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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Hatchet II (Blu-ray)
Hatchet II (Blu-ray)
Dark Sky Films // Unrated // February 1, 2011 // Region A
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 8, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
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R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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So, yeah: a few minutes into Hatchet II, a one-eyed fisherman is slobbering over some pedophilia-tastic camcorder footage from a low-rent porn producer, and then a growling mutant nutjob in overalls rips out his intestines, strangles the dude with his own guts, and pulls so tightly his head pops like a zit, drenching the walls of that rickety cabin with gallons and gallons of blood. The smart money says you're
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having one of two reactions right now. If you stopped mid-sentence to run out and buy poster board for your Hatchet II protest signs, then...okay, maybe you're not the target demographic so much. On the other hand, if you made a beeline to Amazon to grab this Blu-ray disc and watch that scene in all its gore-geysering glory, then...well, you and I are gonna get along just fine.

Fair warning, though: Hatchet II picks up exactly where the first one left off...I mean, down to pretty much the exact frame. No recap beforehand. No narration. No flashback. You can get by if you haven't caught the original Hatchet, but the sequel spends a lot of time exploring the backstory that's introduced in the first flick. So, if you haven't already watched Hatchet -- a blood-soaked Valentine to '80s slashers -- knock that out first and dive back into this review when you're done. It's okay. I don't mind waiting.

Writer/director Adam Green aims Hatchet II squarely at established fans, and that's kind of a ballsy move, really. The sequel hasn't been watered down to pander to the PG-13 crowd...or, hell, even the R crowd, for that matter. Green already had pretty much the entire second movie in mind when he was hammering out the original Hatchet, so that let him drop in all sorts of foreshadowing and sly little hints...things that you may not have even thought about when tearing through it the first time but really stand out watching 'em both back-to-back. A lot of slasher sequels toss the earlier movies in the microwave and warm over the same stuff you slogged through before...same premise, same setting, same murderous madman, and just another group of kids doing the same stupid shit so he has someone new to hack apart. Hatchet II, on the other hand, really is a continuation. The focal points are still the same characters from the first film. The tone hasn't changed. The kills are still unflinchingly brutal yet hysterically, dementedly over-the-top. There's none of that smirking post-modern irony or whatever, but the Hatchet series definitely has a sense of humor, and it's trying to make you laugh as much as it's trying to make you cringe at the "I can't believe they just fucking did that!"-ishness of the gore. The first Hatchet was a throwback to when slasher movies were allowed to be fun, and the sequel is right there with it.

The easiest way to sum up Hatchet II is to shout "more!" More backstory. More splatter. More dismembered, mangled corpses scattered around. The idea is that the sequel heaps on more of the stuff you loved so much about the original Hatchet while continuing to build on its overall story. Marybeth (now played by Halloween alum Danielle Harris)
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barely made it out of Victor Crowley's swamp in one piece, but...well, Crowley has systematically destroyed everything she ever loved. She's seen a half-dozen of the people who came with her to the swamp carved into bloody, fun-size chunks. She's seen the ravaged corpses of her father and brother in Crowley's shack. So...fuck it. With nothing left to lose, Marybeth decides to head back -- to get the bodies of her family so she has something to bury and to butcher this backwater psychopath once and for all -- and this time she's storming in with guns blazing. She blackmails Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) into taking her back, and that kind works out for him too. There's a hell of a lot of money to be made from that long-closed stretch of the swamp, so the Rev. assembles a heavily-armed hunting party to clean it out. Everyone he wrangles in knows that Victor Crowley is a bullshit legend made up to spook tourists and seven-year-olds, but it's an easy five hundred bucks to walk around a swamp at night, so why not? Um, you can probably piece together the general idea of what happens from there.

