Hatchet II (2010) Adam Green Dulls a Second Hatchet
When I sat down to write this review of Hatchet II, I thought I should refer back to my review of Hatchet only to find that I never reviewed it. That's when I remembered. I had hated Hatchet. I had finally watched it for its New Orleans connection only to find it only featured a single exterior to Rev. Zombie's Voodoo Shop, and the rest of Adam Green's nu-slasher did nothing for me. Victor Crowley wasn't an interesting villain, and Green's mix of splatter and light comedy misses the mark on both fronts. Since then I've softened on Green a bit. He gave the world Slap Chop, Fairy Tale Police, and most importantly Frozen, one of the best thrillers of the past decade. So when Hatchet II hit the market, I knew I would give it a try, and having just watched Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 the other day, I wanted to see how Green's slasher sequel stood up. I was hoping that unlike Chromeskull which I felt was lesser to it's original, Hatchet 2 would be a marked improvement. Well, Adam Green turned everything up in this one, the back-story, the gore, the comedy, but I'm not sure that making it bigger made it better.
Picking up just as the last film left off, final girl Marybeth (Danielle Harris) escapes from Victor Crowley thanks to a passing fisherman (John Carl Buecheler, director, Friday the 13th VII), but after finding out Crowley is after her, he kicks her out. Looking for answers, she returns to Rev. Zombie (Tony Todd reprising his cameo from the first film). He tells her that his Dad and his childhood friends were the ones who killed Crowley to begin with, and he agrees to take her back into the swamp to find their remains. Enlisting a group of hunters, Zombie and Marybeth lead the team in to recover her family and to end the slasher's reign of terror over the swamp. Naturally things go awry and Crowley is soon offing people with boat propellers, comically large chainsaws, belt sanders, and even a table edge for good measure.
I would offer more on the plot of Hatchet II, but the main characteristic it shares with it's predecessor is the need to get to the gore and fast. While Green did attempt to provide more detail to his monster's back-story, it doesn't add any layers to the character, it just gets people closer for him to kill. I do commend Green for going there, but Crowley's origin needs to either make him seem insanely evil (i.e. Freddy being the bastard child of a 1000 maniacs.) or offer some reason we might feel sympathy for the killer (Hey, they did kill Jason's mom, we all saw it.). Green instead spins a tale that makes us feel terrible for Crowley's dad who lead a life that I wouldn't give to a monkey in Iraq. His wife got stomach caner and dies slowly, but not before cursing him and his mistress. Then the mistress gives birth to a mutant and dies from shock. Then the dad kills Victor himself while trying to save him from a fire. I mean seriously I feel bad for the dude, but that was Crowley's dad. That would be like me applying for veteran's benefits because my Dad went to Vietnam. So lesson learned, even if your Dad's life is shit, that does not make me sympathetic when you start killing people with joke chainsaws.
Ok so I've mentioned the chainsaw twice, and for good reason. The moment Victor Crowley stepped out of the shrubbery with a 12 foot chainsaw was the moment I realized for sure that Green was just having a lark. All of the kills feel that way too. After watching the gruesome gore in Chromeskull, I'm thinking Green needs to call up Almost Human for his next project. Crowley's murders were played for laughs, and not even good laughs, cheap, cheap, laughs. While that works for Green in small doses (Slap Chop is always funny), stretching his sense of humor to feature length leaves a lot to be desired. In many ways, it's hard for me to relate the mature, even handed director of Frozen with the man behind Hatchet and Hatchet II, films that never rise above the adolescent. Green turned everything up as far as it would go with his slasher sequel, but I had a hard time not turning it off.
The only reason I got through the film was the cast. Danielle Harris, woefully underused in Chromeskull, shines here, and she really gave the movie an emotional core which it desperately needed. Tony Todd looks like he's having a great time as Rev. Zombie, but being someone who has been in the store that doubles as his set, you are not likely to find someone interesting like him working there. It will most likely be a grumpy person or a white kid with dreadlocks. Kane Hodder gets to come out from the makeup a bit as Victor Crowley's dad, and quickly proves why he's better under 10 lbs of latex and rubber. The best bit player by far was Colton Dunn. He literally saved this movie from getting cut off. Dunn has appeared on Nick Swartzen's Pretend Time, but clever TV viewers will know him as one of the reoccurring animal control officers on Park and Recreation. Plus, viewers should also look out for writer/director/actor Tom Holland (Fright Night) as Uncle Bob, Frozen's Ed Ackerman as redneck Cletus, stuntman Rick McCallum as the silent John, and R.A. Mihailoff (Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) as bad ass hunter Trent, Lloyd Kaufman looking subdued as one of the featured hunters, and Adam Green puking during the films singular New Orleans exterior.
I wanted to like Hatchet II. I wanted to see that Green had somewhat matured and taken this opportunity to do something different with his second slasher. Instead by amping up everything I loathed about the Hatchet, the goodwill built up from years of not seeing that flick is quickly beginning to crumble. I still hold out hope that Adam Green will get it together and bring forth more of the director that I saw in Frozen and leave behind the sight gags and stupid jokes for his short films. The fact that his next feature is a documentary "exploring genre based monster art and the realities from which artists create their fantastical creatures." gives me more hope that is the direction in which he will move. (I'll try to ignore the fact he also directed a short called "The Diary of Anne Frankenstein" right before.) Directors like Adam Green are the future of horror, let's just hope he doesn't fuck it up for the rest of us.