2 out of 5
Directed by: Adam Green
While correcting for the boorish cringey nature of the first film, and upgrading protagonists by swapping out fratboy generics for Danielle Harris – inspired recasting – Hatchet II pushes into a goofier direction, which is not unwise, but also subtracts out the energetic kills and Hodder performance that were the original’s saving graces; it is a more consistent movie, but with less inspired gore and more boring overall.
Picking up right where the former flick ended – save swapping out Tamara Feldman for Harris as sole survivor Marybeth – the distraught final girl revisits haunted swamp tour guide “Reverend Zombie” (Tony Todd) and demands to be taken back in order to secure the bodies of her father and brother and to take revenge on Viktor Crowley. This is, of course, ridiculous horror movie logic, but Green sticks to an amusing level of idiocy for everyone in the movie – Harris is certainly more sympathetic than others, but everyone here operates in slasher fodder mode, so it gets a pass – and it also gives the series a chance to retcon / flesh out the lore a bit, creating a franchise.
Soon enough, we’re back in the swamp with a whole bunch of gun-totin’, alligator-huntin’ types, who’ve been promised a big payday if they can bag Crowley’s head – most not believing in the “myth” anyway – with Rev. Zombie plotting something nefarious in order to come out on top of the whole arrangement, hopefully ending with the swamp being opened back up for more profitable boat tours. Todd chews his scenes delightfully, and I did get a kick out of Parry Shen returning in a classic twin-brother shtick.
Green opens with a pretty funny, over-the-top gore gag, which immediately sets a more slapstick tone than the first movie, and has some followup funny concepts when we eventually get back around to Crowley kills, but the limited budget and the lighter color palette don’t end up doing these subsequent gags much favor – they feel cheaper, and they’re less energized. Crowley’s costume doesn’t look as great, with Hodder also toning down his boogie-woogie frenzy from Hatchet 1 for something a bit more typically Jason-y.
We still get some requisite T&A stuff, and it’s still a little gross – I really don’t get what the intended tone was for that 14 year-old joke – but it’s more “appropriately” in-your-face than the first film’s indulgences, and mostly isolated to the opening, which, as presented through the pornographer’s camera footage from Hatchet, could be seen as Green trying to meta “frame” the stuff from the first movie’s point of view. By comparison, the flash of skin in the middle of the movie, prior to a “hey, I know we’re in these haunted woods but let’s have sex” scene, totally works, because it’s done comedically and doesn’t try to mask what it’s about.
Ultimately, though, the whole movie feels like a limited joke stretched to its thinnest. It doesn’t have the momentum to make it past its cheap veneer, and once the additions to the lore have been made in the first, like, 10 minutes, there’s nothing much to do but to wait the next 50 or so until the kills start, which also drag behind those in the original.