It occurs to me that I’m kind of late to the party with this one, since Hatchet III actually came out last year, but whatever — I’ve reviewed the first two films in Adam Green’s self-proclaimed “old-school slasher” series, and it’s high time I reviewed this one, as well, even if, by all rights, I probably should have seen it sooner than I did (which was just last night, for the record).
It also worth noting that, unlike my usually way-too-verbose ramblings, my reviews of Hatchet and Hatchet II were actually quite short, and there’s probably no reason to break that streak here — after all, you pretty much know what you’re getting into with these flicks, and even though creator Green has passed on the directing chores this time to long-time camera operator BJ McDonnell, he still wrote the script and he’s on hand (in whatever capacity) as an executive producer, so things aren’t gonna be that much different.
Which, I guess, is both good and bad. It’s good in terms of continuity (the story here picks up at the exact moment the last film left off) and style (it feels for all intents and purposes like Green may as well have directed this one himself), but it’s bad news if you want something a little bit different or challenging (which, admittedly, most fans of the series probably don’t). The blood, guts, innards, entrails, and other various viscera all fly more freely than ever in Hatchet III, to be sure, and since that pretty much represents the raison d’etre of what Green and his cohorts are trying to accomplish here, ya gotta say — job well done on that score. But is it just me, or is all of this starting to get more than just a little bit stale?
Danielle Harris is back as full-time “final girl” Marybeth, and she’s given plenty of opportunity to do what she does best — you love Danielle Harris, I love Danielle Harris, we all love Danielle Harris — and it’s nice to see some familiar genre faces turn up (look for Zach Galligan as the sheriff leading a doomed expedition into the swamps to track down Crowley and Sid Haig in a memorably OTT cameo) for the party, but some of the “second generation” (nice-speak for “nepotism”) casting decisions are questionable at best, like Robert Diago DoQui (son of legendary blaxploitation stalwart Robert DoQui) as a personality-free deputy and Cody Blue Snider (son of Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider) as a typically annoying twenty-something, but no real matter — when the time comes for them to meet their end, they all do it in style, and we all know that nodoby dispatches his victims better than Kane Hooder (even if he never gets to show his face in any of his most memorable roles). So yeah — for what it sets out to do, this flick does it as well as you’d hope and/or expect.
Dark Sky Films has done a nice job with the Blu-Ray (and, I’m assuming, the DVD) release, as well —- picture and sound are both flawless, as you’d figure from a new production, and the disc is loaded with extras including a couple of “making-of” featurettes, the trailer (of course), and two feature-length commentaries, one with the cast and one with the crew, that are both pretty fun to listen to. The shoot for this one sounds like it was positively grueling, but all in all everyone’s spirits seem high as they observe their handiwork. Again, job well done here.
So what, you rightly ask, is the problem, exactly? Good question — and not necessarily the easisest one to answer, but I get the feeling that Hatchet is a franchise in serious danger of jumping the shark. We’ve got some “voodoo curse” elements thrown into the mix here that have always lurked in the background, I guess, but become more prominent “crutch factors” this time out; the laughs are a little flatter; the “old school” vibe is not nearly as novel as it once was — lots of little things, I guess. But the most prominent death spiral that Green and Co. have gotten themselves into is one of their own making, and is the toughest one to pull out of : simply put, they’re always having to top themselves.
Think about it : every single one of Victor Crowley’s murders is more bloody, spectacular, tasteless, and physically and scientifically impossible than the previous one. And when you run up the body count as high as ol’ Vic does, that means you’ve gotta find some new way to pull out all the stops about 15 or 20 times in each film. It’s worked so far, but it’s starting to wear pretty thin, and any horror series that has devolved to the point where the only reason you’re watching it is to see just how fucking crazy and outlandish the next killing will be is one that’s starting to run on fumes. Everybody is still giving it their all here, that much is obvious, but it seems like they’ve pushed the whole concept about as far as it can possibly go, and maybe even a bit further. There’s no shame in quitting while you’re still at least marginally ahead, is there? Don’t get me wrong — I had a good time watching Hatchet III. It was pretty much exactly what I was expecting it to be, and that’s just fine. But I think it’s time to let Victor Crowley take a much-deserved rest for a good half-decade or so. He’s a fun, memorable, absolutely over-the-top character, and I’d hate to see him overstay his welcome.
Then again — most of the ’80s slashers he’s based on did just that, so maybe continuing to milk this cash cow to the point where all it’s got left is a few runny dribbles is part of that whole “old school” thing they’re going for. To be followed, of course, by the inevitable “re-imagining” of the series. The Hatchet fracshise might be starting to feel a bit threadbare, but who knows? Maybe it’s only just begun.