It used to be there was a time when the Great American Horror Tale was “The Tell Tale Heart.” With the advent of moving pictures, one might point to “Frankenstein”. Later on, you could perhaps point to “Psycho” and maybe even “The Exorcist”. These days, some might say that the slasher film is the modern embodiment of the Great American Horror Tale. It’s like a moonlit walk down a familiar path – albeit a very isolated, very dangerous moonlit path – that takes us from the ordinary to the peak of terror and then finally, to release. This current formula is scarcely thirty years old and has become a cherished part of the horror vocabulary. Mostly, Hollywood is content to serve it up as is, but happily, every now and again, someone comes along who can take that recipe and kick it up a notch.
Director Adam Green (who most recently directed the winter survival horror film, “Frozen”) returns to the bayou legend he created in 2006’s “Hatchet” with the predictably titled, “Hatchet 2”. The first installment followed an ill-fated tour deep into the Louisiana swamp haunted by the ghost of Victor Crowley. Here, we pick up at the end of the first movie as the lone survivor, Marybeth (Danielle Harris), escapes the swamp and returns to New Orleans to get answers from the dubious Reverend Zombie (genre great Tony Todd). The reverend gives us a little insight to the history of the Crowley family and just how Victor came to be cursed. He also agrees to lead a hunting party into the swamp to get rid of Crowley once and for all.
In standard horror parlance, this just means is that there’s going to be a new set of victims.
“Hatchet 2” picks up where the first one left off in more ways that that though. Unlike most horror movies released these days, it had no intentions of shooting for the coveted (at least by most studios’ marketing departments) PG-13. In fact, 17 onscreen kills and 136 gallons of fake blood later, “Hatchet 2” would be lucky to be in shouting distance of and R. It’s not. If the slasher film is all-American, then we should add this film to the list somewhere between apple pie and mom. There is blood aplenty. There are boobs. There is sex. And there is a veritable plethora of power tools that Victor keeps in fine working order including a chainsaw that is bigger than most people’s houses. The only place I found it lacking was in the creativity department. This film suffers from what I like to call “Iron Man 2 Syndrome.” The original is fun and creative but the second one just can’t quite seem to capture that same lightning in a bottle. Is it a bad movie? No. Does it feel derivative? No. In actuality, it was a fun little horror movie; perfect for a Friday night out with friends or with an adventurous date. I just expected a little more from it than what I got. And while “Bigger. Bloodier. Better. More.” usually works well for most horror sequels, the follow up to something as clever as “Hatchet” was, needed to have a little more cleverness to it as well. Some of it, for lack of a better term, seemed a little lazy to me. I will admit now, I think I had the bar set pretty high for this.
For the gorehound out there, this is the movie you’ve been waiting for this year. The best thing about it is it’s not just one of those special “unrated” DVD releases. Green did an end around on the MPAA and got a theatrical release for “Hatchet 2”. So check your newspapers or favorite websites and get an eyeful of some good old-fashioned all-American blood and guts horror.