Directed by Adam Green
A suitably gloomy, rainswept August pallor ushered in London’s Frightfest film festival yesterday evening, the eleventh installment of one of Europe’s premier horror, fantasy and SF gatherings in the heart of the capitals West End cinema district. Ensconced at the cavernous Screen 1 of the Empire Leicester Square, the festival feeds its disturbed denizens with all the gore, grue and genre fun they can handle – one senses that this carnival of depravity would feel similarly at home in the fleapit screening halls of Soho a few minutes walk down the road – but as its popularity has exploded in recent years, new premises have been sanctioned to match the festival’s accelerating viability and rising media profile. Frightfest‘s experienced programmers selected Adam Green’s Hatchet 2 as their opening film, a wise choice given director Adam Green’s close ties to the festival (the original installment premiered here back in 2006 to a rapturous reception that essentially kick-started his career) as well as being a suitably energetic and blood-curdling howl of introduction to the five days of carnage that are destined to follow.
After a rousing and strangely moving introduction to the film from Green the sequel began, events picking up immediately from the gruesome events of Hatchet in a pre-credit reprise of the murderous antics of Victor Crowley, a grotesque swamp-dwelling maniac who had recently dispatched the family of our eponymous heroine Mary-Beth, a pint-sized angel of retribution who vows revenge on the so called ‘bayou butcher.’ Our shell-shocked champion enlists the assistance of the fraudulent mystic Reverend Zombie – as you may have guessed the film has had any sense of subtlety surgically removed – and with a cadre of financially frantic hunters returns to the lethal Louisiana everglades to retrieve the cadavers of her father and brother. In the best traditions of the genre, Mary-Beth’s connection to her nemesis is quickly established – her father was one of a gang of teenagers whose antics led to the accidental ‘death’ of Crowley some twenty years hence – and some broad characterizations of the eight or so scavengers are glossed over before we get to the splattery events that comprise the film’s more satisfactory second half, as the abhorrent Crowley stalks and slays his doomed adversaries.
The film, like its predecessor, is a tongue-in-cheek valentine to the hack and slash pictures of the seventies and eighties, with double the body count and inventive infectiousness of its previous incarnation. Genre stars pollute the screen – including a quick cameo from Troma king Lloyd Kaufman (prompting an appreciative round of applause), Candyman’s Tony Todd (whose cameo from Hatchet is expanded to a central plot accelerant with his own nefarious schemes), and slasher legend Kane Hodder, who reprises his role as the hulking Crowley, an affectionate descendant of franchise stalwarts Freddie and Jason. All the attention is quite rightly lavished on the power-tool-assisted dismemberments and decapitations of the feckless hunters; their amusing and distressingly designed exits prompts the legendary cheering and whooping that Frightfest aficionados know and love. It’s not subtle, but this is Frightfest after all….
After the credits had rolled, the film’s stars and director took to the stage amidst a chorus of cheers and applause, before launching into a frequently hilarious impromptu Q&A session with the appreciative audience. Green revealed that much of the film was shot on sound-stages, the production design delivered by the artistic crew behind The Dark Knight, their services discharged for free due to their endearment of the first Hatchet picture – quite a coup. The obvious fun that the actors had in crafting the sequel was infectious and their affection for Green was apparent, the director then fumbiling faux-pas of sorts by inadvertently revealing that his other project Frozen would be honored with a screening during the festival – you heard it here first folks. If you’re in the mood for some mindless genre affection, for a film whose plot trajectory can be summarized to: revision scene, ‘legend’ episode, characterization sequence and blistering blitzkreig, then Hatchet 2 comes warmly recommended.
– John McEntee