HATCHET (Blu-Ray Review)

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I was once puzzled by the rowdy enthusiasm and non-stop praise heaped upon Adam Green’s HATCHET. I distinctly remember being completely disappointed and slightly angry after my first viewing of this so-called return to “old school American horror” and how it didn’t deliver the bloody goods as promised. In fact, there was absolutely nothing about this flick that gelled with me: I thought the overall production quality was shoddy, the humor was hit-or-miss and the cameos by, ahem, icons of fright Robert Englund, Tony Todd and Kane Hodder were squandered.
That was then, this is now. I watched HATCHET again on Blu-Ray recently and all I can say is “It hurts!” Seriously, I feel as if I’ve just had my spine ripped out by the fearsome Victor Crowley himself. Experiencing HATCHET in hi-def with the lights turned low and the surround cranked up simply rocks. The image is dripping with tons of detail and the colors seem to burst from the screen. From the gaudy, puke-filled streets of Mardi Gras to the dark, dank swamps of Louisiana, the film has never looked or sounded better. The high-def experience totally elevates the movie’s shoestring budget and you can clearly see and hear all of the love that Green put into this project (Love that I sorely missed before, but totally appreciate now, with the immediacy of a proverbial hatchet to the face. Really sorry for my oversight, Victor. Please don’t hurt me! Okay big guy?)
In his commentary with Kane Hodder (more on that below) Green points out that he wasn’t completely happy with the Victor Crowley design and that there is a “night and day” difference (for the better) in HATCHET II. I also remember being disappointed by the Victor Crowley creation after my first viewing. His overall look just didn’t do it for me and as a result, he didn’t come across as very menacing or convincing as “the next great horror movie icon.” But all of that changed for me after seeing Victor mercilessly rip, cleave, bludgeon and mutilate his victims in high def. With a hulking frame, twisted spine and misshapen head, Victor is a fully realized freak of nature played with reckless abandon by Hodder. Love the denim overalls too, as they add the perfect hillbilly touch.
Just like every other card-carrying member of the Hatchet Army, I could continue to sing endless praises about the performances (they’re all solid), the humor (laughed out loud a few times) and practical gore effects pulled off brilliantly by FX maestro John Carl Buechler. But I won’t because if you’re a HATCHET fan and you have the tech, this Blu-Ray has no doubt been on your pre-order list for awhile. Based on the rock-solid image and aggressive sound mix, I’d be perfectly happy to recommend it as a bare-bones disc, but thankfully I don’t have to! There’s a ton of great bonus material to slice n’ dice through, including a bunch of cool “making-of” featurettes. But the standout for me is the all-new audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green and actor Kane Hodder.
Both Green and Hodder spend most of the commentary talking in broad strokes about how the production came together, wisely staying away from shot-by-shot anecdotes. This is very insightful stuff and there are plenty of behind-the-scenes war stories about Hollywood rejection; distribution challenges; lousy shooting conditions; dealing with the MPAA; the dangers of hype and the importance of being pro-active and creative when it comes to raising money, or as Green bluntly puts it: “You can’t sit around and wait for the phone to ring.”
If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I am a HATCHET believer now. Not sure why I didn’t “get it” the first time around, but boy oh boy…something can be said for enjoying a hot, steaming, bloody plate of sloppy seconds. Simply put, HATCHET rocks and this fine Blu-Ray release deserves to find a comfortable home on the shelves of discerning horror fans the world over. Can’t wait to pay another visit to the bayou when HATCHET II wreaks major box office damage during its wide release this fall!
-Tim Clark
Cut It Up with Crowley and Order HATCHET Here!