Hatchet II picks up right where the original Hatchet ends, as the quiet but hot-tempered Marybeth (Danielle Harris, Halloween) barely escapes from the clutches of the mysterious Crowley (Kane Hodder, Friday The 13th), who has already has murdered all of Marybeth's friends and other vacationers in the New Orleans' swamp country.
Marybeth recruits a team of hired guns and returns to the bayou to exact her revenge, but quickly discovers that even with an army of hunters at her side, the murderous fury of Crowley cannot be contained. Ultimately, it will be up to Marybeth alone to defeat the seemingly indestructible Crowley, but not before learning the truth about a twisted secret he shares with her own family!
You can't kill a ghost.
Apparently some people from 'Hatchet' didn't quite get that point, so here we are, with Adam Green's 'Hatchet II', and you have to wonder, "why would anyone who narrowly escaped death the first time want to go back, let alone the very next day, to try to take on her attacker?!?" That's almost as daring as listening to Rebecca Black on repeat. It's a valid question, tough, but apparently Marybeth (Danielle Harris) doesn't give a rat's ass. Victor Crowley, the spirit that haunts a portion of the swamps outside New Orleans, killed her father and brother, and she wants revenge. This time, she's ready for the hatchet wielding ghoul, with a posse loaded to the teeth with weapons, and familiarity with their target. Tonight, the hunter becomes the hunted. Maybe.
'Hatchet II' isn't exactly an inspired sequel. In fact, it adds so little to the mythos, and treads so closely in the steps of the original, one has to wonder why it even exists, other than the fact that any horror film gets about thirty sequels and spin-offs. It also suffers from the fact that it tries to justify its existence by attempting to "one up" the previous entry in the series, by grafting fancier, more unique kills, and more of them, into the mix, instead of fleshing out and expanding the story further. The film is very two toned, as we go from survivor girl aftermath and the origin story for the Crowley family to the revenge plot and the slow butchering of each and every cast member one by one, with very little in between. That's normally where the plot goes. It just didn't decide to show up this time around.
'Hatchet' was an interesting film, even if it didn't live up to its premise. When the box art proudly proclaims it to be "old school American horror", and the film is hardly "old school," one can't help but feel a bit misled. It's the same movie we've been seeing for years, transplanted into the swamps of NOLA. I seriously had trouble distinguishing it from WWE Films' 'See No Evil' starring Kane. Both have bald, deformed looking huge ass monsters slashing through people like butter, with each kill being different from the last. Both make you wonder, is he a tall tale, a ghost, a nightmare, what the hell is he?! The only difference between the two films can be chalked up to the fact that the 'Hatchet' franchise has been wise to utilize the massive stable of former horror film darlings and "face" actors (you know, the ones you recognize but could never put a name on) to draw viewers in with that sense of familiarity.
'Hatchet II' just feels like more of the same, only not as good. We get the random theory touted like fact by Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd), which is the basis for the majority of the film. So this ghost monster creature thing, that was accidentally killed by its own father due to a group of children on Halloween accidentally causing his house to be set ablaze. That's the origin we knew going into this second film, but not once do we hear any rumors or legacy about the three boys who screwed up royally that one fateful night. In fact, it's mere coincidence that one of the boys involved ended up being related to the surviving girl herself.
The 'Hatchet' films are reminders of the great moments in horror, borrowing and harkening back to other series and iconic characters and moments, and the hatchet wielding goon (played by Kane Hodder, one of the men behind the Jason mask) doesn't have much to stand out from the other legendary killers. In fact, he is much more like the deformed beasties in the 'Wrong Turn' series than any of the mainstream titles like 'Friday the 13th' or 'A Nightmare on Elm Street'...but don't tell that to fans. So we have this layer of self-awareness (like the mentions of a nearby urban legend, Leslie Vernon), on top of a flawed reach of a premise that parades like a plot stringing together two distinct, contrasting halves of a film, and after a while, it becomes too much.
Green isn't a bad filmmaker. In fact, I will say that he does keep a great pace, and certainly knows his stuff, making this film feel less like a paint-by-numbers dispatch frenzy than most horror films (let alone sequels). He gets good performances out of his cast (for the most part), and can write an entertaining story. Sure, I turned off 'Frozen' long before the halfway point, but Green exudes the same love for film found in a Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino film, along with a similar post-modern dialogue writing ability, and it's hard to not like the guy getting to do what he loves. It is hard to like his return to the 'Hatchet' well, though. The story is too generic, and just plain lacking in general. The kills seem to have less to do with the story and are more there just for random entertainment. Characters don't even have a point this time around other than to be chainsaw/hatchet bait. There's less of a focus on crafting complex characters, and more on the quick and dirty exploitation thrill, leaving the film seemingly incomplete compared to the previous installment. There's no doubt in my mind we'll see a 'Hatchet III' at some point, even if this film was pretty much direct-to-video. We'll just have to hope Green learns from his mistakes this time.
Anchor Bay's second Blu-ray featuring Victor Crowley boasts a 1.78:1 framed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that has its moments, but ultimately falls short, and even has a bug or two.
Grain levels aren't tampered with, but blacks frequently crush, and noise and artifacts are much, much more annoying. There are moments of great detail, including some superb facial close ups, but ultimately, textures are random, contrast is spotty, and the overall presentation is a bit lackluster, including a few very murky shots. Throw in a frame (at the 3 minute, 24 second mark) where the entire picture breaks into a checkerboard pattern, that is hard to miss, fast as it may be, and you have a sloppy disc that had promise, but ultimately has too much for one layer of one disc, and one ugly little booboo.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track for 'Hatchet II' is a go getter, for sure. There's nary a line of dialogue that's difficult to hear, ne'er a moment where any level or element overwhelms others, and not a single fraction of a second that will heed viewers to reach for their remotes to adjust volume levels one way or another. Dynamics are spot on, bass levels are thumping, and rears get a nice light bit of ambience and activity that help make the film a little more immersive. Could it have been a bit more complete, with some more effects and rear activity? Sure, but there's no reason to look this gift horse in the mouth. This fairly-low budget horror sounds pretty darned tootin' good.
I hate to talk about the blurbs on a home video release, but the quotes found on the cover of 'Hatchet II' are rather telling. They talk about the increased kill count, the added gore, but not one bit about it being a good film. Take note, viewers. Take note. Fans should enjoy themselves, but this is a noted step down from the original. The Blu-ray for 'Hatchet' has average video that could have been better, good audio, and a nice chunk of extras. Green's newest horror romp, while it's far from perfect, still rates higher with me than 'Frozen'. This one is for the fans, and the fans only.