Reviewing a Cult Trilogy – The Hatchet Series – Friday The 13th 2.0

Do you remember the 1980’s? I don’t because I wasn’t alive but old people tell me that the slasher movie was quite popular. After the birth of the slasher genre with ‘Psycho (1960)’ and all of it’s imitators fell by the wayside, the genre was reinvigorated with ‘Halloween (1978)’, the first sequel of which was released in 1981. The makers were essentially forced to shed the almost bloodless style of the first film and ramp up the gore factor after ‘Friday the 13th’ was released in 1980 set the bar. Whilst ‘Halloween’ focused on the tension of a psychotic murderer hiding in the shadows before pouncing on his prey, ‘Friday the 13th’ messily gave birth to a new sub-genre of slasher films that concentrated on over-the-top gore effects and a cast of characters that doubles as a hit list. But I’m not reviewing Friday the 13th (not yet anyway), I’m reviewing the Hatchet trilogy which is a series that has the 1980’s slasher film as a heart, stage blood running through its veins and is wearing Friday the 13th’s skin.

Just like Friday the 13th, Hatchet has a psychotic and deformed serial murderer in the form of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). Also just like Friday the 13th, before he went
batshit, Victor Crowley’s death was ultimately caused by a few kids who thought it was OK to taunt him just because he looks different. Victor lived in a cabin in the woods with
his father, Thomas Crowley (Also Kane Hodder) who learned to look past his looks and love him as his son, just like a true liberal. However, when these little bastards turn up
and throw fireworks at Victor’s house to scare him, one of the fireworks set fire to the house. Thomas returns home and whilst trying to save him, accidently drives a hatchet
through his son’s head as he tries to chop the door down. After his son’s ‘death’, Thomas lives out the rest of his life as a recluse and eventually dies of what some say was
a broken heart. But Thomas didn’t need to feel so guilty because years later, Victor returns from the grave and spends his days and nights killing anyone who comes into his
field of vision.

The first thing that is totally obvious about this trilogy is that it was written and directed by someone who loves the horror genre, and it was. Writer and director, Adam Green
pops up every now and again in horror movie documentaries and clearly does have a soft spot for horror films. It should also be noted that he is the same man who wrote and
directed ‘Frozen (2010, no not that one)’ and should not be judged for it because in contrast, he also made the Hatchet trilogy which is really good. Whilst some might call
‘Frozen’ an exetential look into character development and the behaviour of individuals in a frightening and high pressure situation, I call it ‘zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’.

Another thing that shows how much Adam Green loves the franchise is the sheer number of horror movie regulars that are cast in this film. Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) is one of the first victims; Danielle Harris (Jamie Lloyd, Halloween 4 & 5 and Annie Brackett, Both the Halloween Remakes) is Marybeth Dunston in Hatchet 2 & 3, Tony Todd (Candyman) is Reverend Zombie, Derek Mears (Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th Remake) is SWAT Team Leader, Tyler Hawes in Hatchet 3, Deon Richmond (Tyson Fox, Scream 3) is Ben’s friend, Marcus in Hatchet 1, Zach Galligan (Billy Peltzer, Gremlins 1 & 2) is Sheriff Fowler in Hatchet 3, Tom Holland (Director of Psycho II and Childs Play) is Uncle Bob and even Kane Hodder was the longest running Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th Part 7, 8, 9 and X).

The Hatchet Trilogy thoroughly embraces the slasher genre tradition of the characters wearing their main traits right on the surface because they don’t have enough screen
time to develop a character. This is a fun game to play when you watch one of these films with your friends. There is always a shot of all of the soon to be victims so when you
see it, pause. Then assign a number to each of the characters. The numbers represent the order in which they will die. The person with the closest approximation gets a goldfish
or whatever.

Spoiler Alert, Beware

Although the trilogy started in 2006 and finished in 2013, the events of the films takes place over three days. The actual plot begins with Marybeth Dunston (played in the first
film by Tamara Feldman) travelling to Honey Island Swamp to find her father and brother who have (unbeknown to her) been killed by Victor Crowley. At this point, Victor Crowley is just a horror story and no one believes in him. When she gets there, Marybeth and the people travelling with her on a tour boat of the swamp are picked off one by
one. The film ends with Marybeth and Ben (Joel Moore) on a boat in a swamp having seemingly killed Victor. But in true slasher villain tradition, Victor comes back and
tears off Ben’s arm. The final shot in Marybeth screaming as Victor Crowley grabs her.

