A long time ago, way back when we first launched this site, we ran an interview with a fella named Adam Green (conducted by Horrorview pal, Eric Schmidt – aka; Don’t Feed the Dead), who was working on a film called Hatchet. At the time, Green only had a short-yet-effective trailer for the film made, essentially, to get the money to go out and actually shoot the movie for real. It wasn’t long before Green and Hatchet started turning up all over the web, with some proclaiming the film to be the greatest American slasher ever made before a single frame of was even shot. The buzz helped Green and his crew secure the money to make the film, and a new horror legend was born in the twisted guise of Victor Crowley; the hatchet-faced bayou mutant who promised to bring back “old school American horror” in a big way. Adam Green promised a lot with Hatchet, but did he deliver? In a word, fuck yeah (well, that’s two). The film proved to be enough of a hit with horror fans to earn a sequel (which, as of this writing, looks to be popping up in theaters in a matter of weeks!), as well as much deserved Blu-ray release.
Hatchet’s simple premise involves the aforementioned Crowley cutting, tearing, sawing, and ripping a group of disparate tourists on a “haunted” swamp tour into pieces. Everything and anything that gets them into the killer’s domain is simply a means to a bloody end, as it is clear from the film’s opening salvo – in which Robert Englund and “The Blair Witch Project’s” Joshua Leonard are reduced to little more than quivering puddles of goo – that Green’s main focus is on how many people he kills, when he kills them, and in what manner. That isn’t to say Hatchet is without plot; it’s simply that the plot here is just an excuse to round up a bunch of cannon fodder for Kane Hodder’s Crowley to eviscerate. And that’s just fine with me, especially when the kills are as inventive, over-the-top, and laugh-‘til-you-piss-your-pants funny.
When people aren’t dying, Green’s smart and very funny script fills the void nicely, with a great ensemble cast (headlined by Avatar's Joel David Moore and the beautiful Tamara Feldman) delivering the director’s hip and occasionally self-referential dialogue. Horror fans will no doubt tune in to see Englund, Hodder, and Tony Todd (who cameos as Reverend Zombie – a character Green promises will have a major role in the upcoming Hatchet 2), but the film’s great cast of established character actors (Richard Riehle, Joel Murray, and Patrika Darbo) and young talent, like Moore, Mercedes McNab, Parry Shen, and Deon Richmond are the real draw here, as is the debut of an obviously talented young director who’s such an unabashed horror fanboy it’s virtually impossible not to get behind and root for his further successes.
Anchor Bay releases Hatchet on Blu-ray in a spiffy 1.85:1 transfer, that boasts exceptional detail, vibrant colors, and an extremely crisp and clean picture throughout. The level of detail really shines in the early sequence set in downtown New Orleans. Here, in the light of day, the image pops, with fine detail evident in everything from storefront facades to the fabric and textures. Once things move into the swamp, the detail suffers a smidge, but the rich black levels and nicely preserved cinematic grain help keep the image in check, displaying a nice sense of depth and dimensionality.
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track is equally superb, with resonant bass, crisp and organic dialogue, and a host of spatial effects that will have you convinced your smack dab in the middle of the bayou. Chirping bugs, croaking frogs, and pouring rain are expertly distributed across the soundfield, making for a nicely immersive mix.
The Blu-ray release of Hatchet offers up a bevy of bonus materials, including a brand new feature-length commentary with Green and Hodder in which Green drops some bombs about the second film. It’s spoiler-heavy stuff, so proceed with caution! The second commentary (as well as the remainder of bonus materials) is carried over from the DVD release, and features Green, stars Joel David Moore, Tamara Roberts, and Deon Richmond, as well as cinematographer, Will Barratt. It’s a breezy and very engaging commentary, but I actually prefer the new one as Green and Hodder seem to really have this whole Crowly-verse figured out, and it makes for a fascinating listen. Also included are a series of very in-depth featurettes (SD), blooper reel (SD), and trailers for other Anchor Bay releases (HD).
Hatchet is a sort of mash-up between the over-the-top slasher flicks of the ‘80’s and the current crop of stoner comedies. Think of it as a sort of “Harold and Kumar go to Louisiana and Get Their Intestines Torn Out and Hung from a Tree” and you’ve got the general idea. While I don’t really consider the blend “Old School American Horror” as I don’t remember a lot of those 80’s films being this funny (at least intentionally), I do think that Green’s instilled his film with enough of that era’s blood, boobs, and gusto to make a hell of a lot of horror fans smile in between scares. The Blu-ray presentation is top knotch, and the new commentary makes it a worthwhile upgrade for fans who already own the DVD. Recommended!