Hatchet II review

Three years on from the original, writer and director Adam Green returns with the slasher sequel Hatchet II. Duncan went along to Frightfest to check it out...

Three years ago I wrote my first review for Den Of Geek. It was for the original Hatchet. So, what better way to mark the occasion than by watching the world premiere of Hatchet II at this year’s Frightfest?

The original Hatchet was such a breath of fresh air at the time, managing a heady mix of comedy and gore and bringing the much needed sense of fun back to the horror genre, while remaining absolutely faithful to its roots.

It has since become a staple on beer and movie nights, managing to convert a friend of mine to gore, when he’d spent most of his life avoiding most horror films on principal. It was going to be impossible for any sequel to Hatchet, no matter how good, to ever surpass the importance and love I have for the original, but, my god, Mr Green doesn’t half try.

Despite being exhausted and Britain displaying its usual summer charms (grey clouds and rain), spirits were incredibly high in the cinema, as Hatchet II set about opening festivities for the Bank Holiday weekend.

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For those of you that don’t know, Frightfest runs from Thursday evening until Monday, slap bang in central London and is sometimes the only chance you’ll get to see some of the featured movies on the big screen.

Adam Green introduced the film, sharing a touching story about why he’s driven to make the films he loves, then held a Q&A at the end, alongside stars Tony Todd (Rev. Zombie), Kane Hodder (Victor Crowley) and Danielle Harris (replacing Tamara Feldman in the lead role of Marybeth).

Anecdotes were told about Hatchet II‘s production, where the audience learnt that this time around the film was shot in a studio set, created by the same team behind The Dark Knight (who waived the usual price, due to loving the first film), including a working swamp.

The swamp, it transpires, started to grow mould and fungus, resulting in a massive outbreak of illness and wiping out eighty percent of the crew, at one point claiming eight people in forty minutes.

 Kane Hodder proved to be incredibly entertaining and funny, informing us of his next three projects in which he plays three murderers of varying employ, while Tony Todd announced that he was due to start filming Final Destination 5in three weeks.

Back to Hatchet II itself, though. Simply put, it’s every inch the violent, gory, funny sequel you’d hoped for, which somehow manages to exceed even my imagination in terms of how humorously depraved it is at times.

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For those of us raised on the horror sequels of the eighties, it continues in that fine tradition, while those of the Scream generation have only to listen to Randy’s speech from Scream 2 about what to expect. There are, indeed, more deaths and, impressively, just as much gratuitous nudity and even sex this time around. Mr Green should be saluted by younger generations of film fans for managing to give them a flesh fix in a film that their mothers will, no doubt, dismiss as ‘nasty horror’, little realising the titillation (no pun intended) that lies within.

Picking up immediately where the first film ended so perfectly, Hatchet II wastes no time in getting straight into some comical splatter, as Marybeth sets about trying to flee the swamp, while a chance encounter with a certain urine drinking character gives her a further insight into Victor Crowley’s existence. There are no apologies made, or even needed, to drive the narrative forward, as Marybeth seeks the assistance of Rev. Zombie and a pack of local redneck hunters (some of whom are played by familiar faces), to track down and kill Crowley.

In any movie that pits guns and brawn against an unknown force, I have to wonder how much Adam Green intentionally referenced Aliens, but that’s never a bad thing.

What stands out more about this sequel, is how much prominent the comedy element is, as the film is filled throughout with either straight gags, slapstick, in-jokes (through celebrity cameos, product placement and even a news report, which I’m sure references Green’s own film, Frozen, which we’re due to get here on 24th September).

It was also nice to see the ever underappreciated Tony Todd get to mix laughs with his usual, deep voiced brand of sinister portrayal, while being given a rare lead role and a chance to shine. I obviously remember him as The Candyman and in Tom Savini’s remake of Night Of The Living Dead, but aside from supporting roles in the likes of The Rock and the Final Destinations, it was noticeable how long it’d been since I’d seen him at the forefront on the big screen.

I confess that it did take me a while to readjust to the new Marybeth, but I’ve always had an issue from childhood when main roles are recast, as I immediately associate the actor with the character, no matter how small. But Danielle Harris rises to the occasion (despite looking teeny tiny in between Hodder and Todd in real life).

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There were also unavoidably missed elements from the first Hatchet when it came to the supporting cast, though Green apparently felt the same and managed to, somewhat cheekily, sneak a few faces back into this one, but I won’t say any more.

For anyone who’s seen the original, you’ll only have one question on your mind and that’s how well the death scenes compare. Well, initially, I worried that with the surprise impact now gone, there was no feasible way to top the spectacle from Crowley’s debut, but that was soon blown away with yet more unique and gory deaths, the likes of which I’d never seen. There is one moment of violent genius involving er… copulation, which really pushed the boundaries of taste and comedy, which will likely have the censors straining their tight collars. In my early report on Kick Ass, I flagged the Daily Mail’s likely uproar (which, sure enough, happened), so I can only hope they get wind of Hatchet II and give it the extra publicity it deserves. Speculation for the headline begins now.

Hatchet II is not for the faint hearted, but then every moment of violence is so over the top that, if treated as the pure horror comedy spectacle it is, it will have audiences clapping and cheering at every lovingly put together death (it did at my screening).

As with the first Hatchet, I can’t wait to share the experience with friends and have no doubt that Hatchet II will work itself into the post pub timetable. I just have to remember to allow an extra ninety minutes from now on, to allow for a much anticipated double bill.

If Hatchet II had been a disappointment, then it would’ve left me saddened, such is my love for the first, but I can’t recommend it enough. Exactly as I did three years ago, I would encourage you to see it on the big screen where it belongs, as, although a long period has passed between these two films, there’s still a shortage of films that manage to provide such a funny, entertaining and scary thrill.

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4 out of 5