BLU-RAY REVIEW: HATCHET III

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11.11.2013

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BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
MSRP $34.98
RATED Unrated
STUDIO Dark Sky Films
RUNNING TIME 81 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES
• Crew Commentary with Adam Green, BJ McDonnell, Will Barratt, and Robert Pendergraft
• Cast Commentary with Adam Green, BJ McDonnell, and Kane Hodder
• Featurette: Hatchet III: Behind the Scenes
• Featurette: Raising Kane
• Featurette: Swamp Fun
• Trailer

The Pitch

It answers all the unanswered questions left over from Hatchet II. Mainly: “Why did I just watch this?”

The Humans

Adam Green (Writer/Producer/Actor), BJ McDonnell (Director), Danielle Harris, Zach Gilligan, Caroline Williams, Parry Shen, Derek Mears

The Nutshell

In the epic third installment of Adam Green’s modern slasher franchise, the vengeful Marybeth (Danielle Harris) teams up with a local policeman (Zach Gilligan) and his ex-wife (Caroline Williams) to uncover the secret to killing the seemingly invincible maniac Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) once and for all. While the trio races to find a way to stop the monster’s murderous rampage, a heavily-armed team of mercenaries takes to the bayou surrounding Crowley’s home and goes head-to-severed head with the lunatic in an all-out bloodbath that raises both the bar and the body count of the previous two Hatchet films put together.

Sid Haig: The World’s Only 3-D Richard Corbin Drawing.

The Lowdown

I am an unapologetic fan of Hatchet. I think it’s a victim of its own hype and it had moments where the plot or the humor (sometimes both) didn’t really work, but on the whole it was a refreshing throwback to the slasher movies of the 70s and 80s with a fresh self-aware and cynical twist as well as a bevvy of wonderfully violent set-pieces that made it memorable.

Unfortunately I cannot say the same of Hatchet II. Writer/Director Adam Green, drunk on his own hubris, managed to get a fairly wide release with no MPAA rating; this was a bold and impressive feat that was underscored by how much of a straight-to-DVD quality turd the movie actually was. Green publicly bitched when it was yanked from theaters almost immediately after a very unspectacular week blaming the content but not understanding that the movie he might could only charitably be called “bad.”

Hatchet II has its apologists (some on this very site) but even they can only muster a half-hearted defense. It was weakly plotted, horribly shot, the killer’s make-up looked stupid and we saw far too much of it, the humor was either ridiculously juvenile or just ugly and often stepped on any genuine emotional or scary moments the movie managed to have, there were a ton of pointless side-plots that went nowhere, the main character’s motivations were nonsensical, most of the acting was awful, the gore effects looked rubbery and cheap, it had a seething disdain for all its characters (even the likeable or sympathetic ones), and it told us early in the movie how un-killable the killer is only to throw all these characters who are obviously going to die over something that obviously won’t work. There is a great moment in Hatchet III where, after Marybeth tells Zach Gilligan’s sheriff what happened he points out how contrived, stupid, and weird the decision-making of everyone involved was and former director Adam Green (playing the drunk character he played in the prior two movies) looks deeply offended.

This guy gets it.

Hatchet III picks up where Hatchet II left off with Michelle… er, I mean Marybeth freshly escaping after slaying Radu… I mean, Victor Crowley for the fifth time. (Yes, I’m saying these movies are the modern equivalent of Subspecies.) She strolls into a police station (I thought these movies took place in New Orleans but it feels more like a small town) carrying a scalp and a shotgun and is promptly arrested.

A team of deputies and EMTs are dispatched to the swamp to survey the damage. Of course, once nightfall comes, Crowley wakes up again and the whole thing starts over. The sheriff takes whatever remaining deputies and a SWAT team to find his missing people while his ex-wife (a Victor Crowley expert) gets Marybeth out of jail and takes her to the swamp with a plan to get rid of Crowley once and for all.

I can’t say whether Hatchet II’s shortfalls were due to Adam Green’s involvement but I will say that Hatchet III thrives in his absence. The cinematography is a lot better for one; picture quality is crisp and longer has that “direct-to-DVD” grain about it. Victor Crowley’s make-up has been fixed and he looks scary again, a dynamic use of camera angles and shadows hides and potential weaknesses. Better actors were put in smaller parts this time around and those characters are given something to do other than be annoying. The plot contains some actual pathos and emotion and manages to achieve some genuine tension and be scary rather than just feel like a stag reel of gory set-pieces.

There are now so many people in the cast that Crowley’s kills are quick and brutal and a great deal more choreographed than before. There are two great scenes where he tears into several people at once and they’re great for action lovers as well as gore-hounds.

I didn’t know Mickey Rourke was in this, too.

We’ve got a whole new crew of genre actors including Sean Whalen (Roach from The People Under the Stairs), Sid Haig, Derek Mears (Jason in the Friday the 13th remake), Caroline Williams (Stretch from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Diane Goldner (Harley Mom/Biker Queen from the Feast movies), and Zach Gilligan (Billy from Gremlins and Gremlins 2) as well as returners Perry Shen and Danielle Harris.

