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Hatchet
cast: Joel David Moore, Tamara Feldman, Robert Englund, Tony Todd, and Kane Hodder

writer and director: Adam Green

81 minutes (18) 2007
widescreen ratio 16:9
Universal DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon
There isn't really much to be said about Hatchet, a by-the-numbers retro slasher film that manages to combine gore with humour in a way that isn't entirely un-watchable. The negligible plot takes place in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and has a group of quirky characters - a conman tour guide, an amateur porn director, two budding actresses, an old couple, a likeable Tom Green look-alike, Kenny from The Cosby Show, and the attractive daughter of a man who went missing on the same river - taking a 'haunted swamp tour' on a stretch of the bayou that's been closed for years after nightfall because of the legend of Victor Crowley, a hideously deformed creature, alias 'hatchet face'.

Unsurprisingly, these central casting regulars are picked off one by one, and in unexpectedly gruesome ways. Indeed, any surprises to be had revolve around the well-handled gore scenes, staged as live-action rather than CGI, and with as few camera cuts as possible. There are a couple of real showstoppers here, but thankfully the savagery of the gore is diluted because of the humour and the relative finesse with which these scenes are filmed.

The film benefits from some winning performances, a clever, knowing script, some nice production values, and a sense of commitment - it's obviously been made by people with a true affection for the genre. It's short enough not to outstay its welcome, and there are amusing cameo roles by low-budget-horror stalwarts Robert Englund, Tony Todd, and Kane Hodder (as killer, Victor Crowley). Most of the humour actually works (I even chuckled once or twice), and the delicate balance between laughter and gross-out is carefully maintained.

As you'd expect, credibility is stretched on a few occasions, particularly when the monster appears in places where it would be physically impossible for him to sneak up on his victims, but these are minor gripes in a film that's clearly not meant to be taken seriously. The ending tries to be clever and a bit different, but ends up being abrupt and unsatisfying; but anyway, at least it lines things up nicely for a sequel, if anyone's interested enough to want one.

While reaching nowhere near the benchmark set by classic slasher films like The Burning, Rosemary's Killer, My Bloody Valentine, Funhouse, Black Christmas, or even the original Friday The 13th, Hatchet is a passable timewaster that serves up a few laughs, one or two neat jump-scenes, and a handful of effective slayings.
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