Its about that time in Virginia where the cool air finally sets in for good and you can start building your kindling pile right next to the fire pit. When evening rolls around, you know it’ll be sixty-five degrees, and you’ll sit out and watch the sunset, watching the shadows descend… Yes, it’s the beginning on autumn, and that means the beginning of Halloween season. In light of the weather, I was very excited to finally receive Adam Green’s “Hatchet” in the mail the other day, so I wasted no time in popping it into my DVD player. Once in, I did take the time to go crack open a beer, but don’t get me wrong, that was no waste. “Hatchet”, as I would soon find out, is not so much “Old School American Horror” enjoyed best in a dark study with a tumbler of whiskey, but more an homage to “Old School American Horror” enjoyed best with six or seven beers accompanying its 80 minute runtime.
After thoroughly enjoying “Holliston” and his segment in “Chillerama”, I was dying to see what director Adam Green could do on the big screen (or straight to DVD screen). In the same vein as the aforementioned short-format pieces, what Green really excels in is making a goofy film that actually has some class. In the same way that Alexandre Aja made a really enjoyable movie out of the mutant creature/teen scream genre with “Piranha 3D”, Green takes the classic template for a slasher flick and turns it into a respectable film. For the masses, we still get gratuitous nudity, tons of blood and interesting gore, and stereotypical character types that are easy to follow. Green, like Aja, takes it one step deeper by poking fun at the template even as he is working from it while at the same time developing a more interesting storyline and more dynamic characters than is the norm. The result is a well crafted piece that has mass appeal due to its inherently ‘slasher’ nature, as well as fan appeal from subtleties such as Tony Todd as a voodoo tour guide and the names of cast and crew on gravestones in the old New Orleans cemetery.
Contrary to the standard chum in slasher flicks (“Scream” being the exception), the cast of “Hatchet” is very solid, especially given its lowly origins. Joel Moore leads the ensemble, and after making a name for himself in comedies like “Grandma’s Boy” and “Dodgeball”, takes a darker and more dramatic role in “Hatchet”. He does the part justice, playing the bit slightly awkward but loveable at the same time. Tamara Feldman doesn’t give exactly the most brilliant of performances, but her role and character really help to cement us into the ‘slasher’ architecture. Genre fans will love cameos from Robert Englund, Tony Todd and Kane Hodder (who is actually a main player, not a cameo), but they each add to the movie in a tangible way as well. The actor that really made the movie for me, however, was Perry Shen, the little jerk tour guide that gets everyone into the mess to begin with. He really shows off his range by playing an Asian Louisiana native(?), a Chinese immigrant in Louisiana(?) and an Asian American from Detroit looking to make a few bucks(…?). The last one is actually quite believable, but the phases this guy goes through are quite entertaining. Also of note, Deon Richmond, of “Not Another Teen Movie” fame, has quite possibly the funniest expression ever to be caught on film as Ben (Moore) tries to initiate dialogue with Feldman’s character. He plays the “Black Guy” perfectly, and should be commended.
With slashers, it’s the visuals that make you the bucks, and the producers of “Hatchet” wanted the bucks. The movie starts with a montage of Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, so within fifteen seconds we’ve seen twenty sets of boobs. Of course, if you’ve ever been to Mardi Gras, you know this is… unfortunately not true, but that is the magic of the movies, right? The oh-so-gratuitous nudity continues throughout the opening, with the gang meeting up with a fake ‘Girls Gone Wild’ type producer (another Piranha similarity? Oh man) with his team of “woo”-ing girls, ready to show off their Mardi Gras spirit at a moments notice. In the gore department, we get all sorts of fun stuff, focusing on axe wounds (duh!) and venturing out to things like lower jaws being ripped off and gator bites. Blood splatters everywhere, all the time.
“Hatchet” is a unique film in that it is both a slasher movie and a parody of slasher movies. “Scream” also does this very well, but does it in a serious tone. Green made a slasher movie, but took the time to make fun of it in the process. The guys who made “Scream” made a movie that made fun of slasher flicks, then took the time to turn it into a slasher flick. I don’t know if that point will make it across to anyone, but I hope it confuses you enough to get you intrigued. I would recommend “Hatchet” for anyone in the mood for “Old School American Horror”, but who has already made a dent in their six pack. Don’t take it seriously, just have fun with it. Adam Green officially has my back now, for what its worth.