Director: Adam Green (2006)
Starring: Joel David Moore, Kane Hodder, Tamara Feldman
Right up there with The Tripper as my favourite slasher movie of the noughties, Hatchet strands a group of tourists in the middle of a New Orleans swamp and pits them against Kane Hodder in dungarees. I don't fancy their chances much, especially since Hodder is playing an even more pissed off version of Jason Voorhees here.
What it lacks in originality, Hatchet more than makes up for with guts and gore. The spurting wounds and decimated carcasses put me in mind of Braindead. It's slower paced and less funny than that movie, but when the action kicks off there's the same sense of splatter and damp violence. Joel David Moore is the film's Scream Queen, as dejected rebounder Ben. Attempting to recover from a traumatic breakup, he heads off on a lads' holiday with some chums. Together with best pal Marcus (Deon Richmond) he signs up for a 'haunted swamp tour' as suggested by Tony Todd's Reverend Zombie (with a cameo from Robert Englund in the opening scene, Hatchet is all about the horror icons). Little do they know that the tour is heading right into the playground of tragic nutter Victor Crowley.
It's a divisive film, and I can see why. It's oddly paced, with most of the action occurring towards the end. Some of the characters could be construed as annoying, with everyone but Moore playing it over the top and chewing scenery like Hannibal Lecter at a nudist beach. There's no room for subtlety here; very little stalking but lots of slashing. If anything, Crowley's too efficient, tearing his victims to shreds almost as soon as he appears. The pacing in the last twenty or so minutes is frenetic. Hatchet is the heavy metal song of slasher movies; all shouting and swearing and crashing drums and then it's over.
And in the middle, Kane Hodder reveals some surprising acting chops. There's a really nice flashback sequence - probably the best scene in the whole film - in which we see Hodder, as Victor's Dad, showing his shonkily-faced son some love, before he accidentally puts a hatchet through said shonky face. I really wanted to give Kane Hodder a hug here. It's the sorriest I've felt for him since he got the sack from Freddy vs Jason in favour of Sad Jason. In an otherwise throwaway movie (fun as it is, Crowley is no icon) this origins story holds up to any Freddy or Jason. It's a wonderful idea.
Hatchet isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it certainly is mine. It's fun, funny and tremendously gory in the very best way. And the best bit is, they made a sequel that's even better.