Friday, June 21, 2019

The Hatchet series

Hatchet – I am not sure I can cover just one Hatchet movie at a time, the trilogy and subsequent secret fourth entry are all chunk blowers of the highest caliber; a cinematic love note to the lords of gore and the gods of 80’s VHS horror art, each subsequent entry raising a higher blood stained middle finger to good taste.  Gallows humor, black as tar, the 3 B’s are in full effect; blood-boobs-bad words, the body count hits the double digits and then some, Victor Crowley strives hard to prove he’s the next big tier slasher, with the immortal Kane Hodder behind the makeup it’s practically guaranteed that this crypt keeper is going to have fun.  Fuck all the haters and cinematic snob jobs that troll anything that tries, the Hatchet series rules, and seems to only get better with time.  If you aren’t having fun, chances are you’re thinking too hard.

The first 3 movies focus on the revenge of Marybeth Dunston, whose father helped cause the curse of the bayou butcher in the first place, throwing firecrackers at young Victor Crowley’s swamp shack that caught it on fire, prompting the terrible accident that resulted in his gruesome accidental death at the hands of his own father.  Now Victor’s cursed to be a “returner”, reliving the night he died in an endless loop of torment, slaughtering everything in his path in a never-ending fit of rage.  The curse also effectively makes him immortal, whenever the night falls he rises from his grave, a nocturnal predator resurrected and ready for revenge, setting the perfect stage for a stalk and slash story set deep in back water Louisiana. 

All taking place during and around Mardi Gras and keeping with the old school slasher tradition set by early Friday the 13th and Halloween movies the trilogy is set back to back, each sequel picks up precisely the moment the prior leaves off.  It starts with a group of Mardi Gras revelers on the tail end of a bender; a pair break off from the group to experience some quiet down time at a haunted swamp ghost tour.  Marybeth Dunston hitches a ride on the tour bus as well in hopes of finding her lost father and brother in the dense wilderness; redneck crocodile hunters who have wandered too close to Victor’s island and have paid the price for their transgressions.

To nobody’s surprise their swamp boat, helmed by an incompetent tour guide, crashes into a rock, and the group is stranded on the island just as Victor rises from his grave.  What follows next is one over-the-top kill after another, each as brutal and unforgiving as the last; elaborate and gory set pieces that emphasize old school creature FX and creative bodily dismemberment.  Bring a barf bag, because the blood doesn’t stop flowing until the gut flinging finale which leads right into the next movie, where Adam Green (director/writer/slash-head) manages to up the ante with mercenaries and bounty hunters looking to kill Crowley for a $5,000-dollar prize.  The kills are some of the most creative in cine-splatter history, the movie goes full tilt gore crazy towards the end, which leads into another planned sequel and end of the Marybeth trilogy, this time the local police force and SWAT is involved, but all prove to be just more meat for the grinder as the blood-soaked mongoloid Victor appears practically unstoppable.

The fourth movie, filmed in secret and toured around the US roadshow style, breaks from the trilogy mold to follow the lone and cowardly survivor of part III as he returns to the swamp once again, earning a sort of celebrity status from his harrowing ordeal.  His pill popping agent convinces him to do an interview on Victor Crowley’s old hunting grounds, which has now opened for tourism, complete with vendors selling cutesy Victor Crowley plush toys and other kitsch trinkets.  Tragedy again strikes when his plane crashes into the swamp around the same time Victor is summoned from the grave by a dark magic ritual spoken over a cell phone recording (you might think this is convoluted, but your first mistake was thinking) and the bayou butcher is back to bring the brutality.  Severed limbs are stuffed into body cavities, intestines are used to choke out people, and life is good again.

Hatchet has acted as a sort of pied piper call for cult horror celebrities; each movie is a virtual who’s-who of horror convention personalities.  It proudly carries the flag of unrepentant, unapologetic, old school horror and practical FX work that defies critical analysis; these are anti-intellectual films catering to the worst of our bad tastes, and I couldn’t be happier they exist.  While they can sometimes come off as more parody of slashers, the acting seems almost deliberately sub-par, the characters all act like buffoonish caricatures  of real people, but it plays into the carnival Troma-like atmosphere of the films, where almost anything goes.