'Hatchet II' (unrated)

Hatchet II begins at the exact moment at which Hatchet I left off: In a New Orleans swamp, the heroine Marybeth (Danielle Harris), the sole survivor of a murderous rampage by the deformed freak Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), is literally in the clutches of the monster, about to be torn to shreds. Marybeth – or, as she would be known in 1980s slasher-flick parlance, The Final Girl – manages to escape and return to the city, where she turns to a local tour guide, the Rev. Zombie (Tony Todd), to find out who Victor is and why he refuses to die despite having been shot, stabbed and burned in the first film.

Writer-director Adam Green, who reportedly cranked out the Hatchet II script in a week and shot the movie in a month, isn’t aiming for high art here: This is intended to be a brainless homage to gory horror pictures about an unstoppable killer and the fools who keep venturing into his turf. The film is filled with nods and references to the genre Friday the 13th created, such as the crazy old coot who warns everyone to stay out of the swamp (no one listens, of course). Hodder, who plays the grotesque killer, has also played Jason Voorhees several times. Todd starred in 1992’s genuinely frightening Candyman. R.A. Mihailoff, one of Crowley’s soon-to-be victims, played Leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3. And so on.

The stunt casting is well and good for Fangoria subscribers, but so what, really? All the wink-nudge references in the world can’t make up for the torturous experience of sitting through Hatchet II’s 45 minutes of inane bickering and arguing (“You’re going to get us all killed!” “Don’t be scared!” “Listen to me!”), followed by 45 minutes of over-the-top, unrated violence. You get death by power sander to the skull, a two-for-one chainsaw vivisection, someone torn alive from his skin and Green’s curious, recurring fetish (also present in Hatchet I) of blood splattering on tree trunks.

Every slasher film must contain some bit of gratuitous nudity, but since the plot of Hatchet II doesn’t really allow time for anyone to get busy, Green inserts an early sequence in which someone watches some naughty Mardi Gras footage on a camcorder. The effort borders on the pathetic. Hatchet II isn’t outrageous or fun, like the shameless Piranha 3D was, and it doesn’t even try to capture the exploitative spirit of the lowly pictures that inspired it, the way Machete did. The movie is just inept and dull and stupid – crap being passed off as a guilty, bloody pleasure.

Cast: Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Parry Shen, Tom Holland, R.A. Mihailoff.

Writer-director: Adam Green.

Producers: Derek Curl, Sarah Elbert, Cory Neal.

A Dark Sky Films release. Running time: 90 minutes. Vulgar language, heavy violence, preposterous gore, nudity, adult themes. Opens Friday Oct. 1 at Mall of the Americas and Sunset Place.


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