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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hatchet: Nostalgia for Crap

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.


Anonymous said...

I could not agree more. Hatchet, like several of these "Splat Pack" jerk offs, is the product of adolescent men growing up and misremembering what the films they grew up with were like. They've exaggerated all of the weaker aspects of '80s horror to the point where nothing else remains.

Fortunately I never fell for the hype. I felt challenged by all the marketing and buzz for it. There was one instance in which Green stated all the eyes of Hollywood were on the performance of Hatchet. I damn near lost my shit reading that.

To this day there are no official box office records of what kind of business it did. All eyes indeed.

Mr. Karswell said...

>they took a grade-A turd, polished it up real nice, sprinkled on some herbs and spices

Ha ha, great line Brian... 7 herbs and spices can make any turd tastier. Or not. I haven't seen this yet but I did fall for the lies about Rob Zombie's films being "tributes to 70's grindhouse." ??! I wonder which films they're talking about? Obviously the boring and badly made ones I guess. Never again. I definitely won't be stepping in T Rex's shit.

B-Sol said...

We must agree to disagree on Zombie, Kars. I thoroughly enjoyed both House of 1,000 Corpses and Devil's Rejects, especially the former. Found them to be exactly what Hatchets purports to be, but isn't.

Anonymous said...

Amen on Hatchet. I was really looking forward to it based on festival buzz and when I watched it I became Bruce-Banner-angry at how bad it was. I'm still pissed off a year later! Nearly wrecked my Halloween horror-thon. (Which was then coup-de-graced off by the also-overrated Slither and R. Zombie's remake-which-we-shall speak-no-more-of-forever).

And I speak as someone who did enjoy the occasional slasher-type pic back in the day (like for example "Stage Fright" - the one with the owl-headed killer, not the other one, or the other one). The problem is not that they can't be done well, it's that lazy filmmakers don't even try, assuming that good kills=good movie. And Green adds "condescending" to the mix, which is a great modern innovation. "Look, I'm making a crap film, wink wink!" I want to throw something. Anyone got a volkswagon?

On another thread, I loved "Devil's Rejects" and am wearing a t-shirt of same right now. That one got the "retro" thing right, and was its own beast besides.

B-Sol said...

Bruce-Banner-angry...yep, that about sums it up. I'll never forget Harry Knowles at Ain't It Cool News just gushing over this movie. Ridiculous.

AndyDecker said...

When isn´t Harry Knowles ridiculous? I mean, come on ... :-)
Is there a worse site of genre-related things out there? (I mean, I am sure there is, but he build himself a reputation which is a horror story in itself).

I haven´t seen Hatchet yet, and it is sad that it seems to be a disappointment, but when was there the last horror movie which did deliver?

Vince Liaguno said...

Never a need to apologize for a well-articulated opinion. While I enjoyed Hatchet enough, I agree that it was over-hyped. Personally, I thought Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon was far worse.

As for misremembering what the films I grew up with were like, my memory serves me quite well. ;-)

Regarding the Rob Zombie films mentioned, I'm split. Loved House of 1,000 Corpses and loathed The Devil's Rejects.

Now, I'm off to peek at the current tally of your poll - where I believe Mr. Voorhees (the slasher icon) is winning(!).

B-Sol said...

Andy: AICN has become such a farce in recent years. It seems the main purpose now is to put over Harry's enormous ego.

Vince: Thanks for the heads up on Leslie Vernon. That's another one I wanted to check out. And I also prefer House of 1,000 Corpses, which is puzzlingly the minority opinion.

Johnny said...

Could not disagree more, B-Sol. Hatchet was supposed to be nothing more than a fun and gory horror flick and that's exactly what it was. How anyone in this world, especially a diehard horror fan, can not derive immense entertainment and enjoyment out of this movie is beyond me.

"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."

For Hatchet, that is actually all I was asking for. And it's exactly what I got. What's wrong with that?

B-Sol said...

My gripe was that the movie was hyped up as much more than that. Honestly, I wasn't even aware it was a comedy. People were touting it as the second coming of Halloween or something...

Johnny said...

I hear ya but you can't really blame the movie or Adam Green over the hype that the fans are responsible for.

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