Monday, June 17, 2013
Review: Hatchet III
Three movies in, the Hatchet series is just too played out. The first film gathered a following on the conceit that it was a throwback to '80s-style slasher movies, filled with gratuitous nudity and gore and executed with practical makeup effects. The sequel's hook was that it expanded the mythology of its iconic killer Victor Crowley, filling in elaborate backstory and upping the body count. Hatchet III's hook appears to be that it isn't directed by Adam Green.
Yes, after writing and directing the first two movies in the franchise, Green has handed the reins to BJ McDonnell, the camera operator on Hatchet II (plus Jack Reacher, The Lords of Salem and a bunch of other movies) making his directing debut. The result is a movie that looks slightly better than the two before it but which still has no personality of its own; McDonnell's idea of a contribution is a 90-second visual quote of Predator -- a reference for its own sake.
Gremlins 2, too. This is a movie only a devoted fan could like, and even they aren't given much to work with.
The only other real addition to the series is that it makes explicit the fact that Victor Crowley cannot be killed, courtesy of some dialogue explaining he is a kind of repeating ghost that reforms every night, no matter what damage is done to him. Well, no shit. We might have figured that out when he came back from the dead in Hatchet II. Or again at the start of Hatchet III. Telling us he can't be killed isn't really necessary when we've already seen that he is impossible to kill.
While the third film boasts a bigger cast than ever before, all it means is a higher body count. There isn't a single character with whom we can identify or sympathize. The first film had Joel David Moore recovering from a heartbreak, so we invested in his character even before people started dying. The sequel saw Marybeth -- a character in whom we were already invested because of what she endured in the first movie -- trying to protect her family and discover the truth of her father's part in the Crowley legend. Hatchet III throws Marybeth in a jail cell and then the back of a squad car, removing her of any agency as yet more characters refuse to listen to her. She's a non-factor in the movie. The closest we get to a sympathetic character in her place is Caroline Williams, the former star of the great Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 and just one of several examples of stunt casting in the film. She's fine in the role but hardly likeable. No one is.
If Green's goal was always to pay tribute to the Friday the 13ths of the world -- the kind of generically violent slasher movies that defined the '80s -- then perhaps Hatchet III is exactly what he intended it to be. It's the same type of repetitive, diminished-returns sequel that dragged every '80s franchise into the ground. It feels like an imitation of something that was already something of an imitation to begin with -- a shadow of a shadow.
I still like Adam Green, and want to see good things from him. He's a guy who loves horror, and who isn't ashamed to be working in a genre that has ghettoized countless filmmakers before him. At the same time, he's capable of more. While I enjoyed Hatchet, it's his non-Hatchet work (Spiral and [especially] Frozen) that really grabs my attention. Now that he has hopefully closed the book on Victor Crowley, Green can hopefully turn his focus to new projects and original work.
Hatchet III is definitive proof that the well has run dry. There is no more mythology to reveal; no more story to tell. It is one last attempt to wring a little money from fans willing to pay to see Victor Crowley kill some more people. Surely we go to the movies for better reasons than that.