The directorial debut of BJ McDonnell and the first of the movies in the series not to be directed by creator Adam Green (though he did write and produce, and he has a cameo in one of the early police station scenes), 2013's Hatchet III picks up more or less where the second film left off. In the opening scene, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) has just unloaded both barrels of a shotgun into the face of undead killing machine Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). He has to be dead. He falls to the ground, his head a bloody pulp, and she walks away. But quite predictably as she does, we see him sit up, and then we see him lunge towards her. Eventually he falls on the business end of a chainsaw and Marybeth makes it out of there in one piece. When she arrives at the local police station with a shotgun in one hand and a scalp in the other soaked in blood, the cops understandably figure she's been up to no good and lock her in a cell.
She tells Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan) that there are bodies aplenty out in the Honey Island Swamp… '30, maybe 40' she tells him. He sends a couple of guys out to look and they radio back to confirm that what she says is the truth. Galligan gets all his men out there as soon as he can and calls in a literal boatload of paramedics to check out the scene. Deputy Winslow (Robert Diago DoQui) is left in charge and doesn't quite know what to do when Fowler's ex-wife, a reporter and expert on the Crowley case named Amanda (Caroline Williams) comes snooping around. Before you know it she's convinced Winslow to let Marybeth out of her cell and drive the two of them to Abbott McMullen (Sid Haig), a relative of Victor's who holds the ashes of the maniacs dead father in an urn in his home. Amanda figures if Marybeth, given her father's ties to Victor's past, can return his father's ashes to him he'll finally be able to be killed once and for all. Meanwhile, Fowler and his crew are stuck in the swamp with a maniac running around. Some ‘help' from a SWAT team lead by Taylor Hawes (Derek Mears) doesn't really do much good and before you know it, the whole bloody mess has gotten much bloodier and much messier. Maybe the National Guard can help…
The first two Hatchet movies? They were gory. This one? It's gorier. Gory to a crazy extreme. We're talking early Peter Jackson/Brainddead style gore, arterial spray the covers EVERYTHING as heads are ripped from shoulders, arms torn out of sockets and testicles hung from trees. Characters get skinned, they get mauled, they get their faces stomped into the ground and suffocated and they get their heads beaten into a gooey, gory, mess of what was once flesh and bone and surprisingly enough, it's all done the old fashioned way, sans CGI, and the movie is infinitely more fun for it. As far as McDonnell taking over the directing reigns from Green, you probably won't notice a whole lot in the way of tone or atmosphere differing from the two earlier entries. This third (and supposedly final… for now) movie retains the same sort of sick and twisted black comedy in many of the murder set pieces that we know from prior storylines and the elements of humor that are worked into the movie fit rather well.
As far as the cast goes, Harris is good here as she was in the past. This time around she doesn't have quite as much to do. The opening scene is fantastic and really sets the bar pretty high and she does some good, intense work here but then spends much of the rest of the movie in jail or in the back of a cop car, only to once again get to go the intense route again for the big finish. Caroline Williams is fun here. Most fans interested in this movie will know her from her role in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and she gets a good, solid part here. She's likeable enough and if it seems unlikely she'd realistically be able to con a law man into doing things her way in a situation like that, we can roll with it. Those looking for realism in this movie have got their priorities all wrong. Sid Haig's cameo is fun, he gets to play the ‘crazy guy' which is a role he's played time and time again and done well with. He only gets a few minutes of screen time but he's memorable enough, while Zach Galligan, best known for Gremlins, makes for a fine sheriff. Of course, Hodder, as the non-verbal killing machine out there in the swamp, cuts an imposing frame. Obviously performing under a lot of makeup, he's a lumbering behemoth and it's kind of cool to see him take on Derek Mears once you realize, hey, Jason versus Jason!
