Directed by Adam green
Starring Joel Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Kane Hodder, Mercedes McNab, Robert Englund, Tony Todd
Adam Green has carved out a nice little niche in the filmmaking world for himself with his films Hatchet, Grace (which he produced), Frozen, and the upcoming Hatchet 2. These films are low budget throwback to the horror films of the 80’s. They don’t cost much to make so they don’t have to bring in much box office to be a success. The box office isn’t a tool for judging quality, not by any means. With that said, Hatchet was a success in the pool it swam in.
Louisiana offers up the creepy back drop for this retro slasher. Two friends decide to take a tour through the creepy nighttime bayous. An eclectic group of strangers all meet to take the boat tour including a quirky older couple, a sleazebag making internet video of two girls showing lots of skin and making out, and a mysterious girl. On the ride the guide shares the story of Victor Crowley with the tourists. Crowley was supposedly accidentally killed with a hatchet by his own father. The truth is that he survived being attacked with a hatchet and still roams the woods with a horribly disfigured face seeking victims to take revenge on for his own near death. When the boat begins to sink the group is forced from its safety into the woods to search for a road or some other way out of the swamp with Victor Crowley wielding a hatchet dropping their numbers with every passing breath.
The film was made in 2006 but the production, the writing, and virtually every other aspect of the film feels straight out of the 1980’s and that’s a compliment. There’s no complexity to this story, it’s just good old fashioned boogie man stuff in the same way that Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees came to be. The characters are fairly cardboard and whether they will survive to the closing credits or not is fairly apparent throughout the film. You’d think this means the movie is bad but the heart behind the film makes it more than most run of the mill slashers. The acting is solid throughout as are the gore fx. Green’s direction isn’t particularly flashy but it succeeds in breathing life into the film and making it more than the sum of its parts. It’s obvious that he grew up on these films and truly understands what was great about them. The biggest flaw in this film is a bit of stunt casting. Kane Hodder is in this film but he’s perfectly while Tony Todd on the other hand is a bit heavy handed. Robert Englund’s also in this film in a near unnecessary role. Some may complain that the film moves a bit slow and it does but the character interactions on the boat are actually quite entertaining. As I said they are mostly cardboard but the actors are good enough that you still find yourself liking many of the characters and most of the jokes set up in the first half hour of the movie are actually really funny. By the time the killings start you know who’s gonna die and even if they’re bad people you just had such a good time with them you’ll be sad to see them go.
Hollywood has been trying to milk the retro movie thing with little success because for the most part the factory films they keep squeezing out feel heartless and fake, made for nothing but a quick buck. Hatchet is a film made by fans for fans and that’s a special thing. In the 80’s those fans weren’t a niche group they were everyone so hopefully Green’s films will find this audience like those classic films from the 80’s.
For a low budget film the HD widescreen video look really good. Sure there’s grain from the source material but there’s no additional grain or artifacting to complain about due to the compression. The original DVD sported some scenes that were so dark that characters literally disappeared into the blackness. This time around the characters return and detail is still in the darker scenes. It’s not a perfect transfer as detail levels and black levels do fluctuate throughout the film but they’re never horrible and always better than the previous DVD release.
The audio here is a real mixed bag. The 5.1 HD presentation features some really great directionality making the swamp come alive all over the soundstage. Dialogue and score are often lacking any depth in the audio department making them a bit muddy though. The mix just feels a bit off at times. Overall, for a low budget film, this sounds fine. The real problem is that it is just so close to sounding amazing that the failings are painful.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc release comes packaged in a slim blu-ray amaray case featuring the same artwork as the DVD release. It’s striking art that does a good job of selling the film. It would have been nice if Anchor Bay had done something a little new with the art though.
Most blu-ray releases hitting store shelves these days are just direct transfers of their old DVD counterparts all the way down to the extras. Often the extras don’t even make it to DVD such is the case with the recent Escape from New York blu-Ray. IN the case of Hatchet everything from the previous DVD is here plus an additional blu-ray exclusive commentary. It’s not much but blu-ray exclusives of any kind are appreciated and the commentary with director/writer Adam Green and star/stunt coordinator Kane Hodder actually offers up some great new information. The previous commentary with Green his producer and director of photography and a couple of the actors is also on the disc. Each commentary takes a different approach to discussing the film and both offer up substantial information.
There is over an hour and fifteen minutes of featurettes brought over from the previous DVD as well. The featurettes can all be viewed individually as little bites of information but they work the best as one big feature documentary. These featurette truly give up all the goods from the early steps taken to convince investors that Green could make the movie to all of the preproduction, casting and special fx. There are plenty of interviews mixed with behind the scenes and home video footage to make you feel like you were a part of getting this film made.
Most low budget horror films don’t get this sort of treatment on DVD so it’s refreshing to see so much care put into the bonus features.
Hatchet is scary, it’s funny, and it’s totally of the 80’s. This is a no brainer for casual and hardcore horror fans alike.
Overall (Not an average) 8.5/10
The Movie 8.5/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 7.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10