Picking up basically where the first Hatchet left off, we catch up with Marybeth Dunston (Danielle Harris) as she's being pursued by a hulking behemoth of a madman named Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) though the thick of a Louisiana swamp. She's saved just in the nick of time by a swamp dwelling fisherman named Jack Cracker (John Carl Buechler) who tells her of Victor's origins but who soon kicks her out of his shack when he learns that her father played a role in making Victor the deranged killer he is today, telling her to go visit Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) if she has any questions. Marybeth wants to get the bodies of her father and brother out of the swamp (they were killed in the first movie) and so she calls on the Reverend whose tour company owns the boat that got trashed in the ensuing fray.
Though Zombie initially resists, he's soon organizing a party of local tough guys to head out into the swamp under the false pretense of getting his boat back. In reality, he's enlisted the help of the other two men responsible for Victor's creation hoping that they'll be killed off which should, in theory, put Victor to rest and allow him to cash in on all the swamp has to offer his tourist trade. Marybeth, however, wants revenge and is quite prepared to do whatever she has to in order to get it. As the group heads deeper into the swamp, Crowley does what he does best - carnage ensues.
Not particularly deep or thought provoking, Hatchet II is at least entertaining. It starts off with a bang and makes it pretty clear very early on that we're in for a pretty gory ride. The opening kill scenes are fantastic and the ensuing ones don't disappoint either, particularly those that take place in the last half hour when everyone is out in the swamp and basically just waiting to get knocked off. There isn't a whole lot to the story here, though fans of the original picture will probably enjoy learning the origins of Victor Crowley through some well played flashback scenes (which actually afford Kane Hodder the chance to emote a little bit). Some might get put off by a moderately slow middle section and Green spends a bit too much time with Reverend Zombie for no real reason other than to, we can assume, maximize Tony Todd's screen time. Todd's fine, he's not the problem, the issue is that he's not given quite enough to do in that time.
We're splitting hairs here, or torsos more aptly, however as the good does definitely outweigh the bad. Is this another 'retro style' throwback to the seventies and eighties slasher films that we all know and love? Absolutely it is, but it's done with the right amount of heart. Green isn't hiding this fact, in fact he basically acknowledges it when he plays Overkill's anthemic Here's To The Old School over the closing credits, and if he's keen to pay homage the likes of Friday The 13th and The Burning, well, it sure beats another PG-13 remake.
Performance wise, Hodder is fine in his role and plays the killer well, while Tony Todd adds a creepy factor to his character that sets him a little bit apart from the rest of the cast - who are.... basically rednecks. There isn't much in the way of character development here, even if there is a fun Lloyd Kaufman cameo (and some odd and slightly gratuitous Newbury Comics product placement?) but all involved are fine in their parts. The stand out of the group is Harris, who plays her character with a reasonably amount of conviction and who at least succeeds in getting us to believe she has some actual depth. Aside from that, the acting is fairly standard - but really, we're here for the gore. You know it and Green knows it and on that level, this film delivers.
Dark Sky Films gives Hatchet II a decent 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Color reproduction is quite good, the reds in particular look nice and bright without ever looking too sickly or contrasty. Black levels are pretty solid and though some of the darker scenes have rather uneven shadow detail. In the lighter scenes, the detail for this movie is very good, but things get a little murky looking once the action heads deep into the swamp at night. There aren't any problems with heavy compression artifacts to complain about (some minor ones do appear now and again) nor is there any edge enhancement or obvious aliasing to report back on. There aren't any problems with print damage, dirt or debris to complain about either, and all in all this disc looks very good indeed.
Audio chores are handled well by the English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix on the disc. Rears are used in a few of the more intense scenes to provide some nice jump scares while the quieter, more relaxed moments in the film feature well balanced levels and audible dialogue. Some of the jump scares benefit well from some heavy bass and a strong low end, while ambient noise comes out of the rear speakers to help build a bit of effective atmosphere. There are no problems with hiss or distortion and the score sounds quite good. Optional subtitles are provided in English and Spanish.
Dark Sky provides two commentary tracks for this release, the first of which brings together Adam Green with cinematographer Will Barratt and special makeup effects supervisor Robert Pendergraft for a well rounded talk that covers the technical side of the production in quite a bit of detail. As you could probably imagine, given the tasks of the participants, there's a lot of emphasis here on how and why certain shots look the way they do and how the makeup effects were done. There's a good bit of back and forth between the three men who approach everything with a sense of humor but still manage to stay on topic and the result is a fairly engaging track. The second commentary lets Green talk shop with Kane Hodder and Tony Todd, and as such, we get some insight into the production from those who worked in front of the camera rather than behind it. It's not quite as interesting as the first commentary is but it's still worth checking out as Green goes into some detail on how the film was received during its quick theatrical run and what it was like getting the film into theaters in an unrated form. On top of that, of course, they discuss their respective characters and performances and share some of their experiences from making the film. Between the two tracks a lot of ground is covered and if Green tends to dominate both tracks, so be it - this was his baby after all.
Up next is Behind The Screams: The Making Of Hatchet II, a thirty-three documentary that takes us behind the scenes of the production by way of some on set footage and some interviews with the cast and crewmembers. Appearing here is Adam Green of course but also a bunch of people who worked with him on the film like Will Barratt, producers Sarah Elbert and Jason Miller and plenty of actors including Kane Hodder, Tony Todd, Parry Shen, A.J. Bowen, R.A. Mihailoff, Tom Holland, Danielle Harris, and David Foy. It's a little disjointed in spots but does a pretty good job of showing us what it was like on set and giving us some insight into the creative process behind the making of the movie and it features a nice selection of storyboard art worked in as well.
Rounding out the extra features are the film's original theatrical trailer, a teaser, and a radio spot. Trailers for a few other Dark Sky Films DVD releases play before you get to the main animated menus and chapter stops are included for the feature.
Hatchet II is a lot of good, gory fun and while, like the film before it, the picture isn't nearly as original or groundbreaking as the hyperbole behind its marketing campaign would have you believe, it's definitely not short on entertainment value. Fans of backwoods slasher pictures and gory stalk and kill films will enjoy this one and Dark Sky has done a pretty solid job on the DVD, despite a few transfer quirks. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.