It’s strange, this fascination we have right now with horror of the eighties. See, I lived through that era and have seen a lot of the movies and, for some reason, we really cling to the eighties slasher as an icon. On one hand I can appreciate it because that’s the era that gave us Jason, Freddy, Chucky, and the rest of the big boys (Leatherface came a tad earlier), so yeah, we haven’t had the same sort of iconic monsters since, so I can see the love for it. The thing is though that the eighties, while gory, are not known for a lot of quality. It’s like we forget that the Friday the 13th films and the Nightmare on Elm Street films were not really great. At all. To get a nasty slasher movie meant you had to dig a few layers deeper, where the rougher movies were, movies not as well made but a little nastier because of that. Director Adam Green is one of those that seems a little stuck in the ‘80s, and while that wasn’t such a good thing with the original Hatchet, with its sequel, you get a better feel for what he’s doing and why.
Picking up almost exactly where the first film ended, Hatchet II follows survivor Mary Beth as she manages to be the only person to get away from Bayou killer Victor Crowley. She had entered the swamp looking for her brother and father, but knowing that they are dead, she only wants revenge and to bring their bodies home. After a run-in with a local who, once finding out who she is, forces her to leave the safety of his cabin, she seeks out the one man that may have the answer on how to stop the seemingly immortal Crowley – Rev. Zombie. What she finds is that she and Crowley’s family are forever tied in tragedy and that if she is to get her revenge, she’ll need help. A lot of help. What Mary Beth doesn’t know is that Zombie has his own reasons for going back into the swamp, and it’s all about money – if he can clear out Crowley he can get his swamp tours back on track. So, rounding up some seasoned swamp hunters, Zombie and Mary Beth head into the swamp to find Crowley and end his reign of terror once and for all.
First and foremost you have to give a nod to actress Danielle Harris who plays Mary Beth. She turns in a great performance and adds depth and real emotion to what could easily been a mindless damsel in distress role. With this and the two Halloween remakes she’s really showing her acting chops. And props go out to Green and Kane Hodder, who both gave Kane, who is known for his silent roles as horror movie monsters, a great opportunity to act, and he does a pretty good job. Overall, the acting is pretty fun, to match a freewheeling script. There are laughs and gore in equal parts here and more than a few loving homages to other horror classics. Released unrated so the fans could see the movie as it was meant to be seen, Hatchet II really embraces that ideal and is full of over the top gore and violence. Unlike so many of these films though the movie never gets dark, it is intense, and there are scares, but none of the movie is cruel – this is about making a fun, fast, slasher epic that remembers the past while reinvigorating the present. The direction is not flashy but is decent, the acting, as I said, is very good, and the story is fun. I appreciate that you can watch this and the first film and they fit together as one story. Pretty nice. Like the original Halloween and its sequel.
The biggest knocks here is that this really does feel like an utter fan film. That is great for us fans, but to a degree, it makes me wonder if in five or ten years people will go back and discover it. It feels a bit like Madman, which is to say a second tier slasher. Not that this isn’t a fun, quality film, but that’s why it feels like Madman, because it is about having fun and not scaring you or freaking you out. I think the biggest knock is that Victor still doesn’t feel like a character. You only see him running or attacking and never get the slow burn that we had with Jason, where he is stalking someone. That’s what is really missing and is crucial for a slasher character. The movie moves a little too fast, and is pretty thin on plot but, wow, what an ending. It’s an epic, amazing ending and will definitely go down with some of the best slasher film endings in history.
A very fun, over the top movie that is hard to overlook. Sure, I love the thoughtful, scary, dark horror films that really stick with you but you have to admire and love just as deeply the popcorn horror films that got so many of us into the genre in the first place. This is made with a lot of love, a lot of heart, and is all about having fun. While it’s not a modern classic, it’s a great ride and a wonderfully rare unrated film in theaters. If you liked the first you will love this sequel.
7.5 out of 10