Wednesday, January 2, 2008

DVD Review: "Hatchet"

Internet buzz, viral marketing, word of mouth, comic cons-- these are the tools that modern independent filmmakers wield to boost the supposed value of their films. However, when a film is so hyped, so buzzed-- so seemingly guaranteed to be the next big thing, the only guarantee is that it's going to be a disappointment. Such is the case of director Adam Green's feature debut "Hatchet."

Touted as the "Return of old school American Horror", the film follows a group of New Orleans tourists who take an ill-fated trip down the bayou to witness the deserted marsh of local legend Victor Crowley. The legend tells that Crowley was a disfigured young boy who was raised deep in the bayou, far away from society. After his Father's death, Crowley was left to fend for himself killing any animal or man who dared approach his swampland cabin. When the tour boat inevitably runs aground, the tourists are left to fend for themselves as they realize they are far from the safety of the city, and that the legend of Victor Crowley is apparently all true.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the film. It's commendable that Green has returned to the roots of horror, using all practical effects rather than CG. Sure, they don't look as slick as a CG effect, but somehow the somewhat clunky practical effects feel more realistic because they are real props instead of digitally inserted renderings of gore. However, effects should not be the only element a filmmaker considers when making a film.

The writing is very derivative and pays way too much homage to other films. As a fan of horror films, the novelty of a director giving nods to lesser known cult horror films has worn off (Thank you very much, Eli Roth.) And if a film is going to go as far as to proclaim that it's antagonist is going to be considered alongside icons like Freddy and Jason, it had better deliver the goods-- this one certainly doesn't. Sure Victor Crowley dispenses of his victims in gloriously gory fashion, but his spastic, jerky movements were nothing if not humorous. And the fact that an industry legend like Kane Hodder is playing Crowley makes me believe he was simply following Adam Green's vision for the character.

Perhaps the film shot itself in the foot by building up the expectations of horror fans, a crowd who are notoriously hard to impress. Although, maybe the film deserves a little backlash-- after all, the films that "Hatchet" tries to emulate didn't know that they were "Old School American Horror" when they were being made. They were just horror films looking to add something new to the genre and succeeded, in turn earning them status as legendary films. Adam Green should have taken a page out of the book of Craven, Hooper and Carpenter and focused on a solid story and character development before effects and internet hype. Instead he came off as a horror fanboy who convinced producers to give him money to film a big budget fan-film. Since the film was produced on a low budget and is still garnering high DVD rentals, it will no doubt give way to a sequel-- I just hope Adam Green will add some more of his own personal flair to the next one and give us the meaty horror villain that he promised, but has yet to deliver.

Score: 1.5 out of 5

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