★★ / ★★★★
Ben (Joel David Moore) has recently broken up with by his girlfriend of eight years. To help keep his mind off her, Marcus (Deon Richmore), Ben’s best friend, decides that they should visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras. But the plan backfires: breasts, booze, and beads are not tempting enough to distract Ben from his heartache. Instead, the duo end up partaking in a $40 tour of a swamp to see ghostly lights. Soon, the suspicious boat driver (Parry Shen), Ben, Marcus and the remaining six passengers are picked off by Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a gruesome, seemingly indestructible killer with a deformed face.
Written and directed by Adam Green, “Hatchet” is like watching a bunch of teenagers run around a corn maze to get scared out of their wits. And just like the characters in most teen flicks, the characters here are nothing but stereotypes. Ben is emo, Marcus is the clown, Marybeth (Tamara Feldman) is the quiet chick with secrets, Misty (Mercedes McNab) and Jenna (Joleigh Fioravanti) are the blonde and brunette nymphs, respectively, Doug (Joel Murray) is the pervert with the camera, while Jim and Shannon (Richard Riehle, Patrika Darbo) are the sugary sweet couple.
I was actually glad the writer-director does not force his characters to be more than cardboard cutouts because there are far too many of them. Most end up with severed limbs anyway. Once they are bloody and with body parts missing, they are nearly instantaneously forgotten.
The supporting actors are given very funny lines and they make the most of them. More often than not, the jokes and one-liners work in releasing some of the tension as the characters stroll around the creepy swamp. McNab gives an ace performance as the dumb blonde. She is a laugh riot because she straddles confusion and fear with, ironically, unique elegance. She gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Blondes have more fun!”
Much of the effort is dedicated to scenes that lead up to the killer coming out of the blue and executing the grizzly kills. Since the characters are left running around in an open space, I found myself into it and feeling paranoid that Victor, equipped with an intimidating stature, can appear at any time. When nothing can be heard but silence, it a surefire signal that something deadly is about to happen.
I liked the background story involving Victor Crowley as a child but it is as thin as Saran wrap. Since Victor is deformed, kids feared him and he was often bullied. No one loved him except for his father. I wish Green had found a way to incorporate Victor’s past to what he inevitably becomes. This is very undeveloped–which it should not have been if we are to ultimately believe that Victor Crowley belongs in the pantheon with Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger, its obvious inspirations.
And then there is the question of whether Victor is still a man or if he is poltergeist whose mortal body died very unhappily and full of rage. While he feels pain when struck by a weapon, it seems like he was unable to die. Leaving the issue open-ended gives way to a plethora of loopholes. The characters who we want to survive have less of a chance if they do not know exactly what they were up against.
Still, “Hatchet” may not serve as a prime inspiration for future lost-in-the-woods-with-a-serial-killer movies but it is goofy, gory and great fun if seen with the right company.