Retro Review: HATCHET (2006){0}

I was happy to sit down with Adam Green’s Hatchet in a quiet room with the volume cranked up, and here’s why: The last two times I saw Hatchet, I was sitting with some very enthusiastic film festival audiences — and I will admit that seeing a movie in that sort of situation can mask a film’s shortcomings or make its meager assets seem just a little more impressive. So my plan with Hatchet was to sit down and watch it like I’d re-watch Friday 2 or Freddy 3; re-watch-ability plays a big part in a horror flick’s reputation and shelf life.

So having explained myself, I’m pleased to opine that Hatchet most certainly holds up to repeat viewings. Much like a few of the other recent and “smaller” horror flicks (like Severance and The Host), Hatchet offers not only enough horror hijinks to keep the fans fat and satisfied, but it’s also in possession of a very strong sense of humor — and a little wit goes a long way towards making a horror flick’s “set-up” worth watching.

The plot is intentionally basic and enjoyably simple: A group of goofballs on a night-time bayou tour are stalked (and generally dismembered) by an inhuman man-beast known as Victor Crowley. All the questions that matter in a slasher-style misadventure are A) are the characters at least a little bit interesting?, B) is the killer suitably scary and/or bad-ass?, C) is there lots of carnage? (Bonus question: Any bare boobs?) And the answers (yay!) are “yes” across the board. Plus, Hatchet throws a lot of icing on the cake in the form of A) solid actors, B) lots of little stuff that only horror fans will appreciate, and C) some really awesome gore. Yes, I mentioned the splatty stuff twice because it’s just that cool.

If every slasher movie had a cast like Hatchet, the sub-genre might actually earn a little respect. Joel David Moore, Tamara Feldman, and Deon Richmond strike a really amusing chemistry together, especially once the mayhem kicks off. Horror veterans will no doubt appreciate the contributions from Tony Todd, Robert Englund, and Kane Hodder, and the supporting players (y’know, the eventual corpses) are actually quite likable. (Compare these guys to the victims in the Friday sequels!) Best of all, the lunatic is quite memorably ferocious indeed. At least maniacal enough to warrant a sequel or two, anyway.

It’s not brain surgery, folks. Written and directed by a guy who clearly grew up in love with the horror shelf, Hatchet feels like it fell right out of 1986. If you’re a fan of the ‘old-school slasher’ flick, I’ve very little doubt that you’ll dig what Hatchet has to offer. I may have a soft spot for this sort of stuff (it’s my default position), but I can also tell that the Hatchet-makers dug a lot of quality out of very little money. Plus it’s an Anchor Bay title, and you know what THAT means: DVD goodies galore, gorehounds!

If you are among those who ventured out and saw Hatchet during its theatrical release, good for you, says I. But you’re in for some new footage once you toss that Hatchet platter into your player. As you probably know by now, Hatchet had to lose (more than) a little gore for its theatrical release, but ALL of the splatter has been reinstated for the DVD release. On top of that, the flick looks great in its anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer and sounds just dandy in Dolby Digital 5.1. (One gripe: Anchor Bay really has to get rolling on the subtitles already. C’mon, fellas!)

Extras-wise, there’s a lot here: Fans of the film will no doubt enjoy the loose-yet-informative audio commentary with Adam Green, cinematographer Will Barratt, and actors Joel David Moore, Tamara Feldman, and Deon Richmond. All of the participants have their own share of war stories, but all seem to be very pleased with the way Hatchet (finally) turned out. You’ll also find over an hour of well-produced featurettes: The Making of Hatchet is a great 40-minute piece that covers nearly everything, Meeting Victor Crowley and Guts & Gore focus on some more specific aspects of the flick, Anatomy of a Kill centers on my very favorite murder from the movie, and A Twisted Tale spins a strangely sweet story about director Adam Green and Twisted Sister front-man Dee Snider. Rounding out the packed disc are a funny gag reel and the original theatrical trailer.

It’s pretty simple, really: The guys who grew up worshiping at the altar of Meyers, Voorhees, and Krueger are now old enough to make their own horror movies. And a few of those movies are really quite entertaining. Hatchet is one of ‘em.