Frightfest 2010: HATCHET 2 Review

Film4 Frightfest opened for business last night with Adam Green's Hatchet 2, the sequel to his career making 2006 retro slasher. The good news for fans of the original is it's very much more of the same; a crowd pleasing, over-the-top dose of splattery merriment. In short, the sort of film Frightfest was made for, and so it's no surprise that Green has become a permanent and much loved fixture of the event since his 2006 debut.

Hatchet 2 picks up immediately from where its predecessor left off with Marybeth (this time played by Danielle Harris, of Halloween remake fame) escaping the clutches of the deformed and furious swamp dweller, Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), after her swamp tour is massacred. Heading back to town, Marybeth seeks out the help of the mysterious and thoroughly untrustworthy Reverend Zombie to bring the bodies of her family back from the swamp. Zombie agrees, provided she brings her uncle along too. Under somewhat false pretences, the Reverend recruits an assorted band of mercenaries to ostensibly retrieve his boat and slay Crowley once and for all. Needless to say on entering the swamp it's not long before Crowley appears to wreak bloody havoc.

 For anyone not familiar with the original, there's an entertaining catch-up on Crowley's back story with Kane also starring, prosthetic-free, as his dad. It's a variation on The Burning, but also recalls countless other 80s slashers. The build-up is surprisingly restrained and Green (yes there's a director cameo too) takes his time to introduce Crowley's potential victims with some characteristically blokey humour, most notably in an inspired opening gambit involving some "found footage". But what this is really about is a succession of glorious hack and slash sequences designed so satisfy the fans, and on those it certainly delivers, with old fashioned and apparently CGI-free effects.

Hatchet was always written with a sequel in mind so there are references galore for those in the know. Green also weighs in with none too subtle allusions to his own work so far with Frozen and his Jack Chop short getting explicit nods. Where they could have appeared lame and self-serving, they just add to the atmosphere and confirm this as a raucous party movie to be reckoned with. True, a festival crowd always ups the ante in that respect, but as with the first movie it's a quintessential beers and buddies flick. Highlights include a hysterical sex scene, an enormous chainsaw and Tony Todd's much extended role. To be any more specific though would ruin the surprises.

 It won't please everyone, and if you didn't like the first you won't be turned by this. Were it not for the blatantly rousing nature of Hatchet 2 you'd almost see it as a step backward after the accomplished tension of Frozen. This, though, is Green having some no-holds barred fun, and you'd have to be a pretty sour grape not to be carried away with it.
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