I think they say in the extras that the final body count is seventeen on-screen kills. I don't mean in that sense where a badnik is storming down a hallway, slashes a guy in the gut, and he tumbles over, all in the space of half a second or something. These are all straight down the line elaborately designed splatter sequences, each more depraved and demented than the one before it. Like the original Hatchet, this is all done with traditional make-up effects too...no computer-generated grue this time around. The kills were the best thing about the first movie, and not only are they more fucked-up in the sequel, but the body count nearly triples. Not to give it all way, but a few of the highlights...? You're looking at a dude's face getting sliced off, jaw-ripping, head-crushing, outboard motor-fu, doggystyle decapitation, aerial double-dick carving, more belt sander-fu, a curb-stomping variant, and freshly-skinned Torso Boy. The mayhem is ingeniously gruesome...ridiculous and gory and just an incredible amount of fun. The movie tries to get the red shirts to fight back too, so they're not as meekly passive or caught off-guard the way they are in most slashers. There's just an
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honest-to-God love for horror flicks that's beaming out of every frame of Hatchet II. You can see that in the casting for sure -- complete with alums from the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises, Candyman, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Child's Play, and Fright Night -- and there are oodles of cameos and Easter eggs if you're paying attention. (A pretty subtle one giving a nod to Adam Green's Frozen really grabbed me.)

The thing for me is...well, there really wasn't much of anything in the first Hatchet that I didn't love. The splatter was brilliant. I really dug the cast, and even though there were long, long stretches where no one was getting hacked apart, the actors were so likeable -- and so damned funny -- that I didn't mind. For me, at least, both the grue and the gags pretty much always connected. Hatchet II didn't hit me the same way. I don't think I could've made it any clearer how amazing the kills are this time around, so we can skip past that. Green manages to weave some pretty incredible jolts in even where I wasn't expecting 'em, particularly when delving deeper into Victor Crowley's backstory. I feel as if I should be loving Hatchet II more than I should, but I guess it comes down to two things. One, the comedy falls pretty much completely flat for me. The best gags are tied in with the kills, and the bits that made me crack up the most outside of that are quick little one-liners...y'know, asides rather than big, broad jokes. Hatchet II seems like it's mugging really hard for laughs, and I found some of it kinda painful to watch. I get the joke with Parry Shen wearing a beret and throwing out a Pepé Le Pew Fraaaaaunch accent, but it's a joke that's not funny the first time, let alone as it's hammered into the ground again and again and again and again. Comedian Colton Dunn pops up as Vernon, a wisecracker who's supposed to be the comic relief, but there's a bug-eyed desperation to it that's just...nails on chalkboard. From his little ditty about chicken, biscuits, and gravy to a runner about Chips Ahoy cookies, it just felt like someone was staring me down and
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growling, "this is supposed to be funny! This is where you laugh. Laugh, damn you...laugh!" The first Hatchet felt more relaxed and at ease with its sense of humor, but this is way too heavy-handed. Another big change is that none of the characters are all that likeable. I had a good time palling around with the kids in the first Hatchet. The body count's a lot higher this time, though, and since there are a lot more people to kill, you don't get to spend much time with any of the new folks. As much as I adore Danielle Harris, the Marybeth she's handed is shattered from the mayhem that's piled on in the first Hatchet. It's not a Ripley-in-Aliens sort of thing where she defiantly marches back into Hell. The strength and determination that Marybeth radiated in the first movie makes way for a lot of screaming and crying this time around. That's totally justified, yeah, but that's not really what I want out of the lead character in a horror flick. Strangely, even though a lot more happens in a shorter period of time, the pacing doesn't scream along as quickly in the sequel either.

Don't get me wrong: I like Hatchet II. I really respect the fact that this isn't a hastily thrown together cash-in. There's an unmistakeable "for fans, by fans" stamp on every frame of the movie, and quality unrated horror paired with goopy, practical effects work are always two huge checks in the Win! column for me. I'm really surprised how much I dug the backstory (bolstered by some very effective acting by Kane Hodder), and...well, the parade of imaginative, unhinged, splattery kills alone are worth the price of entry. There's even a part of me that thinks I'm being unfair because I'm comparing Hatchet II too much to the original movie. I don't think the sequel stacks up as well next to the first Hatchet, but compared to pretty much every other slasher from the past few years...? Victor Crowley grabs the competition, tears off their balls, and stuffs 'em in their mouths. Not in the same league as the first, no, but still Recommended.


