Review: ‘Hatchet II’
Going for the Jocular Jugular
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Credit: Dark Sky Films
“Hatchet II” (opened October 1 at AMC Palm Promenade and was pulled after its weekend run) is being touted as the first “unrated” horror film in decades to open in theaters. So as a fan of horror I felt obligated to show my support.
Sorry for not getting to this sooner but there was no press screening for this and I had to hit a late night screening with the San Diego Horror and Action Meetup Group to catch it. And it's only playing at ONE theater in San Diego making it even more difficult to see the film. The turnout was small so if you want to see this on the big screen in San Diego you have to act fast.
Now when I heard "Hatchet II" was “uncut” and “unrated” I was expecting it to be something gruesome and scary. But “Hatchet II” is really just a goofy comedy brimming with gore. It goes for the jocular jugular, and if you want to see the human body mutilated in clever and amusing ways than this is the film for you. If you haven't seen the original from 2006, don't worry. You don't need to because the first film is handily summarized in the opening of the sequel. There's even a rundown of kills from the first film. And kills is really all these films are about. Story and plot are minimal, character development doesn’t go beyond hair color, gender, age, and kill order.
I’ll give Adam Greene props for gorefest fun. He makes creative use of an orbital sander and gives us the largest chainsaw I’ve ever seen (so he can split not just one but two people simultaneously). He may not be the first to use intestines and boat motors as lethal weapons but he sure has fun employing them. And I can’t recall anyone who seems to get more joy from slicing and dicing the human body. He does spend way too much time on exposition since plot is really of little consequence. All he needs is an excuse to send more stupid people out into the Louisiana backwoods so they can get killed by Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), the deformed and demented Jason-like killer who's got an axe to grind (figuratively speaking, literally it’s a hatchet) with those who tried to kill him.
Greene even attempts to develop humor beyond the gore to try and make this a full fledged comedy. The folks planning the trip at to Victor’s hold a kind of community meeting as if they were the local PTA. One attendee becomes humorously obsessed with how many cookies he can have and if there will be milk. If you are a hardcore horror fan such frivolity may frustrate and infuriate you. But it you’re willing to sit back, check your brain with the zombie at the door, and have a gross out good time, then “Hatchet II” delivers something diverting.
As for being unrated, I suppose “Hatchet II” pushes the envelope in terms of gore but it’s all so silly that it’s hard to find any of it disturbing. I did find it interesting that some self-censorship may have been involved because a clip of one kill that was posted online showed a couple having sex and the woman asking how good the sex is. She asks at one point if it’s better than “baby Jesus” but that line and its answer never make it into the film. I also have to say that the sex scene was so atrociously bad that it made me wonder if Greene is still a virgin. Maybe he intended it to be over-the-top fake as some sort of jokey comment on horror film sex but it was just so awkward that everyone in the theater kept giggling. Plus how can you be an unrated horror film and only place one big and bare breasted woman in jeopardy? Granted Greene does throw in some gratuitous nudity in an early sequence involving a video camera someone finds with a montage of nudie shots. But that feels obviously tacked on and not part of the story. If you are going to make a cheeseball comedy horror flick you really need to fully deliver on the most basic elements of horror genre conventions: hot chicks in jeopardy and in various states of undress. It may be sexist to say that but it's something that deserves to be poked fun at in a horror comedy like this. "Piranha 3D" had the right idea about that.
“Hatcher II” (unrated) ends with a logo saying it’s here to save horror. That’s a bold boast and it falls way short of that. There’s no “horror” in this film just gore and the two are not to be confused. But it's like a little horror appetizer that might whet your appetite for something more substantial. But the film does have horror icon Tony Todd in it so that's always a plus.
Companion viewing: "Piranha 3D," "Dead Alive," "Friday the 13th" (the original 1980 one)
NOTE: I just found out that AMC pulled "Hatchet II" before finishing a week's run. Too bad. Although I didn't love the film I do want to see indie horror and unrated horror get better distribution.
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