|Joel David Moore stars in the bloody "Hatchet."|
Even for slasher flick, 'Hatchet' doesn't cut it
When a boat ride billed as a "horror swamp tour" goes awry in the spooky marshes of Louisiana, and a ragtag bunch of college students, amateur porn actresses, middle-age tourists, and a mysterious young woman are left to their own devices against a hatchet-wielding maniac with an ingrown potato for a head, you know they're in trouble.
Unfortunately, so are we for the mercifully short duration of "Hatchet," a witlessly conceived, tedious rehash of just about every slasher flick that's hacked and bludgeoned its way to the box office for the past 30 years.
Writer-director Adam Green's film is being billed as a tongue-in-cheek homage to the slasher-film heyday of the '70s and '80s, when the likes of Michael Myers, Jason, Freddy Krueger, and Leatherface roamed the suburbs and backwoods of America in search of teenagers, campers, and lost motorists.
But Green has, apparently, aimed too high. Unlike "American Pie," say, or "Not Another Teen Movie," there's no sly insider humor and irony, or playful sense of pop-culture kitsch that recalls that golden - and yes, at times deliciously terrifying - era when Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis were freaked out of their minds. And that, perhaps, is the worst sin "Hatchet" commits: It's just not that scary (even the gory sequences are predictable and boring). And it certainly isn't clever or funny.
The film centers on Victor Crowley, a deformed burn victim-turned-serial killer (Kane Hodder, who previously portrayed "Jason" in that esteemed horror franchise) who seeks revenge on the public that taunted and tormented him. How? By dispensing with anyone who crosses his path through gruesome and blood-spattering methods, of course (ripped limbs seem to be his specialty).
Long presumed dead in a fire (his father accidentally hit him in the face with a hatchet trying to save him from the blaze started by neighborhood kids at Halloween), Victor is instead very much alive. He's also apparently over-caffeinated and styling some very "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" overalls in his quest for fresh meat. In "Hatchet," he has, quite literally, a boatload of it, er, them.
These pieces of human bait - and they thought the alligators were dangerous! - are none too swift, aimlessly trudging around the swamp in circles when their tour boat sinks. Leading the way is supposed good-guy Ben (Joel David Moore), jilted by his girlfriend and endlessly carping about it - he's so bummed he doesn't even want to join his buddies oggling half-naked women at Mardis Gras. By Ben's side is the doleful but inevitably beautiful, and gun-toting, young woman, Marybeth (Tamara Feldman), who looks nothing like her half-wit brother and father, whom she's looking for after they vanished from an alligator-hunting trip (the plot thickens). One by one, as punishment for their annoying personalities, all parties involved suffer Victor's unquenchable wrath.
Even Ben's buddy Marcus ("Not Another Teen Movie" alum Deon Richmond) gets a big love-you-to-death hug from lonely Victor, just when we thought he might make it to the sequel. But armed with nothing except a flashlight, cellphone (which doesn't work, natch), rusty pitchfork, and their own hapless attempts at dialogue and character development, how could this gaggle of human gumbo hope to compete? After all, Crowley - as big as the Frankenstein monster and with a toolshed full of handy tire irons - has the whole history of slasher flicks on his side. We won't spoil the ending, but let's just say that Victor handily wins this game of hide-and-seek.