Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hatchet III

The tagline for the original Hatchet was “Old School American Horror” and it was just that. No frills or gimmicks, just a classic mindless slasher in the vein of Friday the 13th or any number of its multiple imitators. I loved it. It was fast, fun and best of all – funny. The gore was abundant and the kills were creative and brutal. The characters were entertaining and well written, therefore I gave a shit about them when the body count began to rise. Back in 2006 when the market was saturated by sterile PG-13 horror films this was a breath of fresh air to a genre fan like myself.

2010’s Hatchet II picked up at the exact moment the first film ended and continued the story in a logical, yet clichéd fashion. It didn’t have quite the same flair, was more than a little boring in spots and felt like a rush job in some areas. There was some controversy upon its release due to it being shown in theaters unrated. I did manage to see it before it was pulled from screens nationwide due to its overhyped gore content (it wasn’t nearly as nasty as it was made out to be). I enjoyed it, but the original is superior in every way. One of its bright spots is the expanded role for horror icon Tony Todd.

And here we are with Hatchet III
Like part 2, this picks up at the same moment the previous film ended as Marybeth (Danielle Harris) unloads a shotgun into the face of the murderous undying Victor Crawley (Kane Hodder). Unfortunately her nightmare is far from over when she learns from a local investigative journalist (Caroline Williams) that the curse will never end until she reunites Crawley with his father.

While I did find this entry to be a nice improvement over its predecessor, it’s still a far cry from the comical thrill ride the original was. Series creator and director of the first two films, Adam Green, wrote the script and handed the reigns over to first timer BJ McDonnell (a Steadicam operator with over 120 movies to his credit). The change in directors did some good as the film feels new and fresh thanks to the vision of McDonnell and his background. He keeps the film moving at a fast pace that effectively ratchets up tension the closer it gets to its conclusion. While I didn’t find the ultimate resolution satisfactory in the slightest, I cannot blame that on McDonnell. He knows when to show the gory goods and when to keep it vague and off-screen. He still needs to work on his technique to get decent performances out of his actors, but for his first time as a director he’s shows that he has some skills.
The script by Adam Green has two massive issues that I felt were unforgivable. One was leaving the main character, played once again by genre icon Danielle Harris, on the sidelines. She has absolutely nothing to do for the entire runtime except look pissed off and scream “fuck you” at people who are trying to help her. Her big scene in the finale is underwhelming in the extreme and left me cold. The other was how all the police/SWAT officers we spend most of the movie with were written as either idiots or assholes. I didn’t like any of these people at all, which is the exact opposite of the first film where I liked all the major characters. On the flip side Green does manage to sneak in a few awesome callbacks for characters from previous films (one took me completely by surprise), the humor is still in full force and there is always something going on.

The acting, never a highlight in films of this type, is about as decent as it can get. As much as I like Danielle Harris as an actress she really doesn’t have any material to work off of and she is completely wasted in the part. Seeing Zach Galligan (Gremlins) again was a pleasant surprise, but he is more than a little out of place as the town Sherriff.  Caroline Williams seemed to be on her A-Game and plays the only character I really liked out of them all. Perry Shen shows up yet again, albeit as a completely new character unrelated to the brothers he played in the other films. Too bad he’s written as a spineless piss stain, but he is given a few funny lines. But the best of all, of course, is Kane Hodder as Victor Crawley. This guy just has presence and the perfect body language for an unstoppable killer. I laughed a little whenever his character would roar like a grizzly bear (honest, that’s exactly what it sounds like), but it’s all in good, cheesy fun. His Jason in Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood is still his crown achievement, but as Crowley he rocks all the same.
There’s not much else to say without giving the twists away, but I will say this – Hatchet III is (supposedly) the final film in the series. That being said, in my humble opinion the ending is anticlimactic and lame. There is absolutely no closure and the film just ends, as the previous films did as well. I was not happy with anything that happened in the last five minutes and was let down in the extreme.

In the end, Hatchet III is a good step up from Hatchet II, but is nowhere near as awesome as the original Hatchet. With just a couple of decent rewrites this could have been awesome. As it is it’s merely a mediocre sequel. I did enjoy it, but it could have been a hell of a lot more.

3 out of 5

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