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28 February, 2009

DVD Review: HATCHET (Unrated Director’s Cut)

Title: HATCHET (Unrated Director’s Cut)

Year of Release—Film: 2006

Year of Release—DVD: 2007

DVD Label: Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment



THE MOVIE

Everyone who’s into film dreams about getting a bunch of buddies together and making a movie of their own. Adam Green and his friends actually did that, in a process that began with two guys going to New Orleans and surreptitiously shooting footage for a trailer while on a swamp tour; it ended with a kick-ass old-fashioned Unstoppable Slasher movie that involves some of the biggest names in Horror.

Set in New Orleans, the story revolves around two buddies in town for Mardi Gras, Ben and Marcus. (Played very well by Joel David Moore and Deon Richmond) They separate from their friends to go investigate a haunted swamp tour, and wind up as part of a group consisting of an older married couple; a “producer” shooting a girls-gone-wild type video and his models, who conveniently flash their considerable assets at every opportunity; a mysterious local girl; a Chinese tour operator; and our two heroes.

The tour boat winds up sinking in a part of the bayou that’s closed off, supposedly due to the presence of an undead boogeyman by the name of Victor Crowley. Crowley, the deformed son of a bayou fisherman, burned to death years before as a result of a Halloween prank. Now, he haunts the bayou, killing anyone who lingers near the burned-out shell of his home.

The story is adequate for the purpose, and borrows freely from such Horror standards as the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies and the HALLOWEEN films. Still, it’s done well, and the viewer doesn’t come away with the feeling that it’s just a rip-off of better movies. First-time director Adam Green demonstrates a thorough understanding of the genre, as well as a grasp on how to mix the comedic and horrific elements of the plot into a (mostly) seamless whole.

The film is helped along in large part to the casting of a couple of genre veterans in small roles, and one, Kane Hodder, in a major role as Crowley. The experience and fan appeal that Robert Englund, Tony Todd, and Hodder bring to the production overcomes the admittedly miniscule star power of the lead cast.



THE DISC

If writing these reviews has taught me anything, it’s which distributors know how to package a movie for DVD release, and which don’t. Lion’s Gate Home Entertainment definitely belongs in the former category. I’ve yet to see a poorly-done DVD from them, and their discs are usually so well-done that I can’t help commenting on that fact. HATCHET is no different, and even the most jaded videophiles should be pleased with the quality of this release.



THE SPECIAL FEATURES

This disc has a full range of Special Features, including commentary tracks, interviews, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and the original trailer that gave the film it’s start. The best of these features is ANATOMY OF A KILL, an in-depth examination of just how one of the movie’s signature “kills” was conceived and carried out, without the use of CGI… and without a visible cut in the film! The scene in question is one of the best in the film, and knowing how it was done only makes the viewer marvel more at the ingenuity of the filmmakers.

Another feature worth watching is the genesis of the film, from Green’s childhood nightmares to finished movie. The story of how a small group of friends came together with a dream of making a good, old-fashioned Horror Film, and succeeded, is inspiring to those of us who share similar dreams.



IN CONCLUSION

Though it got scant attention from the mainstream press, the Horror community really sat up and took notice of HATCHET, conferring several important awards upon it. I can only agree with that recognition, as it’s easily one of the best movies of the year; certainly the best shot independently, for less than $15 million or so.

Of course, it does have flaws… every movie does. But given the limitations the filmmakers were working under, these flaws aren’t any real obstacles to enjoying the film. They’re the same problems you’d encounter with virtually any Low-Budget movie, and true fans of B-Grade Horror Films won’t be bothered by them.

Still, I wouldn’t pay full price for it, not that there are many movies that I would go full boat on. Fortunately, I found my copy in the $9.44 Bargain Rack at Wal-Mart. I have no qualms about going a ten-spot on an impulse DVD purchase, and believe me, I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t think you will be, either.


















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