Not since the days of The Blair Witch Project have I been so thoroughly hoodwinked by the phenomenon of internet hype. For months, I had read all the raves about Hatchet, seen the glowing praise heaped upon it at places like Ain't It Cool News and Bloody-Disgusting (sorry, Brad!), as well as various message boards. "Old-school horror is back," seemed to be the general consensus.
Imagine how shocked I was then, to rent the damn thing and be confronted with one of the most amateurish, wrong-headed, derivative and falsely trumped-up pieces of horror cinema it's ever been my sad displeasure to endure? But I've got to hand it to the marketing gurus behind this one--they took a grade-A turd, polished it up real nice, sprinkled on some herbs and spices, and served it up as choice tenderloin. Just don't count me among the fooled any longer.
Old-school horror? No offense, Adam Green, but old-school horror is Boris Karloff tossing little girls into lakes; Fredric March getting wasted on cheap wine and man-handling prostitutes; Max Schreck stalking the deck of the Demeter like a panther. Hatchet, on the other hand, is nothing more than a sad, masturbatory aping of a dated '80s subgenre that was never that great to begin with (humblest apologies to my LoTT D crony Vince Liaguno of Slasher Speak).
Ever the optimist, I somehow got it into my head that Hatchet might be an inventive, sinister new take on great exploitation horror like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Last House on the Left, like the best of Rob Zombie is. But what I got was a film literally devoid of imagination, with nothing fresh to say at all; rather, it's content to mimic all the worst cliches and stereotypes of '80s slasher movies, trying so hard to be like them that it only succeeds in resembling the very worst of them.
If that was your goal, Mr. Green, you succeeded. Congratulations. All the standard tropes endlessly churned out by the slasher purveyors are mindlessly followed, including most noticeably of all, those filmmakers' depressingly sociopathic disdain for their own protagonists.
Green raises the slasher movie, in its day viewed as the ultimate nadir of the horror genre, to the status of great movie-making, idealizing it to a ridiculous degree. Hey, everyone's allowed their guilty pleasures, and slashers definitely have a trashy-cinema appeal. A handful of exceptions, like the original Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street, might even be damn fine flicks. I'm not saying there's no pleasure to be gotten from them. But I question any horror fan who limits himself to them, and considers them, without irony, to actually be quality pictures.
Hatchet is the filmic equivalent of "The Chris Farley Show". "Y-y-ya remember that time...in Friday the 13th Part VII...when that bitchy camp counselor opened the door...and Jason was standing right there? A-a-and he smashed her in the face with the axe...?? That was awesome...." It's disappointing that Green would content himself to be a filmmaker with such limited ambition--much like guys such as Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, who can't get over their adolescent fascination with one hackneyed subgenre, and continue mindlessly paying tribute to it for the rest of their careers.
Oh, of course, it's not purely an '80s-style slasher flick, because you also have your requisite post-modern irony thrown in for good measure. Telegram for Mr. Green: That was already done more than a decade ago in a movie called Scream. Even that's old hat now.
The only area in which Hatchet isn't lacking in imagination is the gore. Victims are sliced and diced in impressive fashion, with no regard for the pesky MPAA. If that's all you ask from your horror movies, if that's your top criterion for greatness, then you'll probably love Hatchet. Seek it out immediately. If you require more than the fetishistic presentation of serial dismemberment, look elsewhere.
The acting is terrible. The script is painfully bad, with dumb joke after dumb joke. At times, it feels like you're watching a Sci-Fi Channel original movie. "Ah," you may say, "But that's what it's all about, man. That's what those movies were like! Green nailed it!" Well, yes, I guess he did. Once again, congratulations. You succeeded in making a bad movie that's a tribute to bad movies. Only in the 21st century could this be considered a positive. See, the difference here is that back then, the people who made movies like Chopping Mall, Slaughterhouse and The Slumber Party Massacre made them because they weren't capable of making anything better.
On the DVD's main documentary, Green spells out that the entire concept for the movie came to him at the age of eight. And man, does it show. Unfortunately, Green never bothered to rethink any of it since then. He also repeatedly talks about how amazed he is that anyone backed him, and that the movie got made at all. So am I.