Directed by BJ McDonnell
I make no bones about my love for the Hatchet franchise. It has everything I want in a slasher flick… great laughs, lovely eye candy, an insane looking deformed killer, and of course gloriously over-the-top kills which can leave you both slack-jawed and grinning from ear-to-ear at the same time. For two films now director Adam Green has given fans a truly fun and at times silly good time. The Hatchet franchise never takes itself too seriously, and it still amazes me how much flack the MPAA gives these movies while letting other, much more violent ones slide. Yep, I guess they find the legend of a swamp ghost with an imaginary wireless and always charged belt sander too much for the public at large to deal with.
In any event, here we are at Hatchet III, and this time Green has stepped down to let cameraman BJ McDonnell, who shot the first two films, take the directorial reins. So how does it work out? For the most part pretty damned good.
Picking up just seconds after Hatchet II ends, we find Marybeth (Danielle Harris) still trying to find a way to keep the ghost of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) down for good. Of course things don’t go her way, and before you know it she ends up in the clink and Crowley ends up in a body bag. As you may have guessed, neither of them stays that way for long. While in jail Marybeth meets a journalist named Amanda (portrayed by an incredible Caroline Williams, who seemingly hasn’t missed a step since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), who believes that she has the key to do away with the hulking freight train of violence once and for all. Together they head back out into Honey Island Swamp for the final showdown between good and completely batshit nuts.
I really don’t want to get too far into the plot because Hatchet III‘s biggest strength is its storyline, which was written by Green and is chock-full of twists and answers to questions that fans of these films have long been asking. The script in many ways is like a love letter to everyone who has ever supported these films. If you’re worried about Green not directing, don’t. His fingerprints are all over this, and it’s impossible to not realize that he has done his best to help everyone involved instead of just sitting back and collecting a paycheck.
However, for all of its strengths Hatchet III displays a few kinks in its ever resilient armor, the most glaring of which are some of the film’s kills. Don’t get me wrong… there are some fantastically memorable ones on display here that will leave fans talking for a good while, especially once the two Jasons, Hodder and Derek Mears (who plays part of a SWAT team), come face-to-face. Yet, there is a bit of repetition and also some throwaway kills that don’t top anything that we saw in either Hatchet or Hatchet II. For the most part every kill in the first two films was special and memorable for one reason or another. This one? There are a few that are regrettably forgettable. Of particular note here is a montage of murder early on that seems really thrown together as a means to pad the flick’s body count.
There are also a couple of moments in which some scenes drag on too long, but all in all it’s nothing so bad as to take you out of the action. Speaking of which… there’s a hell of a lot more action in this entry than in previous films in the franchise. Gunplay flows freely during the film’s third act, and fire and explosions abound. This, too, seems rather jarring as the Hatchet movies were always pretty small scale and intimate engagements. That being said, the addition of these sequences definitely feels fresh, and as a result it’s not just the same old setup of a party heading into the woods in the most unprepared of ways possible we’ve seen a couple of times now. When these guys go hunting legends, they go in packing heavy.
Of special note here is the actual look of Victor Crowley. This design has come an incredibly long way, and believe me when I tell you old hatchet-face has never looked more frightening or menacing. Kudos to Robert Pendergraft and his crew for turning in some truly top-notch makeup. Also worthy of mention here is actor Cody Blue Snider’s performance. This dude just steals the show in every scene he’s in and ends up being one of this series’ newest and most memorable characters.
The combination of Will Barratt’s cinematography and McDonnell’s eye for the camera proves to be particularly lethal as this is easily the best looking entry in the franchise to date. There are several hero shots of Crowley that just define the word badass, and the swamp scenes especially look as lush and creepy as you could possibly want. From a visual standpoint this flick is an absolute home run.
At the end of the day, Hatchet III gets a hell of a lot right, despite a couple of shortcomings here and there. The flick delivers an epic-sized bloodbath that’s top to bottom fun, laughs, action, and gore. It serves as a bloody exclamation point to one of modern horror’s best trilogies. For my money Hatchet II is still the best of the bunch if only for the mind-blowing kills, but wow does this one try. Hell, it comes frightfully close.
3 1/2 out of 5