Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fantasia Reviews Pt. 6

HATCHET (2006, Adam Green, USA)

HATCHET comes knocking with a doom-laden, stark teaser trailer featuring moody shots of a swamp, a terrified woman whimpering offscreen, and such glowing critical quotes as:

“The best slasher film in twenty years” - John Gray, Pit of Horror

“A new and unexpected benchmark in post-modern, zero-pretense horror” - Giles Edwards, Time Out London

The trailer climaxes with a great shock cut of its hulking killer, Victor Crowley, springing out before his victims, and a close shot of a swinging, bloody hatchet. Then the tagline: “Old School American Horror.” This teaser would lead you to believe that HATCHET is the second coming of the original HALLOWEEN, or at least THE BURNING. Something scary. There’s nothing in it that reveals what HATCHET really is: a hilarious, over-the-top gore comedy. The last movie to pull this bait-and-switch was CABIN FEVER, which alienated as many horror fans as it won over. That probably won’t happen with HATCHET, simply because it tries so hard to be as disgusting as possible, in such a winningly cheerful way, that a gorehound can’t help but love it.

HATCHET follows a motley group of tourists (college students, a middle-aged couple, a porn producer with a couple of “actresses,” and a mysterious young woman on a mission) who take a break from the public nudity and vomiting of Marti Gras in New Orleans for a boat tour highlighting the mysteries and legends of the Louisiana swamps. Their boat runs up on the rocks, stranding them, and they then have to deal with one of the legends on a more personal level: deformed madman Victor Crowley. Victor, played by Kane Hodder (Jason in several of the later FRIDAY THE 13th sequels) bares a slight resemblance to Sloth from THE GOONIES (as Mike White astutely observed) and he picks off the hapless tourists one by one; tearing their heads apart, chopping them in half with his hatchet (it takes a lot of swings to accomplish this) and ripping their faces off with an electric belt sander.

Like gore comedy classics RE-ANIMATOR, EVIL DEAD 2, DEAD ALIVE and 2007 Fantasia Festival favorite FLIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, most of the humor in HATCHET comes from the total excess in which these scenes are played, going way past the point of being disturbing into the realm of the giddy. In a Q&A after the screening, writer/director Adam Green said there have been some cuts to the gore to obtain an R rating for the theatrical release later this year, so we'll see how that affects the movie's tone (the uncut version that screened at Fantasia will be released on DVD). Hopefully the cuts won't hurt HATCHET too much, because it's that gleeful overkill, along with the quick pacing, quirky characters and funny dialog that makes HATCHET a seriously good time. – Rich Osmond

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