Video
I was pretty impressed when the first Hatchet hacked its way to high-def a few months back, and the sequel manages to rank a notch or two above that. The original was shot on gritty 35mm stock, and even though part two makes the transition to digital, it's mostly seamless. The image generally looks so much like film that it took me a little while to clue in that it was actually shot with the RED camera. There are a handful of really quick shots that are unmistakeably video, but those are brief and very easily shrugged off. Crispness and clarity are both really robust throughout, and I'd definitely say that this sequel is more richly detailed than the Blu-ray release of the original Hatchet. Colors are subdued but not in that bleached, overly desaturated way too many horror flicks opt for anymore, and again, it's in the same vein as the first movie.

There are a couple of hiccups in the authoring that kind of caught me offguard. These are literally blink-and-you'll-miss-it, so don't pretend this is a dealbreaker and I'm screaming for a recall or whatever, but I am surprised they made it through a QA pass. First, the compression breaks up really badly just before the three and a half minute mark:
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Shortly afterwards, when Marybeth and Uncle Bob are chatting at her place, the blinds in the background disappear mid-shot for just a fraction of a second. Those are the only flaws of any sort that leapt out at me, though. Despite the disc's kinda lean bitrate, I couldn't spot any other sputtering or stuttering in the AVC encode.

Hatchet II and its stack of high-def extras all fit on a single layer Blu-ray disc with plenty of room to spare. The movie's presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.


Audio
Like the first Hatchet, the sound design in this DTS-HD Master Audio track is absolutely first rate, and the sequel benefits further from greatly improved fidelity and dynamic range. The film's dialogue is clean, clear, and nicely balanced in the mix. The subwoofer's given plenty to do, from the snarling low-end in the brilliantly eclectic score to reinforcing all the mayhem Victor Crowley's wreaking on-screen. The surrounds consistently sound vibrant and alive. I love the subtle splashes of color in the rear channels as Marybeth wanders through the streets of New Orleans, for instance...discrete background chatter, the pans of cars in the background...it all just fleshes out a real sense of place. The swamp is teeming with atmosphere too, needless to say, and the stalking and slashing definitely takes full advantage of the multichannel setup. Geysers of blood, death moans, cancer curses...I mean, this is a movie where you don't want to settle for just the tinny little speakers built into your TV.

Also included is a PCM stereo track. Subtitles are served up in English (SDH) and Spanish.


Extras
In
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case anyone's keeping track at home, every last bit of this is in high definition.
  • Hatchet II: Behind the Screams (34 min.; HD): Okay, no, this isn't as long as the feature-length doc on the first Hatchet, but this half-hour making-of still manages to tackle pretty much everything. Quite a few of the roles behind the scenes are showcased, including a few that generally get ignored on DVD extras, down to the key camera operator and production designer. What'd normally be spliced together in a blooper reel is scattered around in here instead -- most memorably a kind of brilliant thing with Danielle Harris' shower scene -- and there are also a good number of storyboard-to-screen comparisons. This is an extremely strong overview of the production as a whole, and there's a fiercely independent, down-in-the-trenches enthusiasm to it all that's completely infectious.

  • Hatchet II EPK (8 min.; HD): Despite mentioning that it's an electronic press kit right there in the title, the disc's second featurette doesn't really feel all that heavy-handedly promotional. It's a really fast runthrough of all the main talking points. Adam Green mentions that he already knew pretty much everything that was gonna be in Hatchet II before cameras ever started rolling on the first one, so he's able to pay off everything that's foreshadowed or lurking in the background there. Green and company talk about how much more the sequel is: its breakneck pace, the batshit demented gore, and Victor Crowley being even more unhinged this time around. The rest of it's devoted to the cast and what they bring to the table in Hatchet II, with Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris, and Tony Todd all having the spotlight aimed their way.

  • The Killing Machine (6 min.; HD): Hey kids! Meet the FX team! The guys and gals behind Hatchet II's record-shattering splatter chat about the staggering volume of blood that's sloshed around, and you score a very detailed look at how the movie's most gruesome kills came together.

