Monday, October 04, 2010

Old School American Horror

Anyone who grew up reading Fangoria during the 1980s knows the name John Carl Buechler. Not only did he fabricate gut-churning makeup gore effects for horror movies like THE PREY, BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR, and FROM BEYOND, he also directed several, most notably FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD.

Now Buechler is back in the slasher movie biz, and Adam Green has him. Green’s first horror feature, the strikingly titled HATCHET, made enough racket among genre fans to earn him enough juice to get its 2010 sequel released in theaters without an MPAA rating.

HATCHET knows its inspirations, the lurid blood-soaked slasher movies of the ‘80s, quite well, and features a hideous murderer to rival Jason Voorhees himself. And I mean that quite literally, as Green has enlisted stuntman Kane Hodder, the only actor to play Jason in more than one FRIDAY THE 13TH movie (including Buechler’s), to portray HATCHET madman Victor Crowley, a malformed madman who really, really hates it when strangers enter his swamp.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that HATCHET is one of the best-acted and funniest slasher films ever made. The cast, anchored by gangly Joel Moore (BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT) as a just-dumped Everyman and Deon Richmond (SCREAM 3) as his jiveass best friend, are terrific playing characters whom, for once, you actually don’t want to see get dismembered. The actors are likable and appear to be having a good time with the humor in Green’s screenplay, which takes the meanspiritedness out of the murders.

The simple plot finds college students Moore and Richmond; middle-aged couple Patrika Darbo and Richard Riehle; amateur pornographer Joel Murray (more than twenty years after starring in MOVING VIOLATIONS) and models Joleigh Fioravanti and Mercedes McNab (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) providing the nudity; Asian Cajun tour guide Parry Shen; and mysterious beauty Tamara Feldman stranded in the Louisiana swamp where, legend has it, dwells Hodder’s Crowley, a combination of baghead Jason from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, the mutant from THE FUNHOUSE, and THE BURNING’s Cropsey.

Buechler’s practical gore effects are juicy and refreshingly free of CGI enhancement, and Green is quite good at setting up the scares, though the midnight swamp always appears a little too bright. The filmmakers also know their audience, who will enjoy not only the cameos by horror movie favorites Tony Todd (CANDYMAN), Robert Englund (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), Joshua Leonard (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), and even Buechler as the Crazy Ralph character, but also the kills that pay homage to the director’s favorite movies (Hodder pounds one victim Jason-style against a mausoleum with Adam Green’s name on it).


Andrew Byers said...

AMC just pulled Hatchet II from all its theaters:

I haven't seen it yet, but a great independent theater in my area has just announced that they'l be showing it for a special, one-week only engagement.

Dan Snoke said...

I really enjoyed this. Starts a little slow, but then got pretty funny. I wanted to see the sequel in the theater last month, but it only showed for three days! I quess it will end up on DVD pretty quick though.