Stars: Danielle Harris, Kane Hodder, Zach Galligan, Caroline Williams, Parry Shen, Derek Mears, Rileah Vanderbilt, Sean Whalen, Jason Trost | Written by Adam Green | Directed by BJ McDonnell
The final(?) film in the trilogy, Hatchet III loses the series’ director, Adam Green, replacing him with BJ McDonnell, who has previously carved out a career as cam/steadicam operator on a ton of movies – including one of my all-time favourite flicks, How to Rob a Bank. However all is not lost as Green is still on board as the films guiding light and scriptwriter for this tale which picks up immediately where the second film left off.
In Hatchet III our heroine Marybeth (Harris) has finally “killed” Victor Crowley (Hodder) – or so she thinks. When she shows up at the police station covered in blood the sheriff (Galligan) doesn’t believe her story and locks her up while he sends a search and recovery team out to the haunted swamp to find out what has gone on and to pick up the pieces left behind after Crowley’s previous massacre. Meanwhile Marybeth finally learns the secret to ending the voodoo curse that has left Victor Crowley haunting and terrorizing Honey Island Swamp for decades.
When I originally heard the news that Adam Green was stepping down from the directors chair for this third film in the series, I questioned the sanity of letting someone new helm what was to be the last outing for Victor Crowley. However, knowing BJ McDonnell worked on the first two Hatchet movie’s and having seen his filmography and watched the finished film I know exactly why McDonnell was given the reigns for this movie – he has an eye for action, and Hatchet III is filled to the brim with huge action set pieces as the trilogy goes big for its epic finale, out-doing all that has come before in terms of violence, gore and body count.
Third films can be tricky, especially when it comes to horror franchises. Some get it right revitalising a worn seires, like Nightmare on Elm Street 3 but many get it wrong. If I’m truly honest Hatchet III sits somewhere in between, mainly because it sacrifices scares for spectacle. But what spectacle… There are some truly outrageous gore scenes, going even further than the previous film, easily surpassing even the ridiculous chainsaw death that marked the end of Hatchet II – a scene which is actually repeated in the opening of this flick.
But, and this is a big but, where Hatchet III does rise above the former films is in it’s story. Adam Green has crafted a script that offers twists and turns, wraps up plot threads that have proliferated the series from the very first film, makes nods to other movies AND is also a love letter to fans of the franchise – a thank you note if you will to all those that love the series and have been there since the beginning.
Yet what is noticeable when comparing this film to its predecessor’s is the quality of some of the practical effects (yes Green and co. still keep all the effects CGI-free thankfully). Whether the “rubbery-ness” is due to budgetary constraints I don’t know, however the cheesy FX work plays well into the idea that the Hatchet series harkens back to the heyday of the 80s slasher movies, a lot of which were shot on a shoe-string budget and had to make the most of the effects they could afford. Speaking of FX, Victor Crowley himself has had a makeover in this flick, allowing horror icon Kane Hodder to emote much more this time round (well as much as the monstrous Crowley can).
Of course besides the returning Kane Hodder as Victor Crowley and Danielle Harris as Marybeth, Hatchet III features a ton of familiar faces including Gremlins’ Zach Galligan as the Sheriff; former Jason Vorhees Derek Mears; Sean Whalen (Special Unit 2); Parry Shen, who’s played three different characters in all three Hatchet movies; The FP’s Jason Trost; and, best of all, Stretch from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2! Aka actress Caroline Williams. This really is a veritable who’s-who of genre flicks, with some surprise cameos and roles I’m not going to spoil in this review, but I will say it all adds an extra layer of fun for both horror fans and fans of the Hatchet series.
In the end Hatchet III is a fantastic end to the franchise, filled with all the hallmarks of the series – laughs, violence, action and gore – whilst being a fitting swansong for Victor Crowley and co. Not as stunning as the previous film but still a great “old-school American horror”.