Hatchet II (2010)
★ / ★★★★
Marybeth (Danielle Harris) survives after being attacked by Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a disfigured serial killer who prowls the Honey Island Swamp at night. Seeking refuge in a fisherman’s cabin, she is kicked out just as quickly after she reveals her last name. She is advised to seek out Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd), a voodoo practitioner who illegally holds swamp tours to get some extra cash, to find out the truth about her connection to Victor.
“Hatchet II,” written and directed by Adam Green, in its first twenty minutes, shows promise in surpassing the original. It immediately answers my biggest question from the first film: Is Victor a mortal man or is he some kind of ghost? He turns out to be the latter. Since that is made clear, I held onto certain expectations and gladly let go of others.
We learn that the reverend has a plan to end Victor’s haunting. I was optimistic that it would work. The replacement by Harris in playing the protagonist is a good casting decision. Tamara Feldman, who plays Marybeth in “Hatchet,” is solid as a quiet presence on the back of the bus but I did not buy the moments when she is supposed to be hard. Harris, on the other hand, exudes effortless toughness. Perhaps it is due to the grungy hair. Or maybe it is the asymmetrical eyebrows. But one thing is for sure: As Marybeth, when she speaks to her uncle (Tom Holland) about wanting to go back to the swamp to retrieve her father and brother’s bodies, I was surprisingly moved by her performance. I believed in her conviction.
Unfortunately, the picture is a limp, straight-faced horror movie. Gone are the hilarious one-liners from the stereotypical supporting characters. The burly hunters and fishermen who accompany Marybeth, Marybeth’s uncle, and Reverend Zombie are annoying. I could not wait for them to get axed, if you will, just so they would stop talking.
The kill scenes are more gruesome but generate less impact. Yes, they are poorly shot, often ending with a spray of blood on a bark of a tree, but the bigger problem is where the weapon lands on the body. An ax shoved in the crotch just after a woman (Alexis Peters) has sex made me wince. Then I started thinking it is just inappropriate and unnecessary. I started to feel bad at the images I saw. Does she really have to be hit down there? It felt mean-spirited rather than a bloody good time.
Moreover, all of the characters use a gun to defend themselves. That makes it less enjoyable because it is obvious that bullets do not permanently stop Victor. They “hurt” him (as much as bullets can hurt a ghost, I suppose) and slow him down but he keeps on charging like a bulldozer. It would have been more fun if the hunters were eventually forced to use weapons that they were not comfortable with. Still, they keep shooting as if they have unlimited bullets like in video games.
Meanwhile, I slowly found myself not caring about what would happen next. “Hatchet II” fails to gain momentum, one that is suspenseful and thrilling, as it moves toward the inevitable messy chopping of limbs.