21 February 2011

Clarky's Review: Hatchet

Earlier on this season, after exhausting most of the horror films in my collection, and looking for an inspirational choice (such as Fin’s House of the Devil in the 2010/11 season) I took myself on a visit to my local DVD retailer to purchase some films for the upcoming weeks. I decided that these would be films that I hadn’t seen before and possibly never even heard of. One of these purchases was Hatchet, and now that Horror Club seemed to be back on track (after a poor start to the new season) I decided it was time to roll the dice, he who dares wins. Except, this time I lost. Badly.

There were 3 quotes / taglines on the box of Hatchet, two of which excited me and 1 left me with a feeling of dread. These were (roughly) as follows:

Get ready to see the new horror icon of this decade” – as noted in Fin’s review this was from Ain’t It Cool News, and sounded promising. Did we have a new Jason Voorhees on our hands, and if so would this be my crowning glory introducing him to horror club for the first time. Were we going to see the work of a raw, fresh director that would blow us away. The possibilities (and my hopes seemed endless).

ITS NOT A REMAKE. ITS NOT A SEQUEL. AND ITS NOT JAPANESE. – as you’re aware remakes are not what horror club is about. Why remake a film like Halloween, its a classic. Leave it alone. And I don’t have anything against some sequels, but with the Saw and Final Destination franchises being forced upon the cinema going public on an annual basis, so I assumed this statement was against films like this and other needless sequels. Why make a sequel to the remake of Halloween – not for me. Finally, I don’t have anything against some Japanese horror, but recently it seems to be that Asian horror is “the only horror” you can get. If its not Asian, its a remake of an Asian film, or a sequel to the remake of the Asian film – I’m looking at your Ring 2 and the Grudge 2! Added to this the fact that we have had some particularly nasty experiences (and not in a good way) this year with Asian horror (The Eye, The Host) and I thought that I was onto a winner!

“Makes the atrocities in Hostel look like Chinese burns” – understandably my excitement waned on reading this statement. As we already know Gorno is not for horror club. And therefore I resigned Hatchet to my DVD collection never to be watched.

However, on stumbling across a couple of reviews of Hatchet online, they raved about the “homage” to 80’s films, how funny and smart it was and the gore was not so much Hostel as Friday the 13th. I therefore decided that now was the time to bring Hatchet out. After all we had all been enjoying revisiting Jason Voorhees in the past few weeks, so what better than a film that references it and is meant to be excellent in its own right.....

Unfortunately, the reviews I had read were misleading. Not with regards to the gore, there was no Gorno style horror here, and some of the deaths were quite enjoyable. However, as Fin noted, the film tried to mix two unlikely bedfellows, horror and comedy. You can be one or the other, but not both. Zombieland is a comedy film within a horror setting, but you wouldn’t classify it as a horror, or be scared by it, and our first outing this year Piranha 3D was so bad it was good, but it knew it was and had its tongue firmly in cheek. This film tries to scare you and make you laugh at the same time, and the result is an uneasy combination which doesn’t sit well together.

The comedy first of all is shockingly bad. Whilst the horror is just about ok. There is maybe one scare a slightly creepy backstory (more of which later) however, these are sandwiched between “comedy” moments which lessen the effect of the horror.

As noted by other online reviews there are nods to other horrors, most notably Friday the 13th and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in a slightly unsettling scene in the tool shed, and as Ally pointed out having horror alumni such as the Candyman and Freddy Krueger also add a sense of fun to the proceeding, but there is a fine line between homage and rip off. And I couldn’t help but feel this film crossed that line.

It was almost like watching a horror version of one of those shitty “comedy” spoof movies (Epic Movie, Date Movie, Scary Movie) that are everywhere at the moment. Instead of being genuinely thrilling or scary it just copied what was in another movie diluting the horror (just as the spoof movies recreate genuinely funny scenes from other movies making them incomprehensible and unfunny). Its like hearing a joke from someone who overheard it from a friend who had heard the original from someone else. It makes you wish you were hearing the original joke. And so on Thursday night all I could think was that I would rather be watching a Friday the 13th film.

Sure they can be shoddy and laughable at times, and they have not aged well, but that's part of the charm of them. The sheer “80’sness” of it all. Hatchet was far too glossy and whilst it claims not be a sequel on the box, it certainly set itself up for a sequel which is, surprise surprise, now in production. Friday the 13th may have ended up a franchise and a cash cow that they milked dry, but it wasn’t initially set up to be that way. Hatchet on the other hand seems to be aiming at becoming a franchise, and this kind of thing doesn’t sit well with me when it comes to horror. The best horror films scare you and make you feel unsettled, you can’t do that if you’re trying be commercial at the same time in my opinion, or you are certainly limited in your vision at least (look at Ty West and House of the Devil in comparison to Cabin Fever 2!).

The back story of Victor Crowley was quite creepy, but it was pure Jason Voorhees – a disfigured child that’s bullied, haven’t I hear this one before? Victor Crowley was even played by an actor who had played Jason Voorhees in the latter Friday the 13th films!

And so Hatchet has been resigned back to the DVD shelf, and I can’t imagine it will ever leave it again. I can’t think of any reason why I would ever watch this film again, and not in a good way like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (where it left me with such a feeling of unease and my nerves shredded that I didn’t think I could ever handle watching it again), but because – why? Why would you watch and inferior film, that rips off something so enjoyable and so much better.

If I’m a few beers deep with my fellow horror club members and I feel like watching an “enjoyable” horror movie, Friday the 13th the Final Chapter will be in the DVD slot before you can say “Victor Crowley is a poor mans Jason Voorhees”. Which is quite long winded, but true.

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