Hatchet 2

Hatchet 2


Reviewed by: David Graham

Post-Scream, horror was swamped with both bog-standard stalk'n'kill drivel and postmodern smugness. The Noughties saw many indie film-makers attempt to take the genre back to its roots in many different ways; 2006's Hatchet was one of the most-hyped of these efforts but also one that cleaved closest to its inspirations, for better and for worse. While director Adam Green hasn’t really changed the formula at all for his sequel to 2006's retro slasher, he has tightened it up in every way to deliver a markedly more effective ride.

The original's heroine Marybeth (who has conveniently morphed into Danielle Harris) is seen escaping from torn-faced bogeyman Victor Crowley in the opening scene. Taking refuge from the haunted New Orleans swamp in a kindly fisherman's cabin, Marybeth begins to piece together the back-story behind the murderous wraith's rampage, while also hatching plans to avenge her family's death at his hands. To this end she solicits the help of Reverend Zombie, a local hoodoo practitioner, who in turn enlists a ragtag group of reward-hungry hunters to take down the ghoul once and for all. Ulterior motives soon make matters more dangerous than they initially appear, and as the party are split up they find themselves picked off one by one, their deaths becoming ever more outlandish as the body count grows.

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Green makes a gross error of judgement after an amusing intro by front-loading his film with endless scenes of unnecessary exposition. Crowley's family history is depicted in admirably straight-faced fashion, with Kane Hodder finally stepping out from behind the hockey mask (having played Jason Voorhees more than anyone else) to give a surprisingly emotional performance as the father whose wrong-doing led to the making of the monster.

Having Tony 'Candyman' Todd narrate these scenes in his deeply sonorous tones adds to their Southern Gothic appeal, but around them he's saddled with some unnecessarily lengthy set-up dialogue, seriously straining the audience's attention span. It's over half an hour between the opening kill and the real start of the action - almost halfway through before the characters make it to Crowley's stomping ground - and despite some amusing cut-aways to legendary deaths, it's disappointing to see the first film's pacing problems return.

The lame humour that bogged down the original is also still present but it’s less cloying than before, largely due to Todd’s expanded and outrageous role as Rev Zombie. He’s a delight, relishing every word and showing a comic gift that he’s sadly seldom utilised. Less effective is Dannielle Harris as the female lead; her feistiness is appealing but she takes it all a bit too seriously, and what the hell’s going on with that perma-arched eyebrow? It’s maddeningly distracting, and coupled with some unhinged over-acting (she's rarely seen without tears in her eyes), she makes for a less likable lead character than Joel David Moore's geeky protagonist from before.

The disposable cast isn’t as annoying as it was in the first film, with several indulgent but entertaining cameos from horror icons and a surprisingly admirable straight-man role for Tom Holland, director of Eighties classics Fright Night and Child’s Play. Despite this, Green seems to have forgotten the dramatic smarts he put to good use in Frozen, with several scenes of overwrought emoting that aren't sincere enough to work or quite OTT enough to be amusing. He also doesn't try hard enough to generate atmosphere or suspense - the sets are largely unconvincing, and aside from a couple of well-orchestrated jumps, he's content to let Crowley amble about in plain view most of the time, seemingly only caring about how far he can go with the next death scene.

To this end, the real stars are definitely the back-to-basics physical effects – no CGI blood here, just glorious rubber prosthetics and excessive splashes of thick, scarlet claret at every opportunity. Some of the kills are genuinely inventive, not to mention amusing in a twisted way, and the film packs a lot of action into the second half of its short running time. It's all so rubbery and unrealistic that it's impossible to take seriously (some of the gore is almost reminiscent of Spitting Image or Team America), and as such is great fun when it's not striving too hard to actually be funny. A further sequel might taint the good work that has been done here – would anybody really want to see Hatchet 10? – but for now this is a winning love letter to the splatter-slasher (splasher?) flicks of yore.

Reviewed on: 03 Apr 2011
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The survivor of the first film returns to the swamp to wreak revenge on the undead madman who killed her family.
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Director: Adam Green

Writer: Adam Green

Starring: Danielle Harris, Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Parry Shen, Tom Holland

Year: 2010

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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