“Old school American horror.” That was the tagline to Adam Green’s “Hatchet” back in 2006, but the film was mostly comedy with all of the horror and gore being in the final 20 minutes or so. But Victor Crowley became an icon for some reason. Why he did and Leslie Vernon didn’t is another story entirely. Nevertheless, “Hatchet II” was released four years later in AMC theaters with an NC-17 rating, but it was pulled literally two days after opening. Obviously the gore was too intense for viewers or it was so intensely scary that it was thrown back to the studio. It turns out that the film was just really bad and its decomposing funk was probably stinking up AMC movie theaters across the nation. The acting was beyond terrible and while the gore was ridiculous yet superb, it couldn’t save a sloppy film.
“Hatchet III” picks up right at the end of the last film. Marybeth (Danielle Harris) claws and bites her way through a fight with swamp legend Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) and thinks she has finally destroyed the monster that killed her father and brother. She turns herself in to the local police and is held for questioning while an investigation of the massacre from the night before is underway. A journalist turned blogger named Amanda (Caroline Williams) has been following the Victor Crowley legend for years and sees this as an opportunity to finally prove that Crowley is real. Could Honey Island Swamp finally be rid of Victor Crowley? Amanda doesn’t seem to think so.
In the opening moments of “Hatchet III,” Marybeth shoves her fist through Victor Crowley’s face before Crowley falls back onto a running chainsaw that splits him in half and showers Marybeth with blood. Somehow this is only scratching the surface of how gory this sequel really is. Grown men are ripped in half, their heads are knocked clean off their bodies, skulls are stomped, and limbs are torn from their torsos. All of that and it doesn’t even cover a pair of testicles hanging from a tree that’s referenced at least half a dozen times.
There are a lot of little gems and throwbacks to the previous two films in “Hatchet III.” It would be a shame to spoil the most spectacular kills and biggest surprises, so covering the more obvious ones seems safe enough to mention here. There have always been horror movie legends buried in the casts of the “Hatchet” films. Kane Hodder and Danielle Harris aren’t exactly strangers themselves. “Hatchet III” brings in Jason Trost (“The FP,” “All Superheroes Must Die,”), Derek Mears (“Friday the 13th,” “Predators”) and Sid Haig (“House of 1000 Corpses,” “The Devil’s Rejects”). Writer Adam Green (cameraman BJ McDonnell from the first two “Hatchet” films takes the director’s seat this time) even has a humorous little cameo.
The sequel is an all-around improvement over the last film. The story is as simple as it has been the first two times out, but at least the acting is better in “Hatchet III.” Danielle Harris was never really quite as awful in anything before “Hatchet II.” She’s more reserved in “Hatchet III,” spends most of her time brooding, and doesn’t talk quite as much, which maybe makes her more tolerable. However her white trash accent really makes you grind your teeth at times. Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan) is really over the top while the extremely machismo demeanor Hawes (Derek Mears) has gets under your skin as soon as he steps off the boat.
It’s great that the film doesn’t take itself too seriously though. There’s at least one really good jab to the previous sequel in “Hatchet III.” What makes it as entertaining as it is its obvious homage to the slasher films the “Hatchet” franchise pays tribute to. The SWAT team blasting everything in sight seems like an obvious reference to “Jason Goes to Hell” while there’s some makeup effects at the end of the film that are similar to some of the effects in “Jason Takes Manhattan.” Caroline Williams has the best scenes the sequel has to offer. Amanda’s interrogation of Marybeth while she’s in jail is the most engrossing scene in the film thanks to Williams’ performance.
“Hatchet III” isn’t going to win you over if you didn’t like the first two “Hatchet” films, but it does seem to put the franchise back on track. The practical makeup effects and splatter house type gore is even more awesome and ridiculous than in the previous film. “Hatchet III” feels more like the “old school American horror” the original film promised that violently shoves comedy in the back seat while gruesome terror gets behind the wheel.
“Hatchet III” currently has a limited theatrical run, but is available on demand. It comes to DVD and Blu-ray August 13.