3 out of 5
Directed by: Adam Green
It’s ten years since the original Hatchet. It makes sense that franchise creator / writer Adam Green would have matured in that time, and across the four movies in the series. I know the original had its wave of supporters – and obviously generated enough energy for sequels – but its immaturity and dated-even-then cringe factor of frat boy indulgences didn’t work for me. It’s gore and Hodder’s representation of killer Crowley did, though, and I appreciated Green pushing further toward camp in the sequel, even if it was also, ultimately, uneven.
I remarked that Hatchet III might’ve ended up being the only Hatchet necessary up to that point, as new director B. J. McDonnell managed to bridge the gap between Green’s B-movie style and something with a bit more polish, similarly linking the first Hatchet’s energy to the followup’s silliness, but pacing problems still existed.
…And now from Hatchet III to Victor Crowley, I feel like we’ve reached a final form. I still might not really like Green’s dialogue-based “humor,” which sounds to me like the backwards-hat wearing dude who thinks that inventive use of swear words is clever, but his sense of scene construction and joke timing and balancing of some true terrors with splattery camp has all been really well solidified over time, and even the dialogue sounds better when coming from some more well-rounded characters. Crowley – the movie – drags at points, and has a bit of churn when it comes to getting people where they need to be, but it’s the most satisfying Hatchet in terms of set pieces, with a downed plane representing our cabin-in-the-woods for most of it, but also incorporating some meta fun by having Crowley’s swamp now acting as a tourist attraction. Green also keyed on the limitation of expanding the lore of Victor – basically a shtick that ran out of steam in Hatchet II – and so upped his killer’s ante by making him more cat-and-mouse playful. This seems to have enthused Hodder appropriately, who’s back to a more manic style with his approach, and that adds a lot of fun to the kills, which are a mix of II’s low budget goofiness and some inventively goopy stuff.
The setup lends itself to more of a beginning / middle / end as well, with III survivor Andrew Yong (Parry Shen) being coaxed back to Honey Island swamp as promotion for his tell-all book of the incident, and this crossing over with a film crew’s attempts at making a DIY Crowley film, and an unfortunate recitation of a particular voodoo spell which resurrects our titular slasher for some fun. This means that each section of the movie has something that actually leads to the next section, as opposed to the former Hatchets, which were mostly just setups and then a waiting game. Again, some of this is still rather forced – and lampshading how forced it is only takes us so far – and even at 83 minutes, it does end up feeling like we’re waiting around for Crowley to get his dander up, but the movie is much more consistently fun than any of the previous ones, and also suprisingly the most polished looking, while also (I think) being the cheapest budget-wise.
Whereas the previous Hatchet’s sequel-baiting hooks had me rather rolling my eyes, Hatchet III admittedly made me open to the idea of a followup, and Victor Crowley damn well makes me eager for one, especially if Green continues to mature at his craft along the way.