BBFC Classification: 18
Director: BJ McDonnell
Starring: Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris, Zach Galligan, Caroline Williams, Derek Mears, Parry Shen
Saw may have been the most profitable horror franchise of the 21st century and Hostel probably the most notorious, at least amongst mainstream audiences, but neither of those film series’ has had as much good will aimed towards it as the Hatchet films. This is most likely because Hatchet creator Adam Green gets it; Green has obviously watched and studied every Friday the 13th and Halloween film, as well as probably every other slasher film to have come out of the ’70s and ’80s, and he knows exactly how to make his films work with the right balance of gore, humour, genre actors and references that will please the small but loyal fanbase the Hatchet films have picked up over the years.
As is now traditional, Hatchet III picks up the very second that Hatchet II ends, with a blood-soaked Marybeth Dunston (Danielle Harris – Halloween IV/V) reducing killer Victor Crowley’s head to mush. However, it takes more than bashing his brains in to stop Crowley (Kane Hodder – Friday the 13th series), although he comes to an abrupt stop when he falls backwards onto his chainsaw. Marybeth then drags herself to the local police station where she is put in the cells by authoritarian Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan – Gremlins/Gremlins 2).
Initially disbelieving Marybeth’s story, Fowler sends his men to the swamp to check it out and once they discover the numerous bodies left down there Fowler leads a team of officials through the swamp to hunt for Crowley, who has decided to get up and go on the kill again, although Fowler’s authority is soon challenged by SWAT commander Hawes (Derek Mears – Friday the 13th/The Hill Have Eyes II). Meanwhile, Fowler’s ex-wife and reporter Amanda (Caroline Williams – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) has discovered the secret to Crowley’s everlasting killing spree and sets about using Marybeth to try and put an end to the swamp dweller once and for all.
With Green writing and credited as executive producer, Hatchet III was directed by BJ McDonnell, who had worked as a cameraman on the previous two films, and although the style of the film isn’t really noticeably different to Hatchet II, the budget limitations are more apparent once the blood starts spraying. The kills are played a little safer this time around with heads and limbs being twisted and snapped off being the favoured method, although there are a few spinal columns that get ripped out and blood sprays everywhere in true Shogun Assassin style. Victor Crowley’s appearance is also different this time, his make-up being less cartoonish and more sinister looking and slightly reminiscent of Robert Englund’s Freddy make-up in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge.
A notable missing element is the lack of a recognisable genre heavyweight to play opposite Kane Hodder in the main cast. Derek Mears is probably a suitable choice for those in the know, essentially giving us old Jason versus new Jason when he goes up against Hodder, but he is severely underused and not on-screen very much, whereas Zach Galligan may be a known face to those of us of a certain age but his horror credentials are hardly up there with Tony Todd or Robert Englund from the previous films. Which leaves the wonderful Caroline Williams as the only real genre face but, again, she would only be known to a certain number of people. Nevertheless, she adds a more matriarchal edge to the conflict, something that Hatchet II lacked. Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects) also puts in an amusing cameo as a distant relative of the Crowley’s.
But you don’t come to a Hatchet film expecting high concepts and Oscar-winning performances; you come to them expecting gore and violence, and that’s what you get. Sure to be a hit on the festival circuit, Hatchet III is a film that’ll go down a storm in a crowded cinema of like-minded maniacs, and now there’s a trilogy then that’s another franchise marathon to add to the queue, but despite the spectacle of Victor Crowley ripping off heads and throwing them at people Hatchet III doesn’t quite reach the same levels of insanity as Hatchet II and is less memorable than the first film and its head-being-pulled-apart highlight. It’s fun but not quite as much fun as you were hoping it would be.
Special Features: None
UK Release Date: 31st March 2014