A Review of Hatchet

I do not get why certain people feel the need to reexamine traditional horror films.  It has been done, repeatedly.  Even when it is well done, at this point, it is not letting an issue die.  At this point, I would like to see satires of Saw and Hostel because those actually represented the genre trying to do something new.  Hatchet is just another examination of a subgenre that has been dead for over twenty years.

And it’s not even a good example of that subgenre. Instead of commenting on the “rules” of horror (as Scream did) it introduces us to a bunch of low watt bulbs and a villain that is so poorly explained I am still not sure how he manages to survive the massive onslaught against him. Instead of being some post modern masterpiece, it becomes a modern bore. Maybe the subtitle “old school American horror” should have given me a clue.

The film takes place in New Orleans, right around Mardi Gras (we know this because there are several pretentious scenes of the exchanging of beads and the flashing of boobs). An overly depressed man named Ben (Joel Moore) is trying to recover from a bad break up.  He takes a “haunted swamp” tour with his friend Marcus (Deon Richmond) and a variety of other tourists including wannabe porn star Misty (Mercedes McNab), tour guide Shawn (Parry Shen) and mystery girl Marybeth (Tamara Feldman).  The boat crashes, and they are stalked by the serial killer Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) who pretty much does what you would expect him to do.

How many clichés does it subscribe to?  Let me count the ways.  Token minority character?  Two checks.  A loose woman who is guaranteed to die?  Again, two checks.  A girl who knows more than she lets on?  Check.  A deformed villain who is some sort of medical marvel and needs to be examined for his absolutely unwillingness to die?  Check.  Is he mute?  I am going to stop here.

Why does it seem to try to go through its plot as though it has a check list rather than a script? I don’t know.  It appears that the film feels that merely copying is tribute enough and they need go no further.  Well, I should let them in on a little secret.  For every great “slasher” film (Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,Hellraiser) there are about a dozen other titles (Silent Night, Deadly Night, Prom Night, Sleepaway Camp, April Fool’s Day) that resemble the slop bucket at the slaughter-house. They seem to feel that the aesthetic is all that is necessary and nothing else.  Well, seeing blood on the screen is not something that is going to shock anyone anymore. That is the problem with the fanbase of any genre.  They will not be able to tell the bad examples from the good examples and try to be all-inclusive.

I cannot really discuss any of the performances. I told you their characteristics and that’s about all the actors were told. I guess they do it well (no one can play ditzy like Mercedes McNab) but it is not anything to really praise. The settings and mise en scene are nice; I cannot recall a horror film set in New Orleans.  Oh, wait, Candyman? Never mind.  Also, if you are going to use New Orleans as a setting, why not explore the city’s rich history.  All of the ghost stories are made up and all of the voodoo appears to be nothing more than costume for tourists.  I have been to New Orleans and can tell you that it has one of the most vibrant personalities of any American city that goes beyond Mardi Gras. All I am saying is that, since the city is so important to the film, why not use it.  It would have been interesting to see the characters being chased through the city. For that matter, it would have been far more interesting to see the ghost tour they were on and let the characters just talk, like some sort of Robert Altman film.  That’s right – it’s a horror film where the best scenes do not involve any actual horror.

This is not a valuable commentary on horror films.  This is not an effective horror film. This is merely what one hyperactive child dreamed up after staying up late to watch Friday the 13th. The kid may be older, but is not wiser for his years.  I am sorry to have watched this.

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