Hatchet III (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by BJ McDonnell
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
In the midst of the remakes, sequels, and glut of mean-spirited torture porn that permeated the mid-aughts, first time filmmaker Adam Green gave us Hatchet, a kickass, bloodsoaked throwback to no-nonsense 80s slasher films that reinvigorated that subgenre for the last half of that decade, paving the way for fun cut-‘em-ups such as Laid to Rest and Behind the Mask.
Eventually, Hatchet received its own sequel with 2010’s Hatchet II, a superior follow-up which upped the comedy, action, and gory setpieces to the extreme. Three years later, Green has relinquished the directorial reins to Hatchet/Hatchet II cameraman BJ McDonnell for Hatchet III, a trilogy capper that acts as what might be the definitive ending to the franchise (for the time being, anyway). With Green acting only as a scripter and producer this time out, and with a novice filmmaker at the helm, does this potentially final installment live up to the previous two films and deliver what fans expect from this franchise?
Picking up where the last flick left off (albeit with a curious retconning of one character’s rather grievous injury), Hatchet III opens with series heroine Marybeth (Harris) defeating villainous, hatchet-wielding madman Victor Crowley (Hodder) in a rather gruesome fashion, then dragging herself into the nearest Sheriff’s station to report her deed and the deaths of all those who accompanied her into Honey Island Swamp during the previous outing. Marybeth is written up as a homicidal kook and tossed behind bars by Sheriff Fowler (Galligan), who leads a group of his men into the swamp for corpse recovery and an investigation.
They’re eventually joined by a heavily armed SWAT team led by Officer Hawes (Mears), before all hell breaks loose and Crowley is back to his usual limb-pulling, gut-ripping shenanigans. Meanwhile, Fowler’s ex-wife and journalist Amanda (Williams) negotiates with Sheriff’s Deputy Winslow (Doqui) for the release of Marybeth, so that the trio can run down a lead connected to Crowley’s past in the hopes of discovering a way to end his reign of terror once and for all. These two plotlines converge and culminate in a gory, ghastly finale that is equal parts shocking and entertaining, leaving no one in the cast unscathed.
Props must be given to first-timer McDonnell for making sure that his entry in the franchise feels cut from the same bloody cloth as the previous installments, all while injecting some of his own style into the proceedings. Hatchet III is every bit as fun, funny, and bloody as fans could hope, delivering another enjoyable trip into Victor Crowley’s gore-strewn swamp. The film looks pretty great, and though the story is essentially a retread of the previous installment’s “men on a mission versus a monster” setup, Hatchet III seems considerably larger in scale than the earlier entries.
The cast is solid this time around, as well. Harris seems more comfortable in Marybeth’s skin (and accent), Galligan makes a welcome return to genre cinema and proves to be a still-likeable presence (even if his own cracker accent doesn’t always convince), and Hodder is as terrifying as ever. Caroline Williams does great work here also, making one wish she’d worked more often in horror flicks, while the rest of the supporting cast (including Sean Whalen, Cody Blue Snider, Jason Trost, Rileah Vanderbilt and series vet Parry Shen) keep things lively and amusing. There is also a pretty great cameo from a Hatchet vet during the film’s climax, but I’ll say no more on that subject for fear of ruining it for first-time viewers.
All that’s not to say that Hatchet III is a home run, however. Though every bit as bloody and gory as one might expect, Hatchet III’s kills are a bit on the mundane side this time around, at least compared to the earlier films. Likewise, while some of the jokes and gags are quite funny, others fall completely flat (a cameo from a horror veteran in the third act leads to more groans than guffaws, sadly). Harris’ final girl is curiously less likeable during this outing, and gets sidelined for the bulk of the film when relegated to the movie’s B plot.
In addition, while Derek Mears is fun as the armed-to-the-teeth asshole of the group, his inevitable showdown with Crowley is over with far too quickly (while its gore gag is an unsatisfying riff on Hatchet II’s Crowley/Reverend Zombie battle). And though the final moments could conceivably be the last time we see Mr. Crowley, another character’s fate is left maddeningly vague (seriously, Hatchet: A New Beginning had better be in the planning stages).
Still, those niggles aside, Hatchet III is an entertaining beer-‘n-pizza horror flick that should leave the franchise’s fans grinning ear to ear. Sure, it isn’t my favorite entry, and those who aren’t fans of the previous Hatchets will likely find nothing of value here, though those who are still on the fence might want to give this sequel a shot.
The image on Dark Sky’s Blu-ray is pretty damned impressive, boasting sharp detail and strong colors (though the blacks look a little washed out occasionally). And the audio? The DTS track is a monster at times. Seriously, brace yourselves for some of the more action-heavy sequences. The provided bonus features are solid, as well. We get two commentaries: one a more technical talk, with Green, McDonnell, cinematographer Will Barratt and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft; the other, a fun chat with Green, McDonnell, Kane Hodder and Parry Shen. Both are well worth listening to for fans of the franchise and its filmmakers.
There is also a ten-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with loads of neat moments form the production (including Green ceremoniously passing an actual hatchet off to McDonnell at the start of filming, as well as some cool looks at McDonnell’s directing and the effects and stuntwork involved in this outing). In addition, we get a five-minute featurette concerning Hodder’s make-up application, and a nine=minute collection of fun moments and general goofing around from the film’s production. Add to all that the teaser and full-length trailers, and you have a pretty solid bonus features package.
Ultimately, this being the third entry in a slasher franchise, you’ve likely already made up your mind about whether or not you’re going to see this flick. You probably already love or hate the Hatchet series, and this writer isn’t likely to sway you one way or the other. However, I can honestly note that, as a fan, I walked away from this third installment more than pleased, and still hoping for yet another installment. So, if you’re in the mood for a gory, goofy good time, do be sure to give Hatchet III a chance.
3 out of 5
3 out of 5