SPOILERSPOILERSPOILERSPOILER to, after bring in the biggest movie ever, to see Joel David Moore embrace his roots to come back for an amusing cameo.

  10. grimgrinningchris

    December 31st, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Vern- I showed BJ your review (he is home for the holidays) and he said its his favorite review he’s seen/heard for it and pretty much agreed with everything you said- including the criticisms.

    It’s not Albert Pyun coming and posting here or Cage publically acknowledging “mega acting” but its still pretty cool.

    Also got to see a new original short he just directed (unfinished effects) as a showcase to try and getting backing to turn it into a feature.
    He doesn’t want it to get out with the effects not done- but once they are I’ll come back and link it.

    Also went to see The Interview with him on Sunday (he shot it) with a group of like 20-25 people- most of us wearing homemade Kim Jong Un masks.
    Good times.

  11. Hey, that’s cool. Glad to hear he’s doing more directing.

  12. Grimgrinningchris

    April 30th, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Vern- not features but there’s a storyline arching between them BJ has directed the last three Slayer videos over the past two years. Dunno if you’ve seen those yet, but they’re basically a prison/crime/horror short film set to metal. Lots of faces you’d recognize too.

  13. So the new Hatchet movie is coming and they’re doing a showing of it. I need to go. For some reason I both hate and love that these movies exist. I remember getting really excited for, I think it was part 2, on a midnight showing and I guess that it did so bad in presales or something that they cancelled the screening of it. AMC then pulled the movie super quick because it was doing so poorly or something.

    Anyway, I wondering if Victor Crowley will be the first actual good Hatchet movie or if it will just be more of the same.

  14. So the new Hatchet movie is coming and they’re doing a showing of it. I need to go. For some reason I both hate and love that these movies exist. I remember getting really excited for, I think it was part 2, on a midnight showing and I guess that it did so bad in presales or something that they cancelled the screening of it. AMC then pulled the movie super quick because it was doing so poorly or something.

    Anyway, I wondering if Victor Crowley will be the first actual good Hatchet movie or if it will just be more of the same.

  15. I almost posted an open question on whether or not I should go to the Halloween showing here. Adam Green and Kane Hodder will be in attendance and I really didn’t like the first one, disliked the second one, thought the third one was okay. Even though CROWLEY is being marketed as a ‘reboot’ (ignores 2 & 3) I’m given no reason to believe Green is going to change up his (HATCHET) style for this one (I really like his FROZEN movie though). I decided not to post it because re-reading it I kinda came off a brag (‘Hey guys should go I see a movie I’ll probably not like so I can see/maybe meet Kane Hodder?). The reviews are good but the reviews for the other three were good to great. Every review is the same in regards: ‘This movie reminds of me the ’80s!’ ‘Adam Green is a nerd JUST LIKE US so we should support him even though he’d not very good! #leslievernon4lifeson”

    Still not sure if I should go to the Roadshow screening or just wait for home video. Maybe these movies play better in a packed theater of excited horror/Green fans?*

    *I saw the first HATCHET in a semi-half-full theater and I can tell you that movie went over with a thud so it wasn’t just me and my friend who thought it was a dud/over-hyped.

  16. I like Frozen but it’s a weird one for me. I remember years ago I had questioned some things about Hatchet and Frozen and he addressed them in an interview at Dread Central. Anyway, I questioned how the kids could have been trapped on the ski lift. Like I said I still like Frozen but I often think about different ways they could have easily gotten down from there. For instance, at no point they don’t think about just tying their jackets together in order to create a rope? or that they don’t bother to use the clothes to help gripping the cables? Or that the guy decided to try to land on his feet, how dumb was that guy. Or how about they throw things in front of the vehicle instead of trying to, you know, hit the window. It’s really an effective movie but so fucking stupid.

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