Director: Adam Green
Starring: Joel David Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Mercedes McNab, Parry Shen, Joleigh Fioreavanti, Joel Murray, Richard Riehle, Patrika Darbo, Joshua Leonard, Tony Todd, Robert Englund, Kane Hodder
Before Sylvester Stallone got a bunch of his buddies together for the “Expendables” series of action films, the horror genre had already conceived of “Hatchet,” a virtual who’s-who of genre actors made by horror fans for horror fans. Having much in common with the “Friday the 13th” series, “Hatchet” is never once meant to be taken seriously. It’s just a bloody, often hilarious way to spend 80 minutes of your time.
Sampson Dunston (Robert Englund) and son Ainsley (Joshua Leonard) are fishing in a Louisiana swamp when they are attacked and killed by a monstrous, unidentified assailant. The next day, during Mardi Gras, Ben (Joel David Moore) decides that the festivities aren’t his kind of thing and instead elects to go on a haunted swamp tour. Despite his better judgment, Ben’s best friend Marcus (Deon Richmond) decides to accompany him. Sadly, the tour has been closed due to negligence. The tour’s guide, Rev. Zombie (Tony Todd) recommends a similar tour down the street run by Shawn (Parry Shen), who neglects to tell his customers beforehand that he’s only done this once before. Marcus nearly leaves, but changes his mind when two amateur porn actresses, Misty (Mercedes McNab) and Jenna (Joleigh Fioreavanti) join the group. Also along for the ride are the girls’ director, Doug Shapiro (Joel Murray), and Jim and Shannon Permatteo (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo). The final guest on the boat ride to Hell is Marybeth Dunston (Tamara Feldman), sister of Ainsley and daughter of Sampson.
Along the way, a homeless man warns them not to go any further, but Shawn dismisses him entirely. Soon after, the boat hits a rock and starts to sink, forcing the passengers to continue on foot. During the tour, Shawn had been reading from a set of cards the legend of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a horribly deformed creature who once lived in this very swamp. But he’d apparently been getting several of his facts wrong, including the location of the Crowley home, as Marybeth corrects him at every turn.
Once it’s established that the crew is indeed stranded, Marybeth details the true legend of Victor Crowley. In an origin story which sounds (deliberately) similar to that of Jason Voorhees from “Friday the 13th,” Victor Crowley was a horribly disfigured child who was constantly tormented by kids his own age. As a result, his father kept him hidden away in the house in which they lived. The house accidentally caught on fire one night when a group of mean teenagers threw fireworks at it to scare Victor. His father tried to free Victor by breaking down the door with a hatchet, but accidentally killed his son by driving the hatchet into Victor’s head. His father later died of a broken heart. That would be the end of the story, except that the legend says that Victor is alive somehow, and one can still occasionally hear him calling out for his dead father.
The legend proves to be true, as Victor emerges from the house and kills both Jim and Shannon. Marybeth tries shooting Victor, but he just gets right back up. Shapiro, who has gone off on his own, is hunted down and killed by Victor. The others go looking for weapons. In the process, Marybeth discovers the corpses of her father and brother. Victor returns and kills Jenna and Shawn. While Ben goes looking for a gas can to set Victor on fire, Marybeth and Marcus try to lure him in while Misty stands as a lookout. Victor dismembers Misty off-screen, throwing the pieces at Ben. Ben discovers one can with gas left in it, which he throws onto Victor. Marybeth and Marcus set him ablaze. Unfortunately, at that precise moment, the heavens open up and it starts to rain.
The trio starts to run away, but Marcus is caught and killed. Victor pins Ben’s foot to the ground with a gate pole, which Ben and Marybeth then use to impale Victor. Seemingly escaping with their lives, Marybeth and Ben board her father’s boat. Marybeth is somehow pulled underwater. Nearly drowning, she spots Ben’s arm and grabs hold… but finds that the arm has been severed and is being held by Victor Crowley, who roars in Marybeth’s face as the movie abruptly ends…
Apart from the lame non-ending, “Hatchet” is at times over-the-top, but entertaining. Love slasher films of the 1980s? The people who made this movie do, too, and it shows. As bloody as “Friday the 13th Part VII” was supposed to be before the censors got to it, the real treat is seeing all the genre actors in one place: Robert Englund (“A Nightmare on Elm Street”), Tony Todd (“Candyman”), Kane Hodder (“Friday the 13th” Parts VII-X), Joshua Leonard (“The Blair Witch Project”), John Carl Buechler (director of “Friday the 13th Part VII”) and Mercedes McNab (TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”).
The best way to experience “Hatchet” is to get a bunch of your friends together. For optimal viewing experience, it’s best to marathon this with the sequels. Doing this also makes certain that the ending that’s not really an ending won’t annoy you at all. If you’re not already a slasher fan, I don’t even know why you’d be reading this review, much less watching “Hatchet.” Extremely stupid? Of course it is, but that’s exactly the point. If that’s you’re thing, “Hatchet” delivers.