If you’re an agitated, disfigured, evil, and twisted spirit looking to kill people in the Louisiana swamp, are you really going to reach for the belt sander to kill your victim? Of course not, but that’s why Hatchet saves itself from all of the usual cliches and familiarity. The slow deaths are flat out disgusting.
Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) is one of those slasher villains created on a myth, supposedly roaming the swamp picking off people who enter his territory. As expected, a group of varied tourists from the fake porn producer, the woman with revenge on her mind, the hero, and the scam artist end up trapped in the swampland.
They die… a lot.
It takes a while to get there considering the movie barely breaks the 80-minute mark. It doesn’t have much time to play with, establishing back story of our hero Ben (Joel Moore) as he rebounds from a long relationship. It leads him to the shaky boat captain who inevitably gets them stuck and dead.
As with any decent slasher, Hatchet is not shy with the gore. This Blu-ray comes loaded with the director’s cut, although what is added from any other edition isn’t specified. People have their upper bodies split in two, legs ripped off, heads tossed aside, and blood splattered all over trees. It’s sadistically satisfying, but also self-aware of what it is, critical to any success.
Hatchet is funny, not quite to the level of send-up or parody, but enough to generate some smirks in-between a few legitimate pop-up jump scares. Misty (Mercedes McNabb) is given some priceless lines, bickering about dialing 911, but wondering if the area code has changed. It’s some relief from the dry spots where the film doesn’t quite have the energy it should. Once the kill count starts climbing, there’s enough momentum to see this one through to the end.
Hatchet’s Blu-ray effort begins beautifully. A cameo from Robert Englund is the first shot of the film, and detail is fantastically resolved. Likewise, the light grain level is equally distinct and clear, rarely an issue for the the entire film. Black levels here are foreshadowing what is to come, easily some of the deepest, richest, inkiest blacks you’ll ever lay eyes on. The depth here is remarkable, and shadow detail is fully maintained.
From this opening scene, the movie cuts to Mardi Gras, where the rich, bold color can be showcased in natural light with spectacular results. Flesh tones are spot on, and clarity is nothing short of flawless. Sharpness is precision, again leading to incredibly rendered facial detail. It’s not all perfect, certain close-ups of a shop owner appearing weirdly soft at 11:23, and remaining that way for the remainder of the sequence.
Once into the swamp and a general layer of darkness, things remain firm… in close. The first sign something is amiss is a shot of the boat at 24:49, where aliasing is apparent all along the sides and the shot looks quite processed. This won’t be the last time either, as any shot involving any real distance carries this same flat, smoothed over look, with the grain entirely absent. You can pick this up at 44:17, amongst others.
It’s a shame too, because the rest looks generally perfect. Close-ups always resolve minute high-fidelity detail, texture rarely at a premium when the camera zooms in. Even during a flashback, replete with a hot contrast and hefty grain structure (likely 16mm), a pumpkin skin is clearly visible, this at 41:49. The Crowley mask, when in full view, is disgustingly rendered to perfection, all of the bumps and ridges resolved even in low light. Some camcorder shots are intentional and look the part.
The opening sequence of the film does a little of everything, from crickets chirping, to thunder, down to an enveloping rain effect. It puts this TrueHD effort under scrutiny from the beginning, but it holds. Hatchet carries ambiance everywhere it goes, the non-stop assault of insect chirps always notable and immersive. The surrounds are always engaged in some form.
Of course, scares are inserted into the rear speakers, from Crowley’s various roars to subtle movement through the brush. Blood splatters slightly through the soundfield, as clearly as you’ll ever want it to be.
The credits are greeted by some heavy bass via the soundtrack, and the rest of the score contains a smooth, tight low-end. There is nothing to fault in terms of fidelity, the uncompressed mix producing some strong highs as well. Dialogue sits clearly within the track, always audible even in those moments where everyone is keeping quiet to avoid detection.
A new commentary comes from director Adam Green and and actor Kane Hodder. The group of Adam Green, cinematographer Will Barratt, with actors Tamara Feldman, Joel David Moore, and Deon Richmond follow on commentary two. These are aided by series of five featurettes, although their length makes them a little more than that. In total, they run 74-minutes, some great content buried within the SD video. A gag reel is added in as well, right before the trailer.
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