After watching and reviewing Curse of Chucky (2013) lo these several days ago, I found myself somewhat nostalgic for the cheesy gorefests that perverted my innocent psyche when I was but a wee lad. It was with that notion in mind that I journeyed many miles, through treacherous swamps and bitter frosts, unforgiving deserts and raging seas, to my local Redbox to procure a copy of Hatchet III.
If you aren’t familiar with this series, think of a cross between Friday the 13th and… well, nothing, really: it’s pretty much Friday the 13th. Set in the swamps outside of New Orleans, Louisiana, the Hatchet series features a supernatural killer named Victor Crowley, who looks like the Elephant Man and is played by former Jason Voorhees himself, Mr. Kane Hodder. Victor has been slaughtering the idiots that wander into the swamp for several movies now, and begins this one having had his head and face blown off by Michael Myers’ longtime nemesis Danielle Harris. Within the first four minutes, he’s come back alive, and been shot and scalped again. But you can’t kill Jason… I mean Victor.
While the format does not differ from the Friday films in any significant way, there is some sense of fun to these movies that is largely missing from the last few decades of Jason fare. And while Jason is famous for applying whatever gardening tool is nearest to him in the service of his murderous cause, Victor Crowley generally eschews the use of tools in favor of just yanking bitches apart. Occasionally, he will make delightful use of a power-sander, but mostly, he just enjoys pulling parts off of people and using those parts to strike other people. To that end, these films tend to evoke the soggy, ultraviolent memories of the various GWAR concerts I’ve attended more than those of any particular horror film. Blood sprays everywhere – everywhere – as the indestructible Victor Crowley seeks revenge for his own death by sawing people in half in such a way that their brains visibly topple out of their skulls. Am I complaining? No.
Now, when it comes to casting a movie like this, there’s a few ways you can go. The first way is to simply hire a bunch a cheap, relatively attractive, terrible actors for your slasher to slash. Perhaps – ala Hitchcock – throw a celebrity in there and kill them quickly to create an “all bets are off” vibe. Your other option is to wink at your audience with meta-casting, and fill the movie up with actors genre fans already know. That’s what series creator Adam Green and his new director, BJ McDonnell, have done here. The lead in the last two films of this series has been Danielle Harris, an old pro at this game who has been battling Michael Myers in his various forms since she was ten years old. Sid Haig, of The Devil’s Rejects, appears in a cameo where he gets to sling racially charged insults at a black cop. Parry Shen, who has already been killed twice by Victor Crowley as different characters in the past two films, returns in this one as someone new, handwaving his resemblance to some of the bodies with a tired “All Asians look alike” joke. The best cameo we get is one from Derek Mears, most famous for portraying Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th reboot but also somewhat known for his work in ComedySportz LA. He plays his part with a subtle comedy to it, fully understanding the cheese-fest he’s part of, until the question of Hodder-Jason VS. Mears-Jason is brutally answered. As to the casting of Crowley himself, well, I’ve already said how much I like Kane Hodder and the brutal, energetic sense of joy he has in playing these roles are what makes them worthwhile.
These are the kind of horror films I like – dumb, fun, silly, and absolutely batshit violent. Now, while I loved the first Hatchet, the second one I found to be too scattered and messy to be an entertaining movie. This one strikes a better balance – while in no way living up to the splattery goodness of the first film, it manages to at least be more coherent and therefore more enjoyable. On a dark October night, with a beer in your hand and an article due for your website, you could do worse.