For decades, the slasher flick has been a staple of popular horror. A masked or disfigured creep running around bludgeoning unsuspecting teens has always made for a perfect date night at the drive-in. Hatchet not only used those popular ’70s and ’80s tropes, turning the dial up to ten, as a nostalgic but as an updated love letter to fans of the genre. Fifteen years later, this raucous outline of slashers still lives fondly in the hearts of fans. Let’s take a look at the method behind the madness.
Hatchet was written and directed by Adam Green (Frozen 2010 – read our retro review here), who grew up as a die-hard fan of the genre. The plot can be described as Friday The 13th on steroids. Two hunters are brutally butchered in the swamp, and then the daughter/sister of that family attends a tour of that same swamp to seek revenge for their murders. On that tour, we find out about the legend of Victor Crowley, a loner child who was tormented for being deformed. The teasing children accidentally set fire to Crowley’s cabin. When his dad tries to rescue him from the flames, he inadvertently kills Victor with a hatchet to the face. But the deformed child, bullying children, and accidental death aren’t the only ties this film has to the Crystal Lake killer. Both Crowley’s father, and the adult version of Victor himself, are played by the most synonymous Jason Voorhees actor, Kane Hodder (Digging Up The Marrow 2014). Crowley may have similar movements and backstories to Voorhees, but he’s a lot more violent.
Hatchet‘s calling card is that it’s a modernized, ramped-up version of the famous slasher franchises we grew up watching. The sex is more blatant, the gore is more grotesque, the characters are more stereotyped, and the pace is quicker. There are tons of cameos from famous horror alums, like Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street 1984), Tony Todd (Candyman 1992), and John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood 1988). Buechler also did the special effects for this film, which are both outrageous and revolting in the best possible ways. The film mixes the intensity of a witch hunt with the comedy of unwitting characters which promotes both laughter and tension at the right moments.
Green’s writing shines as his influences and references pop up all over the screen. He did what every young fan hopes to do… grow up and make his own version of the things he loved as a kid. He managed to craft the fresh lore of a new generational villain while painting the locations and cast with nostalgia. He must’ve known that Hatchet would resonate with genre fans, because he designed two other sequels to pick up right at the frame where the previous one left off. Green’s work not only breathes new life into a decades-old genre, but it inspires fans that maybe they, too, can someday break through and create like their idols did. There’s power in the idea that you can be sitting on your friend’s floor eating popcorn and watching an old slasher VHS tape, and later grow up to contribute to that same society. That’s what Adam Green did. And we can only hope that there are more movies like Hatchet to inspire the next generation of fans.