VICTOR CROWLEY is part 4 of the HATCHET series. Despite the title it’s not any kind of a reboot or a prequel or anything. Part I-II director Adam Green made it secretly and surprised fans with it at an event advertised to sound like a tenth anniversary screening of the first one, and it’s very much designed as a fun time for dedicated fans of the series and the people who buy t-shirts of Green’s dog and stuff.
So the fact that I didn’t love it shouldn’t scare fans off, because it’s not really for me. I really liked part III, a final girl vs. slasher standoff cranked up to 11. This is more in the tradition of parts 1 and 2, with the quirky character business, broadly cartoonish performances and occasional over the top chopping and splattering of bodies, done with a scream and a wink. Also you got your cameos by horror people, though some of them just in cell phone footage this time.
It’s ten years after the events of parts 1-3 and the supposed lone survivor of the 40+ person swamp massacre – paramedic Andrew Yong (Parry Shen [BETTER LUCK TOMORROW], who played different characters in parts I and II) – is the subject of public suspicion, despite being exonerated of the crimes in court. Like Loomis in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II, he appears on a sleazy day time talk show and does a book signing of an exploitative new memoir and has a dishonorable publicist (Felissa Rose, SLEEPAWAY CAMP, RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP) and gets confronted by family members of victims who blame him. But then he’s promised big money to return to the swamp with a TV crew, so he reluctantly boards a private jet full of goofy characters.
(By the way the talk show host, Sabrina [Krystal Joy Brown] is also his ex-wife, and it plays like that’s supposed to be just the funniest thing you can imagine, so I assumed this was some character I forgot about from the other movies and that it would make more sense with that context. But I looked it up and that’s not the case. Weird.)
Meanwhile, three youths, Chloe (Katie Booth), Rose (Laura Ortiz, Ruby from THE HILLS HAVE EYES) and Alex (Chase Williamson, JOHN DIES AT THE END, THE GUEST), are headed to the swamp with tour guide/wannabe actor Dillon (Dave Sheridan, GHOST WORLD, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS) to film a proof of concept trailer for a movie about Victor Crowley (as you may know from his podcast The Movie Crypt, Green enjoys giving advice to aspiring horror directors). Their voodoo chants seem to revive the ghost of Victor Crowley and the plane crashes nearby and a bunch of people get axed, etc.
The character Victor Crowley is designed to be a throwback slasher icon, with a backstory that’s a little Jason, a little THE BURNING, but with voodoo (like Chucky), and he’s a ghost, although he’s always depicted as a physical being who can be mutilated and stuff. He’s played by famed Jason-portrayer Kane Hodder under lumpy Elephant Man-esque makeup. When I saw part 1 I didn’t like how much moaning and screaming he did, but I guess I don’t really mind anymore. Whenever he shows up it gives the movie a burst of energy because he tends to just run in like a berserker and smash and chop everybody. He doesn’t do any slow stalking. He’s the fast zombie of slashers. There doesn’t seem to be any method to his madness except that he enjoys when body parts are removed from bodies and when blood sprays out of people as if from a fire hose. There’s a certain gory joyousness to it, honestly. And I kind of like Green’s lack of respect for the storytelling convention that you don’t have like five characters who seem to be building up as real characters but just out of the blue die some horrible death.
But I think a jolt of anarchy like that is most effective when it’s invading an organized structure, throwing the world of the routine and the polite into chaos. The HILLS HAVE EYES factor. I still feel that, like part I, this is an homage to the obvious part of the slasher movies we love that ignores the underlying mechanics. Once again there’s little chance for them to be picked off one by one, since most of the characters spend half of the movie together in a big group on one small set. That said, the airplane location at least has interior and exterior and cool ways to shoot Crowley through windows. so it’s a major improvement over the small patch of fake trees that stood in for an entire swamp the first time around.
The tone is a little bit Eli Roth’s comedy tangents, a little bit Troma. Jokes about dicks and butt sex and stuff, sometimes amusing. The character of Dillon comes across as the most aggressively “look at me, I am a funny character being funny” at first, but ends up getting the most laughs out of me. I guess he won me over in the scene where a burnt, bug-eyed corpse falls from the sky and he makes everyone wait while he checks its pulse before declaring it dead.
In my opinion this one is not full-on horror, it’s a horror-themed comedy. With the exception of the opening scene, which goes for laughs but also some tension with the killer being heard in the distance while comedian Jonah Ray proposes to his girlfriend, I never felt like Green was trying for any actual scares.
Well, I guess there was this part. I loved this shot:
But generally the characters and conversations are more about setting up jokes than ever asking you to take anything seriously.
That’s fine. Not my preference, but it’s allowed. It probly played better with crowds, but I didn’t hate it, so I’m sure some people will really enjoy it.
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.