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Hatchet II | DVD Review

A bigger budget, faster action, and more blood and guts than the first make for a must-see flick for not just Hatchet fans, but for any and all fans of horror.

Back in the early-80s heyday of the slasher film, it was a general rule that a successful one would be followed by a sequel that promised ‘bigger, better, faster, more’. Think of the Friday the 13th series with Jason Voorhees increasing the body count and grue in each subsequent iteration in the series, for example. When writer/director Adam Green’s Hatchet hit the scene in 2006 with its promise of ‘Old School American Horror’, slasher fans ate it up to the point where a sequel was inevitable. In fact, Green has said that he always intended to do a sequel, having created the character of Victor Crowley and mapped out his story completely when he was eight years old. With Hatchet II, Green and crew have delivered on the promise of bigger, faster, and more – more than doubling the oncscreen body count and moving along at a relentless clip. Three out of four ain’t bad, but is Hatchet II better?

Assembling a cast of horror filmdom royalty, Hatchet II literally picks up right where the last one left off, with Marybeth Dunston (Danielle Harris, Halloween, this year’s Stakeland, taking over from the first film’s Tamara Feldman), fighting off the horribly disfigured Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder, Jason from Friday the 13th parts 7 through 10) and being saved by swamp hermit Jack Cracker (special effects master John Carl Buechler) only to be sent packing by her savior when he finds out her name. With Crowley’s attentions focused on Jack Cracker (a great death scene, by the way), Marybeth escapes and immediately pays a visit to Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd, Candyman), who further explains Crowley’s backstory and Marybeth’s family’s involvement in it. They assemble Marybeth’s Uncle Bob (horror director Tom Holland, Fright Night, Child’s Play) and a rag-tag group of local hunters, including such horror luminaries as A.J. Bowen (The Signal, The House of the Devil) and R.A. Mihailoff (Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) to go back into the swamp and try to put an end to Victor Crowley’s reign of bayou terror. Much carnage ensues, leading to an unforgettable climax that doesn’t leave much of an opening for another sequel, although that’s never stopped other franchises before.

Green seems to have spent a large part of the sequel’s bigger budget on practical effects (no CGI in this old school horror flick!), upping the blood and gore in even more creative and outlandish kills. Victor does it all: strangling a victim with his own intestines, slicing faces off, shredding heads with boat propellers, even killing two for the price of one with an insanely long chainsaw. And, of course, the infamous gas-powered belt sander makes a memorable return as well. But it’s not just the kills that will please horror hounds. In one scene, a meeting at Reverend Zombie’s shop aimed at goading a group of hunters into trying to track and kill Crowley features cameos from a bevy of horror filmmakers, including Troma Entertainment founder Lloyd Kaufman, The Gravedancers director Mike Mendez, The Collector writer/director Marcus Dunstan, and The Hills Run Red director Dave Parker. In fact, the room was so full of horror industry heavies that Tony Todd, who had to make an elaborate entrance and give a speech to them in the scene, says on the actors’ audio commentary that it was like having to do an audition for twenty people all at once. It’s this type of insider eye-winking that makes Green’s contention that he wanted to make this film strictly for fans of the first one ring true.

Slasher films aren’t known for their cinematic scope and don’t need the super-wide vista shots, so the unrated director’s cut DVD release of Hatchet II‘s 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is nothing more than decent, which is fine; an excellent 5.1 Dolby Surround soundtrack, however, intensifies every kill scene with the sounds of splatter. Where special features are concerned, there are considerably less featurettes on this disc than on the first film’s, but it’s made up by the fact that there are two very good audio commentaries as opposed to the one on the original Hatchet‘s DVD:

Hatchet II: Behind the Screams displays different pre- or in-production to finished shot comparisons of each of the seventeen(!) onscreen kills, interspersed with interview footage of Green and others discussing the film and also some video anecdotes about the making of Hatchet II. It’s a fast-paced but highly entertaining and informative 35-minute mini-doc.

Trailer, Teaser Trailer, TV Spot, and Radio Spot: Pretty standard fare here, with the trailer playing up the fact that Hatchet II would be the first horror film in 25 years to be released to theaters unrated. The radio spot is a treat for fans, too, as it fits just about every gross sound from the film into a 30-second ad: screams, unsheathing blades, chainsaws, belt sanders, more screams, and plenty of squishy, splattery sounds that you can only imagine what they are.

Production Audio Commentary Track: Adam Green talks a lot, and rarely is he uninteresting, but the best part of this audio commentary, besides Green’s penchant for lovingly pointing out every flaw in the film like a child discussing his scars, is learning from make-up effects supervisor Robert Pendergraft exactly how the kill scenes were accomplished. It’s like a 90-minute course for anybody wanting to get into the practical effects end of the horror film industry. That’s not to say that it’s all “look at her blink, even though she’s dead!” and “We wanted to spin the head around completely, but it didn’t seem realistic enough”, though: cinematographer Will Barratt is along for the ride, and we learn some interesting tidbits of information about how certain shots were achieved on a budget.

Cast Audio Commentary: A true horror fan’s wet dream, icons Kane ‘Jason Voorhees’ Hodder and Tony ‘Candyman’ Todd join Adam Green in a feature-length audio commentary that begins as a discussion of how much they enjoyed working on the film and develops into a laid-back party-type conversation where all three joke around and praise each other while also ribbing each other.

Bigger? Check. Better? Check. Faster? Check. More? Check. Hatchet II adheres closely to the rules of slasher sequels and does so with gruesome glee. A bigger budget, faster action, and more blood and guts than the first make for a must-see flick for not just Hatchet fans, but for any and all fans of horror. The rating, it must be noted, is for the film within the horror genre, and would not necessarily be a top-ten consideration for just anybody.

Movie rating – 4

Disc Rating – 4

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