The movie is short on plot. It's not deep, it's not bringing anything new to the slasher genre and it's not going to win any awards for originality. It borrows heavily from concepts explored in the Friday The 13th series and despite the onslaught of witty dialogue and crazed carnage, you do kind of get the idea you've seen all of this before. With that said, however, fans of ultra-gory slasher films should absolutely get a kick out of this one. As to it ending the series, never say never when it comes to horror movie. Without going into spoiler territory, the finale here could finish things off but at the same time it leaves the door open, so time will tell. Until then, this'll work.
Hatchet III arrives on Blu-ray in a 2.35.1 widescreen presentation with AVC encoding in 1080p high definition. Shot on digital video cameras, there are obviously no problems with print damage to note while detail is generally very strong throughout playback. Skin tones look lifelike and natural, meaning you're going to be able to notice every craggy line and pore in Sid Haig's close up shots whether you want to or not. Black levels are strong and thankfully shadow detail is too, so while much of this movie takes place outdoors at night or in a police cruiser after hours, you'll still have no problem taking in all the nitty gritty. Colors look great, greens in particular and reds as well (lots of bloodshed in a swamp means that these are the dominating hues), really pop here. Texture is fine, contrast too. All in all, the movie translates very well to Blu-ray.
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix on this release is, at times, ridiculously aggressive. Dialogue is generally well balanced and easy to understand but when those sound effects kick in like the chainsaw and the belt sander? Well, depending on how late it is and how much you like your neighbors you might want to have the remote handy to turn it down a bit. So yeah, the levels seem a bit pumped up during a few scenes to add to the ‘boo' factor of a few scenes intended to scare. Other than that, things shape up well. There's good use made of various directional effects throughout the movie and it's pretty rad to hear GWAR in lossless audio over the opening credits. The rest of the score is fine, there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The bombastic and over the top nature of the sound mix seems fitting for the movie. Optional subtitles are available in Spanish and there's closed captioning provided in English.
There are two commentary tracks on this disc, the first with crew members Producer Adam Green, Director BJ McDonnell, Cinematographer Will Barratt and Make-Up Effects Artist Robert Pedergraft. Understandably the focus here is more on the technical side of things like how certain murder set pieces were put together and some of the logistical issues that they ran up against and what it was like shooting out in a swamp. It's more or less a scene specific talk that brings up interesting ‘how they did that' style trivia as the movie plays out, and it makes for a good listen. The second track joins Green and McDonnell up with Victor Crowley himself, Kane Hodder. It's not quite as active as the first track and at times it covers some of the same ground but getting Hodder's perspective on the movie is interesting as he talks not just about having to get into character and makeup but also about coordinating some of the stunts that we see in the movie.
From there, check out the three behind the scenes featurettes starting with Behind The Scenes (9:06), which is your general look at life on set made up of behind the scenes clips and some impromptu ‘camera in your face' cast and crew interviews. Caroline Williams, who pops up towards the end as she enjoys her cigarette, is completely charming and lots of fun here and more than anyone else involved seems to have really just loved working on this movie. Not that the others don't, it's just that her enthusiasm seems unmatched. Raising Kane (4:57) is a focus on Hoddder's involvement on the picture with a lot of emphasis on the makeup that he had to wear and how the effects guy took care of that. The poor guy had to run around with fifty pounds of latex stuck to him for most of the shoot in the middle of Louisiana during the warm season. Even for someone of Hodder's build, that's not easy. Swamp Fun (8:53) gives us a run around the locations and shows off how all of the logistics involved in making sure that the shoot ran as smoothly as possible. We get to see some of the night scenes being shot and we get some more impromptu cast and crew interviews.
Rounding out the extras is a teaser for the feature, a proper full length trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. All of the extras on the disc are presented in high definition.
Hatchet III is more of the same, though for fans of the franchise up to this point that's not a bad thing. It's not even really trying to bring anything new to the genre but it does what it does well, offering up remarkable levels of old school gore and some freakishly creative murder set pieces. The cast is enjoyable, the movie shows some nice technical polish and Dark Sky's Blu-ray looks and sounds great. The fact that the disc is jammed with extras doesn't hurt either. 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.