Adam Green’s Hatchet II is a feast for the old-school slasher horror fan which builds successfully on the original in nearly every way. I would go so far as to say that Hatchet II one of the rare sequels that bests its predecessor. Maybe it’s because writer/director Green isn’t trying to elevate the blatantly generic slasher fare he presents that I find his films so endearing. He’s not trying to alter these inherently flawed icons in any way – he’s lovingly tributing them to excess.
Tragic and vengeful Victor Crowley is as standard a character as serial killers get – born different, ostracized, demonized, murdered, and reborn a “Repeater” spirit always seeking vengeance on those who caused him pain. And just like the best of the generic slashers, the sequel amps up the family connections, multiplies the bodycount, and retools history. If slasher films aren’t your thing, there’s very little chance you’re going to enjoy the Hatchet series – which explains why they get such terrible reviews.
On the other hand, if you dig on horror in-jokes, inventive kills of backwoods jerks and hillbilly hunters, great gore/FX, and New Orleans lore – Hatchet II is gonna put a big fat smile on your face. There are some outrageously over-the-top kills in this movie, including a naughty one that must’ve been what caused all of the controversy. It’s all so tongue-in-cheek – never scary and so obviously winking at its intended audience that the concern seems ridiculous in hind-sight. There are known faces, names, and in-jokes a plenty, including a character that comes from the town where Leslie Vernon rose.
The only problem with the film is a big and unfortunate one. I happen to like Danielle Harris. She’s usually a strong actress – both believably brave and sympathetic, but as Marybeth she is required to do one thing: cry. And cry she does, whimpering and simpering in nearly every…freaking…scene. When I picked up the movie, the horror buff (and Harris fan) running the place warned me about this – but I didn’t think it could be that bad. It’s that bad. I think that they were going for the Halloween 2 (either version) aesthetic – where in-shock drugged Laurie is in a constant state of distress and hysteria in which the viewer feels for her. Hatchet II‘s Marybeth only reaches that state a handful of times, instead she spends the majority of the time plaintively whimpering about her family while demanding revenge. There’s no sympathy for her – you just want her to snap out of it so that her incessant whining doesn’t blow the next gory mess of a kill. It’s a shame.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if the ads and interviews about the film didn’t make it seem as though Marybeth comes back to kick ass. Ultimately that is her plan, but it never once feels like she has any toughness in her other than a ‘badass’ ability to shed a well-timed tear or two. Hatchet II is worth a rental for its guts and references alone, but you might want to save it from your home library unless you really want to support Green’s independent nature. Even then – I’d recommend the subtle and far superior Frozen.