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Anchor Bay Entertainment
DVD Released: 12/18/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/10/2007
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the horror scene was all about independent movies. Looking back, the classic films of that period -- Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Dawn of the Dead -- were all made independently. In contrast, the major studio efforts of the day, save for Poltergeist, were mostly laughable and boring. Today, the opposite is true. Most independent horror films today are homegrown cheapies which are difficult to watch, while Hollywood has finally embraced scary movies, if for no other reason, because they make money. I look forward to the latest horror releases from Columbia or Fox, but I cringe today when I get a new independent horror movie. But, there's an exception to every rule and I'd heard good things about Hatchet, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.
Hatchet opens with two alligator hunters (Freddy Krueger himself Robert Englund and Blair Witch victim Joshua Leonard) being killed in the bayou. The action then cuts to New Orleans in the midst of Mardi Gras. College student Ben (Joel David Moore), having just been dumped by his girlfriend, is not having fun, and begs his best friend, Marcus (Deon Richmond), to leave the partying and go on a ghost tour. Marcus reluctantly agrees and the two find themselves at a voodoo shop run by Shawn (Parry Shen), and they sign up a for a tour through the swamp. Joining them are tourist couple, The Permatteos (Richard Riehle and Patrika Darbo), aspiring soft-core actresses Misty (Mercedes McNab) & Jenna (Joleigh Fioreavanti), as well as would-be movie producer Shapiro (Joel Murray), and a quite girl named Mary Beth (Tamara Feldman). They take a bus to Shawn's rickety boat and start the tour (despite the fact that they are warned to not venture into the swamp).
When the boat is grounded, the group finds themselves stranded in the swamp. Mary Beth tells them the legend of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a deformed man who had lived in the swamp and supposedly died in a fire. They soon learn that the legend is real as the huge madman begins to chase them through the woods, picking off the group one-by-one. How can you kill a legend?
The DVD case for Hatchet claims that the film is "Old School American Horror". Well, I can only assume that the movie got held back a grade in this school, because Hatchet is an incredibly silly movie. Writer/director Adam Green is a bonafide horror fan boy and in the DVD extras, he admits that he wanted to make a movie which would create an iconic villain like Jason or Freddy. And while he's created a cohesive "legend" for the centerpiece of his movie, he's forgotten to write a story or create characters to put around it.
The odd thing about Hatchet is that it's actually two movies. Aside from the opening, the first half of the film, up until Chapter 10, is a comedy. And I'm ashamed to admit that I found myself laughing quite a bit. Joel David Moore (Dodgeball, Grandma's Boy) and Deon Richmond (Not Another Teen Movie) are good comedic actors and they share some very funny moments here. Richmond's reaction when Ben is hitting on Mary Beth is classic. But, once the boat runs aground, Hatchet suddenly becomes a gory horror movie. This sudden shift in tone wouldn't be so bad if the movie actually went anywhere. But, all that we get is a bunch of people running through the woods being chased by a big guy in overalls. To Green's credit, there are some good jump scares here, but after a while, it's easy to predict where Crowley will appear and we soon learn that the movie has nothing else to offer.
The makers of Hatchet want to pay homage to their favorite classic slasher flicks and there's nothing wrong with that. The problem here lies with the fact that I wanted to turn off Hatchet and go watch one of those older movies. For his first outing into horror, Green has done an OK job given his low-budget status, but given the fact that the movie is filled with horror icons and actors who we've seen before but can't necessarily name, it's not inappropriate to have expected more. The movie has some interesting gore effects (especially the jawbreaker) and there are some good jump scares, but when the movie was over, I forgot about the horror aspects and only remembered the humorous moments. Perhaps Green should put the horror aside for the moment and focus on comedy.
Hatchet slices its way onto DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For the most part, the image looks very clear, as the picture is sharp and clear. The image shows only a slight amount of grain and there are no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image has a nice depth. The only real problem arises in the brightness of the image. Some of the swamp scenes are too dark, while others are overly lit. This probably has little to do with the transfer, but the contrast is distracting and I kept wanting to fiddle with the brightness control on my TV. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This may not sound surprising, but the music and sound effects during the action scenes were much louder than the rest of the film. But, I couldn't tell if this was simply an overzealous sound design or an issue with the dynamic range, because these scenes were LOUD! To their credit, these scenes did provide a nice array of surround sound and subwoofer effects.
The Hatchet DVD contains a smattering of extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY writer/director Adam Green, director of photography Will Barratt, Tamara Feldman, Joel David Moore, and Deon Richmond. This is a fun talk as the group remembers the challenge of shooting this low-budget film. Green is quick to point out the scenes where stand-ins were used or where New Orleans locations were magically reproduced in California. "The Making of Hatchet" (39 minutes) opens with writer/director Adam Green telling the story of how he came up with the story while at summer camp. We then learn how funds were raised for the movie by shooting a teaser trailer. From there, the piece examines the casting and characters, and then takes an in-depth look at the shooting of the film with lots of on-set footage. "Meeting Victor Crowley" (9 minutes) explains how Kane Hodder portrayed Crowley and the way in which he hid himself and his appearance in full makeup away from the other actors. The other actors then share what it was like to work with "Crowley". "Guts & Gore" (11 minutes) examines the various kills in the movie with comments from special effects make up artist John Carl Buechler. This segment contains behind-the-scenes footage of the FX being created and executed on set. "Anatomy of a Kill" (6 minutes) shows the amount of planning which went into one of the more impressive deaths in the movie. "A Twisted Tale" (9 minutes) is a confessional from Adam Green concerning his love for Twisted Sister. Um..OK. Dee Snider also appears with comments. Too much self-disclosure is a bad thing. The extras are rounded out by a "Gag Reel" (4 minutes) and the film's TRAILER, which is 16 x 9.
On September 7, 2010, Anchor Bay Entertainment brought Hatchet to Blu-ray Disc. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at 27 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. However, there is a light sheen grain on the image during the daytime scenes. Some of the nighttime scenes are slightly darker than we have come to expect from a Blu-ray Disc. The colors look very good, most notably reds (just look at the reds on the tour bus). The picture offers a nice amount of detail, and the depth to the image is quite impressive in some shots, as the foreground is nicely separated from the background. The Disc offers a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fairly good, most notably in the swamp scenes when sounds come from off-screen. The surround sound during the "fright" scenes is good and adds depth to the experience. These same scenes provide fairly good subwoofer effects. To be honest, for a Dolby TrueHD track, the sound here is impressive and the bitrate is high.
The Hatchet Blu-ray Disc contains all of the same extra features as the DVD. The only new feature is a second AUDIO COMMENTARY which features Adam Green and Kane Hodder.
Review Copyright 2007/2010 by Mike Long