“Hatchet” is a simplistic monster movie, but I’m having difficulty deciding if that’s a good quality. Lord knows too many cheapy horror films feel the need to cloud up their story to feel A-list, but “Hatchet” is all about the gore and the laughs.
Bored in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, Ben (Joel David Moore, “Grandma’s Boy”) decides to ditch his friends and partake in a haunted swamp boat ride. Led by a captain (Parry Shen) of dubious knowledge, the boat sets off with a ragtag collection of tourists, all in search of answers to the mysteries of the bayou. When the boat crashes and sinks to the bottom of the swamp, the group is forced to walk back to the city, but first they must fight to survive as local legend, the deformed beast Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), commences a night of vicious killing.
With little money and no vision for casting, writer/director Adam Green is attempting to fashion a return to Freddy/Jason/Leatherface heyday of classic screen monsters. As any crafty, burgeoning horror filmmaker knows, an iconic, unstoppable villain will often make low budgets and laughable directorial choices melt away in the eyes of the faithful. People just love a larger-than-life bad guy regardless of a movie’s quality, which is why Dee Snider still fields questions about “Strangeland” to this very day.
Far be it from me to proclaim Victor Crowley a bust in the legend department (I’ll leave judgment on that to the legion of pushover, overeager horror websites), but “Hatchet” is a robotic exercise in genre milking, absent the sort of epic introduction of evil that traditionally takes these small potato creations and gives them forceful geek legs. Green is more thirsty for cheap thrills than maintaining tension, and his use of Crowley is isolated to moments that need a limb or head ripped off, not any sort of narrative purpose.
The rest of “Hatchet” is actually something more of a comedy than a horror experience. Playing the tour group shenanigans for laughs, yet squirting blood all over the swampland in other scenes, it’s difficult to tell what response Green wants from his audience. “Hatchet” isn’t funny (don’t look at me, I didn’t cast Moore, Joel Murray, and Deon “Bud” Richmond in the comedy parts), it certainly isn’t frightening, and Will Barratt’s absurdly murky cinematography hurts the gore money shots that have the faint outline of some terrific work from John Carl Buechler and his team of artists.
Implausibly sent to the theaters when DVD is its rightful home, “Hatchet” is best suited for outrageously low expectations.Rating: D+