Creating a satisfyingly gory and humorous conclusion to a fan favorite horror comedy film trilogy can be a difficult process for even the most experienced directors. But first-time feature film helmer BJ McDonnell easily stepped into the helmer’s chair for ‘Hatchet III,’ which is opening tomorrow in select New York theaters. McDonnell, who worked as a camera operator on the first two films in the ‘Hatchet’ franchise, naturally took on the helm from Adama Green, who also penned all three movies. The new director satisfyingly created a comedic, horrifying conclusion to the fan favorite series.
‘Hatchet III’ follows the vengeful Marybeth (Danielle Harris) as she continues seeking out a way to destroy Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a seemingly-invincible sociopath rampaging through a sleepy Louisiana swamp. While a heavily-armed team of mercenaries takes to the bayou surrounding Crowley’s home, Marybeth finds herself begrudgingly teaming up with a local Jefferson Parish policeman, Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan), and his reporter ex-wife, Amanda (Caroline Williams). Amanda’s an expert on the homicidal urban legend, and may have uncovered the secret to ending his murderous rampage once and for all.
McDonnell, who has also made a name for himself as a camera operator on such high profile films as ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ and ‘Jack Reacher,’ as well as such horror movies as ‘The Collection’ and Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ series, expertly incorporated intriguing cinematography into ‘Hatchet III.’ Despite having a limited budget and facing the challenges of shooting the horror comedy almost entirely overnight in a Louisiana swamp, the first-time director effortlessly found interesting ways to grittily frame the character’s interactions alongside the non-stop gory stunts. One of the most impressively framed sequences is when Crowley is menacingly pursing the crowd that has invaded his land, and is staggeringly and menacingly standing in front of his burning house after the police try to kill him. Cinematographer Will Barratt also captivatingly worked with McDonnell to use natural lighting to frame the lawmen pursuing Crowley in the dark and treacherous swampland, from the flames that engulfed the antagonist’s house to the spotlights of the police’s helicopters that are also searching for the killer.
Hodder and Harris, who are both notable veterans of the horror genre, also impressively pushed their respective characters to the limit. While the majority of the horror comedy focused more on the gory kills and gruesome stunts than the actual story of Marybeth seeking revenge against Crowley’s murderous rampage, the two actors did capture a realism in their characters’ motivations. Harris, who also worked on Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ series, terrifyingly showcased the extreme aftershock her female protagonist was experiencing after seeing multiple people being killed by Crowley in the first two ‘Hatchet’ films. Hodder, who’s best known for playing Jason Voorhees in four ‘Friday the 13th’ films, didn’t have any lines in the conclusion of the ‘Hatchet’ trilogy, but frighteningly showcased the killer’s rage in his facial expressions. In the sequences where the two warring characters come face-to-face, Hodder and Harris brazeningly lost their inhibitions, and let their characters’ anger over being targeted lead them to take drastic measures in defending themselves.
While the daring and effective cinematography Barratt and McDonnell incorporated into ‘Hatchet III,’ as well as the genuine and bold rage Hodder and Harris fueled their characters with, filled the horror comedy with some interesting sequences, some of the special effects unfortunately felt the strain of the film’s limited budget. While the director did have some clever ideas of how to stunningly create numerous unique murders of countless policemen at the hands of Crowley in one night, some of the decapitations and other bold intentioned killings unfortunately looked unrealistic. The film was meant to interlace a campy feeling into its drastic and gruesome murders and theme of taking revenge on those who wronged you. However, the obviously unnatural look of some of the kills during Crowley’s murderous rampage took away from the fun and horrific nature of the storyline.
‘Hatchet III’ is an expressive and visually gritty conclusion to the fan favorite horror comedy ‘Hatchet’ trilogy, as it offers a terrifyingly emotional conclusion to Crowley and Marybeth’s drive for vengeance. McDonnell expertly used his extensive experience as a camera operator to captivatingly find ways to grittily frame the character’s interactions alongside the non-stop gory stunts. Hodder and Harris’ extensive horror experience allowed them both to showcase their characters’ anger over being targeted, which lead them to take drastic measures in defending themselves. While the director’s background in cinematography and the two lead actors’ performances brought an intrigue to the series’ second sequel, the unrealistic look of some of the kills during Crowley’s murderous rampage took away from the fun and horrific nature of the storyline.