Just as the '80s had their signature murderous maniacs -- HALLOWEEN's Michael Myers of Haddonfield and FRIDAY THE 13th's Jason Voorhees of Camp Crystal Lake -- the original HATCHET marked the arrival of the latest and most lethal of the genre's stalking murderers: Victor Crowley, a crazed backwoods killer stalking the bayous of New Orleans. HATCHET II picks up right where the 2007 original film ends, as Marybeth (Danielle Harris from HALLOWEEN) escapes from the clutches of the deformed, swamp-dwelling killer Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder from FRIDAY THE 13th). Marybeth returns to the Louisiana swamps along with an army of hunters to recover the bodies of her family and exact her revenge against Victor Crowley.
There's probably no better visceral creep-out than a close-up eye gouging (just ask Luis Buñuel). Director Adam Green learned this well by using the old thumb-in-socket shot as the climax of his 2006 cult hit Hatchet
, and he repeats it as the opener of Hatchet II
. This micro-budget sequel picks up just as the original ends, with the aforementioned eye still belonging to the deformed swamp monster Victor Crowley (again played by ace stuntman and Friday the 13th
alumni Kane Hodder). The thumb belongs to demure Marybeth (Danielle Harris), who turns out to be the sole survivor of the first film's tour-boat cruise through Louisiana's most disgusting swamp. She escapes Crowley's one-eyed clutches and finds her way back to New Orleans and the lair of voodoo conman Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd, of Candyman
fame), where a posse of redneck morons is quickly assembled to return to the swamp and squash the innards and legend of Victor Crowley for good.
All this Victor Crowley and innards-squashing business will be familiar to fans of Hatchet, of which there are legions. Indeed, it feels as though Green has made Hatchet II as a love letter to them, raising the bloody-disgusting body count and creative means of murder--outboard motor, super-size chainsaw, belt sander--strictly to satisfy an urge felt only by the supremely devoted. Billed as an unrated director's cut, the DVD version will surely send them swooning with even more latex guts and buckets of Kool-Aid-colored blood than they might remember from midnight theatrical shows. Even the commentary tracks and making-of documentary are filled with backslaps dedicated to the exclusive Hatchet groupie club. Green is intentionally riffing on slasher films not only with the comic dialogue and dopey characters, but also by employing icons of the genre as actors. In addition to Hodder and Todd, Tom Holland, director of fanboy favorites Fright Night and Child's Play, turns up in another key role. Unfortunately, Green's sense of insider humor and commitment to a limited demographic seems to have clouded what could have been a more interesting movie. But you're probably not watching Hatchet II to see an interesting movie. You're watching to see a giddy homage to the glory days of practical gore effects and enjoy the goofy fun of howling at senseless characters that lose their heads and countless other body parts in ever more creative ways. --Ted Fry