Hatchet is a slasher movie made by people who love slasher movies for people who love slasher movies. Writer/director Adam Green invites you to celebrate the genre alongside him. It’s a film that opens itself up for audience participation immediately and the more literate you are with slasher movies, the more fun you’ll have. Packed top to bottom with tributes to the films which came before it – from the horror alumni-filled cast to the titular villain who comes across as a hybrid between a maskless Jason Voorhees and Buddy from Slaughterhouse – almost everything about Hatchet is delivered with a knowing wink. All the actors know exactly the kind of film they’re in too and are more than ready and willing to go along for the ride which goes a long way. Likeable guys, a solid final girl and actresses who manage to make screaming in scantily clad clothing and getting butchered seem like incredibly dignified work rather than exploitation which is always the ideal.
For the most part Green’s film is harmless, genre-drunk fun but it does indulge in the kind of hetero frat-boy tone that I wish was left in the 80s; lots of dumb gags, emphasis on exposed tits, etc. Horror can be way more inclusive and sophisticated now (and even in 2006 when this was originally released) and I’m not willing to merely let Green off the hook by attributing it to the film’s throwback nature. It’s an area of the film – and by extension, the very genre it is inhabiting – he could have been more progressive with by opening it up into something less narrow-minded. It’s the fatal flaw that keeps Hatchet in the shadow of the films its cribbing from rather than stepping out into its own contemporary pantheon of slashers.
Nevertheless, Hatchet does have some dizzyingly furious and crazy gore, vividly augmented by some wonderfully bombastic and bloody physical effects. It’s in these moments that the film hits its stride and becomes a proper crowd pleaser, even if that crowd is me in my living room. As soon as Victor Crowley started ripping jaws open I was so down for this. So much so that I would love to to watch this movie in a cinema with a packed audience one day. I have a lot invested in slasher movies so I’m an easy “get” in that sense. Of-course I enjoy Hatchet, even more so upon this rewatch. It has its problems, sure, but when that hatchet starts flying and Kane Hodder does his thing, they’re soon forgotten.