The second film begins and Marybeth (now played by Danielle Harris) escapes the clutches of Victor Crowley and is rescued by Jack Cracker (John Buechler, Director of Friday  the 13th Part 7 and make-up effects master), a mad local who is synonymous for drinking his own piss. Jack kicks out Marybeth when he discovers who she is before he too falls victim to Victor. Marybeth makes it back to town and recruits Reverend Zombie, her uncle Bob and some other locals to go back to the swamp and kill Victor Crowley once and for all. This plan goes just as well and you’d expect it to go I.E, not very well. But a grand revelation is revealed. Marybeth’s father, uncle and some other prick were the kids who threw the fireworks at the house of Victor Crowley and were indirectly responsible for his death. Reverend Zombie’s theory is that if Victor kills these three guys then the curse will be lifted and he can finally be killed. This theory, although rational, turns out to be a load of shit and Reverend Zombie is rewarded with the grandest death
in the film. Marybeth gets the upper hand and smashes Victor in the head with his own Hatchet. Then before he can get up, she blows his head with a shotgun.

Hatchet 3 starts and Marybeth is right where we left her, aiming an empty shotgun at Victor’s dessimated face. As she leaves, Victor gets back up and attacks her once again.
But Marybeth continues being a badass and pushes Victor onto gigantic chainsaw that was used in the last film. Victor is vertically cut in half and it seems that there is
no way that he can get up from that. Marybeth takes a souvenier, a piece of his head, and treks back to town and straight into the police station. She proclaims that she has
killed Victor Crowley and tells the Sheriff to go to Honey Island Swamp, therefore she can prove that Victor Crowley is real. The Sheriff begrudgingly does so and lo and behold, the swamp is filled with mangled bodies. Nevertheless, Marybeth is detained by the police as they believe that she is responsible for the crimes. Back at the swamp, Victor Crowley reassembles himself and starts doing what he does best and this time, the pickings are by no means slim. As the coppers and a SWAT team try and deal with Crowley, Amanda Fowler (Caroline Willams), the Sheriff’s ex-wife and Victor Crowley expert tries to convince Marybeth that Victor Crowley is not only not dead but cannot die because he was cursed by Thomas Crowley’s first wife. Crowley Snr was having an affair with his wife’s nurse and upon discovering that she was pregnant, she put a curse on the child. Thomas was apparently completely unaware that he married a witch. Victor Crowley has spent his undead days wandering around the swamp, looking for his father and the only way to put him to rest is to give him back his father. But since Thomas Crowley is dead, that is a bit difficult. However, Caroline has a plan. She knows where Thomas Crowley’s ashes are. Amanda, Marybeth and Deputy Winslow (Robert Diago DoQui) get the ashes and head to the swamp. They find Victor Crowley after he’s killed just about everyone and they try and give him the ashes. The plan fails, resulting in the deaths of Deputy Winslow and Amanda. Marybeth grabs the urn and Victor impales her on a massive tree branch. In response, Marybeth smashes the urn over Victor’s head. As he is covered in his dad’s ashes, Victor starts to melt and dissolve until a small skeleton remains. Marybeth manages to break the branch that she is impaled on and with her last ounce of strength, she blasts the skeleton apart with a nearby shotgun. With Crowley properly dead this time, Marybeth lies down as the national guard helicopters hover overhead. The last shot is Marybeth taking a breath, leaving her fate up in the air.

Even though the films were destroyed by the critics, it’s only to be expected. These films are not meant to be liked by those snotty nose sods who demand an ‘intricate plot’
and ‘character arcs’. Even though I do demand those things, films like the Hatchet trilogy are the exception because the entertainment value comes from the kills. These films
are escpecially made for the ever so neglected special effects crews of the world so they can stretch their legs and show everyone what they are made of and I applaud them for
that.

However, what walks hand in hand with extreme gore is a harsh rating by the MPAA (The Motion Picture Association of America). Fans of Friday the 13th will know that the series has been slammed with constant cuts in order to be granted an acceptable rating to enter the theatres with. In America, a rating such as NC-17 (No child under 17 may watch this film) or an X rating (No one can watch this film) is pretty much a death sentence for any film because it dramatically reduces the audience. Ideally, an R rating in acceptable for a horror film. For the necessary amount of cuts the Hatchet films would have to make to be rated R, each film would only be around 30 minutes.

This is why I like Adam Green and the Hatchet films in general, they were made with the correct intentions. After his inital battle with the MPAA over the cuts that he had to
make with the first Hatchet, the subsequent films were given a digital release so they could be seen the way they were meant to be seen, gore intact. This decision did have
consequences financially but Adam Green’s vision is there for all to see. That is admirable and a return to honesty in film-making. As a show of gratitude, everyone should buy the Hatchet trilogy and enjoy them for what they are. Pure, mindless fun. Well it’s not exactly mindless, there’s brains fucking everywhere.

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