Retro Review: HATCHET II (2010){0}

Just like a thorough horror fan will return to the gory stuff after enjoying a quiet psycho-thriller or a suspenseful tale of simple survival, our pal Adam Green has returned to the sub-genre he loves so much: the slasher flick. The versatile genre freak started out with Hatchet before getting a little more sedate with Spiral and Frozen … and now he’s back with a follow-up that loves nothing more than simple gags, numerous horror-friendly in-jokes, and a handful of colorful characters who do little more than stand around waiting to be demolished in shockingly outrageous ways.

In other words, Hatchet 2 is a lot of fun — provided that you’re among the generation that was raised on the sloppiest sequels of not only HalloweenHellraiserFriday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street, but also the goofier stuff like LeprechaunWishmaster, and Child’s Play.

What will almost certainly be dismissed as assembly-line body count mindlessness is actually an enthusiastic throwback to the days when another gory new horror sequel hit the multiplexes each weekend. Not for all tastes, but certainly tasty for some.

The plot picks up like all the coolest horror sequels do: it begins immediately after the first Hatchet ends, and it keeps the pace moving from its earliest scenes. The sequel focuses on the lone survivor of the first Victor Crowley rampage: the horrified but infuriated Marybeth (Danielle Harris, who replaces Hatchet’s Tamara Feldman) escapes from “Honey Island Swamp,” and makes a beeline for Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd), the sketchy character who helped all those kids get killed in the first flick.

The Reverend delivers a creepy old campfire tale to Marybeth about the true origins of the monstrous Victor Crowley, enlists a few tough-minded manhunters, and accompanies Marybeth back to the swamp of the crime(s). It’s there that everyone gets hacked up in truly amusing and kinetic fashion. If Mr. Green learned one thing from a childhood full of horror sequels, it’s that the cast must be at least slightly interesting, and that the kills must be as elaborate as they are visually disturbing. OK, that’s actually two things, but both of the Hatchet movies feel like they’ve been pulled out of a time capsule with the year 1985 on its lid.

Ms. Harris does a fine job of creating a horror heroine we both respect and root for. she’s scared out of her mind, but she’s also really pissed off. The rest of the cast is a mixed bag, but horror fans will no doubt enjoy the antics of favorites like Tony Todd (Candyman), R.A. Mihailoff (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3), AJ Bowen (The Signal), Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood), and (of course) Ms. Harris, the un-aging sweetheart who’s appeared in more Halloween films than anyone else. (Including Donald Pleasance.) Hey, you make a flick for horror geeks, you better stock it with some names like those ones. (Hell, Green even taps Fright Night director Tom Holland for a key performance.)

As mentioned earlier and often, Hatchet 2 is tailor-made for hardcore horror fans who miss the old-school slasher flicks, but certainly enjoy it when “one of our own” heads back to the well for some gore, mayhem, and carnage. Of special note is that Hatchet 2 is being released theatrically without an MPAA rating, which means the splattery stuff will be memorable indeed. Speaking as only one genre fan, I say screw the MPAA if they can’t take a joke. Hatchet 2 is about as “serious” as a broad slapstick farce, but when horror-makers go a little overboard with their visual gags, the ratings board gets all sketchy.

Perhaps the MPAA ratings board should hire a few volunteers who know how to decipher a silly little slasher sequel. I hope Hatchet 3 comes out bearing an X rating.