  • Audio Commentaries: I guess this is where I bitch again about hating audio commentaries being hidden under the "Setup" menu. C'mon, they're extras. Put 'em under "Setup" if you want, Menu Designers, but list them with the rest of the extras too. The sun will shine just a little bit brighter outside when you do. Angels get a shiny new set of wings. Stuff like that.

    Anyway, there are two audio commentaries, both headed up by writer/director/producer Adam Green. He piles into the recording booth in the first one with actors Kane Hodder and Tony Todd. Green takes this chance to set a couple of things straight, explaining the widely circulated story about a boom operator who quit on day two out of moral opposition to Hatchet II's most fucked-up kill, and he speaks at very great length about the debacle swirling around its instantly yanked theatrical run. Even though this is labeled as the cast commentary, I didn't really scribble down that many notes about the performances so much. Green shoulders most of the conversation, talking about dealing with expectations for a sequel that the under-the-radar original didn't have, how much more ambitious and grueling a shoot this followup wound up being, everybody fucking with everyone else on a prank-happy set, the devastating impact of downloaders, and...hey! the possibility of a Hatchet III. If you're wondering what the deal is with that chicken and gravy song, that's explained here, and Kane Hodder does a great job tearing into the fight choreography that pits a
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    former Jason against a former Leatherface.

    Next up to the plate is the technical commentary with Green, cinematographer Will Barratt, and make-up effects supervisor Robert Pendergraft. Kinda goes without saying that this one's more detail oriented: the precise days when Hatchet II was shot, specific lighting choices, making the move from 35mm to the RED, going back to the aspect ratio of the original Hatchet after falling in love with scope photography on Frozen, tweaking the Victor Crowley makeup to be more expressive and to let Kane Hodder...y'know, move. There's some great Independent Cinema Film School stuff in here too, such as the finer points of directing another director, why you can't splatter blood all over the floor of a cabin on a Disney-owned ranch, why nude scenes are so miserable to shoot, and a couple of near-death experiences in the swamp.

    Both commentary tracks are great, and as always, it's appreciated that Green makes it a point to avoid any overlap between 'em. It is kind of a drag that they talk about a few deleted scenes that aren't anywhere on this Blu-ray disc, but I get the impression that this was out of their hands.

  • Promotional Material (4 min.; HD): ...and last up are a teaser trailer, the full theatrical trailer, a TV commercial, and a radio spot.

The Final Word
Yeah, yeah...everyone expects a sequel to a successful horror flick to Xerox the screenplay from the original, toss in a bunch of new red shirts, and up the body count. Y'know, pander to what the kids want. Hatchet II at least kinda veers off in a different direction. I mean, obviously everyone dug the twisted, cacklingly depraved gore from the original Hatchet, and the sequel heaps on a whole hell of a lot more of that. Still got a swamp. Still got Victor Crowley flailing a bloodstained hatchet around. Rather than just rehash the same script pretty much verbatim, though, Adam Green would just as soon expand on the mythology he established in the first movie. The original Hatchet was written with most of the sequel's revelations in mind, and the two of 'em together play kind of like a seamless three hour epic when placed back-to-back. This definitely wasn't a hastily thrown together cash-in.

The downside...? A few scenes drag on and on, and the expanded backstory sometimes seems like it's just getting in the way. I don't think the sequel's sense of humor is nearly as sharp this time around either. There are still some dementedly dark laughs in the over-the-top kills, but the comedy mostly fell flat for me otherwise. None of the characters are really all that likeable, and that's a definite step down from the original. Even the always awesome Danielle Harris didn't win me over the way she usually does.

Hatchet II doesn't quite live up to the original, but this sequel is still a blast when it counts. I don't know if Guinness is tracking on-screen slasher body counts, but if they are, apparently Hatchet II gets a plaque or something. There's probably another one for Most Fucked-Up Splatter at the framing shop now too. If you dug the original, you already knew you were gonna pick up Hatchet II. If you didn't...well, why are you reading this review again? Recommended.
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