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  • 18
  • Comedy, Horror
  • 2006
  • 93 mins




Adam Green's horror comedy resurrects Reagan-era stalk and slash in the Louisiana swamps


Still sore at being dumped by his long-term girlfriend, Ben (Moore) has had enough of all the heavy drinking and casual sex at the New Orleans Mardi Gras, and is trying to persuade his pal Marcus (Richmond) to come along on a haunted swamp tour instead. For Marcus, the choice between "fun party" and "mad badness" is a no-brainer - but in Adam Green's comedy horror Hatchet, viewers get the best of both worlds, as carnivalesque hilarity and carnage go hand in bloody hand.

With "Uncle Remus meets Bruce Lee" Shawn (Shen) as their dodgy guide, Ben and Marcus are joined on the tour by an amateur pornographer (Murray), his two dim-witted starlets (McNab, Fioreavanti), an older married couple (Riehle, Darbo), and a mysterious local girl (Feldman). Deep in the bayou, their boat becomes grounded on rocks, and they are forced to realise that there is some truth after all to Shawn's garbled tale about the ghost of hideously deformed Victor Crowley (Hodder), still wandering the swamps and seeking terrible vengeance on those foolish enough to trespass.

"It's not a remake. It's not a sequel. And it's not based on a Japanese one." So boasts the American publicity tagline for Hatchet, in a barely credible bid for originality. For in the current derivative climate of US-produced horror, Hatchet, with its determined lack of voguish 1970s grindhouse stylings or creepy long-haired Orientals, may not exactly be the same old, but that hardly makes it the different or new.

Like one of the hapless victims in his film, even as Green tries to run forward he cannot resist looking back over his shoulder, and despite the contemporary setting of Hatchet, its villain is unmistakably a ghost from the past. For like Eli Roth's Cabin Fever (2002), Dave Payne's Reeker (2005), James Gunn's Slither (2006) and Gregory Dark's See No Evil (2006), this is a noughties film in love with the tits-and-ass body counts and latex gore of the 1980s - a decade once reviled as horror's lowest period.

Hence the casting of Kane Hodder, who has played 1980s slice-icon Jason Voorhess in four different Friday The 13th instalments, as unstoppable killing machine Victor Crowley. Hence the cameos from Robert Englund (Freddie from the Elm Street franchise) and Tony Todd (Candyman). Hence the tired-and-tested slasher format (where only the modes of dismemberment show any creative variation, and even then not so much), and all that CG-free grand guignol, and the final double-taking homage to the ending of the original Friday The 13th.

So when Green claims to have come up with the idea for Hatchet at the tender age of eight (i.e. circa 1983), it's hardly difficult to believe him - but whether this imbues the film with affectionate nostalgia or just embarrassing puerility will depend on the viewer's tolerance for the repetitive rending of nubile flesh.

What raises Hatchet from swampy oblivion, however, and ensures its success as a multiplex crowd-pleaser, is Green's talent for witty dialogue. We may have seen this kind of mutilation and mayhem done before, and done better, but rarely has it been so funny.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Joel Murray, Patrika Darbo, Deon Richmond, JoLeigh Fioreavanti, Parry Shen, Kane Hodder, Joshua Leonard, Joel David Moore, Robert Englund, Richard Riehle, Tamara Feldman, Mercedes McNab, Tony Todd
  • Director: Adam Green
  • Screen Writer: Adam Green
  • Producer: Cory Neal, Sarah Elbert, Scott Altomare
  • Photographer: Will Barratt
  • Composer: Andy Garfield

In a nutshell

This retro-1980s slice-and-dicer is bloody (and) hilarious.

by Anton Bitel

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