Caroline Williams and Zach Gilligan were a stroke of luck for this movie. While the first one didn’t have any real notable horror talent and Hatchet II had Tom Holland (not an actor) and Tony Todd (an actor who should be ashamed of his performance in that movie.) Williams and Gilligan both have a lot of charisma and have had enough non-genre work that they can sell their performances well. In a lot of ways02 Gilligan’s sheriff is the hero of this picture and he does a good job in this role. You feel his skepticism and you feel his concern for other people and feel bad when things don’t go right, he’s miles about Tony Todd’s scenery chewing huckster from the second movie or Perry Shen’s cartoonish con-man from the first.

Speaking of Perry Shen, yes, he is back. And no he isn’t playing yet-another twin brother of his character from the first movie. Shen plays Andrew, an EMT who only looks like Sean and Justin (there’s even a joke made about this on how people think all Asian guys look alike) and doesn’t attempt to do any awful fake accents. He’s an actual character this time and one of the more likeable ones at that.

Danielle Harris is great but she’s not given a lot to do here. She does a wonderful job in the opening scenes but for the rest of the movies she just sits in a jail cell or a police car and looks pissed off until the finale. She is a much more sympathetic character (largely because they don’t pull large chunks of her back story out of their ass this time) and her emotional beats don’t fall as flat this time. I hope she gets a larger role in the inevitable Hatchet IV.

Derek Mears isn’t really what he’s made out to be. I wouldn’t spoil this but if you’ve seen the past two movies then you know who, if anyone, is going to still be alive at the end of this movie and that Derek Mears isn’t making that list. Mears plays a SWAT leader who is channeling Arnold Schwarzeneggar from Predator. The clash between Mears is decidedly anti-climactic and I think it’s meant to be a mockery likes the fight between classic Godzilla and “Zilla” (the monster from the Godzilla remake) in Godzilla Final Wars. And just like in that example, having the actor who played Jason when he become an outright self-parody kill the actor who played Jason in the gritty remake because he’s dumb is kind of a pot and kettle situation. Of course it wouldn’t be a Hatchet movie without a lazy horror movie in-joke.

The outcome of every single Mardi Gras since the dawn of time.

While most of the annoying tics from Green’s prior two movies have been dialed back, the man is still writing and producing this thing so there are a few vestiges left. Some jokes work but things like Sid Haig’s racist old man character and a scene involving a pair of testicles hanging from a tree branch are low-hanging fruit. In the case of the testicle bit, it takes all of the tension out of a pretty creepy scene. Maybe if the jokes weren’t so lazy they might work but even still the comedic timing is all off.

Crowley is a lot scarier in this one but his character is still a dead end. He can’t leave his swamp and since he’s a ghost, he can’t be killed. It’s a problem the later Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movies had, there’s no glimmer of hope as the killer has been established to be un-killable but getting in their path requires the potential victims to be negligently stupid to begin with.

This time everybody in the swamp has a reason to be there, but even still there are several instances of a character who knows Crowley can’t be killed “killing” him and then immediately turning their back on his corpse to declare victory only to be eye-fucked by their own femur bone. This happens at least twice in this movie alone. If your killer requires his victims to be incredibly stupid to be effective then he’s poorly written!

Characters do fare a little better this time but it’s kind of a dick move to give a good character a spectacular death. It’s not fun or scary to do this, it’s really ugly and mean spirited in tone. One doesn’t really appreciate their sacrifice because what’s happening is grotesque but they can’t enjoy it for its macabre entertainment value because it’s happening to a character who’s sympathetic and is completely tonally inappropriate to a horror comedy. There’s four or five deaths that are just really hard to watch and it feels like the movie is just laughing while you squirm uncomfortably. Still the gore effects are well done even if the blood has a bizarre orange tint to it. Even Crowley’s new ability to growl like a bear can’t take away from the creep factor.

Hatchet III has some flaws but it’s easily the best entry in the series so far and delivers that “old fashioned American Horror” that was promised but never given back in part 1. Unfortunately it’s good enough that you’re now going to be forced to begrudgingly buy Hatchet II just so there isn’t a hole in your collection. I am sorry for this thing.

The Package

I hope you like listening to Adam Green and BJ McDonnell talk about Hatchet III because that’s really all that both commentary tracks are. The first one (Crew Commentary) features Green, McDonnell, Cinematographer Will Barratt, and Make-up/Effects Artist Robert Pendergraft. The second commentary (“Cast” Commentary) features Green, McDonnell, and Kane Hodder. Neither one is particularly interesting.

There are three featurettes that are really just little fluff pieces on the making of the movie, working in the swamp, and keeping Kane Hodder in work and off of celebrity dancing shows. There’s also a trailer and a teaser but I don’t think anybody actually ever watches those on their DVDs.

The disc is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with English 5.1 Dts-HD Master Audio. It features Spanish and English (for the deaf or hard of hearing) subtitles.

Rating:
★★★☆☆

Out of a Possible 5 Stars



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