It was a dark and stormy night. Hurricane Nicole was dumping her leftovers across the Eastern seaboard. I was sitting safely in my Volkswagon GTI, engine idling, new Accept album cued up, deciding what to do. Brave the 45 minute drive to New Brunswick to catch a midnight screening of HATCHET II in all of its unrated glory? Or head back inside and eat the cost of my pre-paid Fandango ticket?
Hmmm, WWVCD (What Would Victor Crowley Do)?
I decided to man up, crank some old-school metal and brave the storm. And about 10 minutes later, I turned around. The rain was coming down harder than a bucket of HATCHET grue splashed against a tree. I couldn’t see a thing. It was the right decision. I didn’t need to be the one getting decapitated that night.
The next day I caught a matinee of HATCHET II. The hype surrounding this mother is off the charts, and unfortunately, it’s this unchecked hype that made my first HATCHET experience a letdown. I have since come to appreciate HATCHET, but I really didn’t want to be turned off on my first date with HATCHET II. Still, this is unrated, in-your-face-horror back on the big screen, baby! How can it not rock?!
After taking in the first, glorious kill and opening credits of HATCHET II, set to the strains of industrial noisemakers Ministry, I relaxed in my seat a bit. Yep, HATCHET II was off to a head-banging start just as I hoped it would. And then, the unthinkable happened. The movie slowed to a crawl.
Marybeth (played brilliantly by Danielle Harris) wants to take Crowley out since he hacked up her family. She pays a visit to Reverend Zombie (played brilliantly by Tony Todd) to get some answers. The two squabble for what seems like an eternity about whether or not Crowley is real and why Zombie won’t accompany Marybeth for another trip back to the swamp. Then we are treated to a flashback that delves deep into the creation of Crowley. It’s interesting, but long-winded. And remember Kane Hodder crying in the first HATCHET? He weeps multiple times during this flashback in HATCHET II. Jason Voorhees knows how to cry. I get it. Can we move on, please?
Eventually Zombie gathers a crew (another long and not very funny sequence) and finally heads back into the bayou with his newfangled posse, Marybeth and her fake uncle (played brilliantly by Tom Holland) to eviscerate Victor. The boat ride captures a few fleeting moments of humor but it doesn’t hold a candle to the shenanigans and tension created so wonderfully in HATCHET. Clearly, the chemistry and charisma of this crew is lacking. This becomes painfully apparent when they step off the boat and wander around on Victor’s turf, guns drawn, cracking bad jokes under the harsh glare of fake moonlight that illuminates the dime-store look of the re-created swamp. I thought a bigger budget was supposed to make things look better?
Thankfully, when Crowley shows up to the party, things get messy. The kills come fast and furious. Not all of the practical effects worked for me but it was refreshing to see the amount of unflinching, over-the-top slaughter on display in HATCHET II. There’s no question, Victor Crowley is a slasher icon to root for as he knows how to slice, dice and power-sand people into a bloody pulp better than most monstrosities of his ilk. Sure, Hodder might like to cry, but he also knows how to get his slasher game face on and his physical manifestation of Victor Crowley this time around is nothing short of impressive. But as much as I love me some Crowley, I have to give mad props to Danielle Harris. She literally blows her fellow actors off the screen with her presence. She’s plays an emotional train wreck from frame one until the very end of the movie with such hunger and conviction that it’s hard not to sympathize with her.
Despite some of its shortcomings, I still enjoyed HATCHET II and I am proud that I was able to support unrated horror on the big screen. But if Green streamlined the script a bit more and beefed up some of the supporting players (and humor), I think he would’ve had another trophy to add to his admirable collection of HATCHET, GRACE, SPIRAL and FROZEN.