The Motion Picture Association of America has a stranglehold on the movie industry. Any film that hopes to get a theatrical release in a major theater chain has to abide by the rules set by the MPAA and reach a rating of R or lower. To release an unrated movie, a horror movie no less, in a chain as large as AMC is unprecedented. But that’s precisely what Anchor Bay Entertainment is doing with Hatchet II, Adam Green’s follow-up to his immensely popular Hatchet. With the benefit of an unrated description, Hatchet II delivers the type of bloody, gory thrills you wouldn’t receive had the MPAA forced the filmmakers to hack their movie up. While I’m less than thrilled about the final product, I commend everyone involved with this move. We are seeing the director’s vision, not an edited one to fit into society’s flimsy standards.
At the end of Hatchet, deformed killer Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) had killed off everybody who entered his New Orleans swamp except for one girl named Marybeth. As he grabbed her, the film cut to black. End movie. Hatchet II picks up literally at that very second. Marybeth (played in this movie by the far superior Danielle Harris) somehow makes it out of the swamp alive and ends up back on the raucous streets of Mardi Gras, but wants to go back to find the bodies of her brother and father and give them a proper burial. So she employs Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd), a local shop owner to help her. If they happen to find Victor (and they will) and kill him, all the better.
Slasher movies are hard to pull off because they can be so many things. They can be fun, funny, scary, a mix of all three or none of them. The line one must walk to success is poorly defined and, coincidentally, most slashers fail, but Hatchet succeeded beyond all expectations. It didn’t redefine the genre, but it brought back the feeling of slashers gone by, when killers in masks ruled the theaters. It may have lacked the scares, but it had fun and funny in spades. From beginning to end, Hatchet was a blast and I have no problem calling it one of the greatest slashers ever made. Hatchet II, quite frankly, is a disappointment.
Hatchet may not have been scary, but it wasn’t trying to. Similarly, it was hard to take seriously, but again, it never asked us to. It existed in a world where slashers were fun, where the kills and the constant wisecracks from the able cast elicited chuckles. Hatchet II, conversely, tries to be scary and asks, at least more than the original, to be taken seriously. This one tries harder and, therefore, fails harder.
What it’s sorely missing, more than anything else, is the humor from the original. The first half of Hatchet was downright hilarious. Outside of a jump scare or two, the majority of the opening scenes were meant to be funny, and they were. When the kills began, however, you were still laughing because they were fun. Hatchet II is not funny (sans one hilarious sex scene with prominent horror star AJ Bowen) and the kills, while creative and sure to please gorehounds, are kind of unpleasant. There’s not much fun to be had here, which strips it of the old school, campy 80’s vibe the original carried so well.
Coincidentally, the cast isn’t as likable. With the exception of Danielle Harris, who is a huge step up from Tamara Feldman in the original, none of the characters are given personalities. Nearly doubling the body count from the original means having more people out there in the woods, but the screenplay gives them nothing but a line or two and a dismemberment.
Still, as far as these things go, Hatchet II isn’t all that bad. Its kills are inventive, though some are overly brutal, and it moves at such a breakneck pace that its many faults are sure to pass by unnoticed in the midst of all the bloodshed. It’s a big step down from director Adam Green’s previous efforts, but Hatchet II is mildly recommendable all the same.
Hatchet II receives 3/5