The legend of Victor Crowley has haunted the Louisiana bayou on the outskirts of New Orleans ever since the young and deformed Victor was accidentally murdered by his father, as he tried to save him during a fire. Now, they say that the ghost of Victor roams the area of his abandoned home, and murders anyone who gets too close. But Ben, along with his buddy Marcus, have no idea of this curse as they take a night time boat ride through the swamp via a voodoo shop tourist trap. Along with a loving married couple, a sleazy director and his two bimbo actresses who flash their breast on command, and a young woman who does not appear to be on the tour for fun, they are about to discover that there is truth behind every legend. And sometimes truth hurts. A lot.
From the very get go of writer and director Adam Green's horror project, it was hyped as a return to old school horror, and a return to championing the slasher antagonist. Green went so far as to get Robert Englund and Tony Todd in cameo performances, and the monstrously burly Kane Hodder to step into the shoes of Victor. Did he succeed? Well, if your idea of "old school" horror is ripping off the countless low-budget slasher clones that permeated drive-ins and video stores in the 80's that were already ripping off FRIDAY THE 13th, then yes, yes he did. Almost.
Green major problem with HATCHET is that he is purposely trying to make a film that creates shallow characters that you want to see die, setting up gratuitous nudity with a wink to the camera, and trying to create a new slasher anti-hero that will automatically be embraced by the fans. He is trying to create a film that you'd find on some dusty shelf in a mom-and-pop video store twenty years ago. But the films he is lovingly try to xerox never set out to be "bad" and never set out to obtain cult stats, it was only through the very nature of their limited budget, crew and cast and luck that they naturally became the schlock we so adore.
However, in Green's defense, there can be no denying the energy the man has for the genre, or his determination to see his vision come to the screen, however flawed it may be. This comes through the most in his dedication to using purely prosthetic and in-camera effects to achieve his visceral and brutal kills. Sadly, it takes almost fifty minutes of the roughly eight-minute running time to get there. First, the audience must wade through a knowingly corny script and annoying characters that you quickly realize are just lambs literally being driven to the slaughter. Most of the characters purposely grate against the skin, while the rest are just dull.
Once the carnage begins, Green lets loose what is obviously his key reason for making HATCHET, and that is setting up one gore-tastic murder sequence after another. Knowing beforehand there would be no MPAA to get in the way, Green goes for absolute broke as he gives each of his characters a caro syrup drenched demise that will put a smile on just about ever gorehound's face. Heads are popped off, limbed are torn asunder, and a belt-sander is put to good use on one victim's face just for starters. Victor Crowley's make-up, which looks very close to Jason Vorhees circa FRIDAY THE 13th PART 2, looks great, and his tattered clothes leave plenty of room for his deformed body to poke through. Kane Hodder, of course, dominates the screen every time he pops up. The man is in the business of being a killing machine, and business is good!
Green tries to stick to the "rules" he knows so well, and never for a second contemplates adding something or trying to put his own mark on the genre, which quickly devolves into a series of connected skits you can guess the ending of pretty early on. And with no characters to even route for, let alone care about, the whole thing becomes little more than a special effects resume reel to shop around. While it makes for an enjoyable but rather forgettable viewing (again, almost succeeding in the "old school horror" department), HATCHET should never have received the hype or praise that it did, nor does it achieve its self proclaimed moniker. It is the ultimate fan film made with professional equipment, from the story an eight-year old who has just been exposed to horror make up. No more and no less.