Friday, February 11, 2011

Hatchet / Hatchet II

Written & Directed by:  Adam Green
Starring:  Kane Hodder, Joel Moore, Danielle Harris, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Tony Todd

Back to reviewing true splatter films, I've decided to watch Hatchet I & II back to back, clocking in at a total of 173 minutes, which is still shorter than any of the homo-erotic Lord of the Rings crapfests (and don't even get me started on the EXTENDED cuts!).  While no modern movie classics, they are serviceable for what they are.

It's not a remake. It's not a sequel.
And it's not based on a Japanese one.

The first Hatchet movie takes place in New Orleans during Marti Gras.  Ben (Joel Moore, Grandma's Boy and Avatar) gets sick of all the beer, beads, and boobs (ahhh the killer B's) so he decides to go off and take a haunted swamp tour.  Feeling bad, Marcus (Deon Richmond, Token Black Guy) reluctantly decides to join him on the tour.  Eventually, the tour boat gets stuck on a rock and starts sinking, forcing the patrons to abandon ship.  Unfortunately for them, they get stranded right in local legend Victor Crowley's backyard.  Victor (Kane Hodder, aka Jason) is a deformed mutant-man who effortlessly dispatches each character one by one, and does so all the way into and through the sequel.

Plot wise, it is not horribly original, but the death scenes definitely are.  You'll see plenty of people brutally chopped in half, as well as countless limbs being ripped off with ease.  The over-the-top violence and campy dialogue makes this film an enjoyable way to spend an evening.  It doesn't take itself serious, which is the best thing about Hatchet, but that's what also keeps it from truly being great. 

Total Score:  6/10
Buckets:  4.5/5

Moving on to the sequel, Hatchet II finally made its way onto home video after AMC and the MPAA date-raped Adam Green's hope of making any money on it.  I was hoping for more, but it was a typical horror sequel.  (SPOILER ALERT!!!) This movie takes place literally the second after the first one ended.  It follows Marybeth, the main female character from the first film, although actress Tamara Feldman has been replaced by the insanely annoying and inferior Danielle Harris (H2).  She goes back into town and collects a group of redneck hunters lead by Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd, Candyman) to go track down and kill Victor Crowly, and to bring the bodies of her brother and father back home.  Turns out things don't go as smoothly as planned (shocker).

It is a sequel, and it follows those rules.
As a sequel, I expected what most sequels offer: a bigger budget, more characters, higher body count, more blood, and most importantly, not being as good as the original.  You can check every one of those off the list because Adam Green sticks to that recipe here, but its not all bad.  Hatchet II has the highest on-screen body count of any slasher film in history, coming in at a whopping 17.  Knowing this, it didn't surprise me that 136 gallons of fake blood was used during filming (compared to 'only' 55 gallons in the original).  Adam Green consulted his death scene playbook often in this film and no page was left unturned.  Victor Crowley uses killing techniques from ripping a severed torso out of its skin all the way to giving a guy a lesson on how NOT to motorboat something.  If death scenes are all that matter to you, then you can pencil this into your queue immediately.

If acting is what interests you in horror movies, then move along, nothing to see here.  Danielle Harris is distractingly horrible in this.  Everything from her constant crying to her nonstop Ace Ventura-esque cocked eyebrow just made me wish she would hurry up and suffer her fate from Rob Zombie's H2.  Unfortunately, we have to deal with her to the bitter end, which is probably the best scene in the movie.

Total Score:  4.5/10
Buckets:  5/5

In conclusion, the Hatchet series has its ups and downs.  At times it is very enjoyable and funny, while at other times its quite cringe-worthy (and not because someone got their jaw ripped out).  Adam Green clearly had fun making these, and could probably make endless sequels to them.  Hopefully he doesn't and uses his talents on more original material, like Frozen (which had a nice little reference in the film).  Since both films are very short, I'd recommend seeing them.  If you had to pick only one to watch, then I'd easily say the first one.  Its better in pretty much every way, unless all you want to see is the worlds biggest chainsaw.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Written & Directed by:  Adam Green
Starring:  Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, and Kevin Zegers

While Snowpocalypse was in full swing last week, I decided to have another viewing of Adam Green's Frozen.  Seemed fitting, watching a movie about 3 people freezing their asses off while I sat in my warm bed and watched the blizzard out my window.

Don't Look Down!
 Frozen is commonly compared to another stranded film, Open Water, except it is much better.  One of the things I liked most about it is that it has something new to offer, a ski horror film.  Having been skiing since I was a little kid, it immediately caught my attention since the idea of it has always been in the back of my head.  It is about 2 best friends, Dan and Lynch, who take their annual 'guys weekend' to go skiing.  Dan (Kevin Zegers, Dawn of the Dead) decides to take his girlfriend on the trip, Parker (Emma Bell), much to the chagrin of Lynch (Shawn Ashmore, X-Men Trilogy).  Since they spend all day babysitting awful Parker, they decide to make one last run while the mountain was closing.  After some confusion, a new lift operator comes in and shuts down the ski lift while the gang is still on it, hanging high off the ground.  Knowing the mountain is closed for the next 5 days, they must decide how to get down or freeze to death.

Once they get stuck on the lift, ideas start going through your head immediately about how they should get down.  One could argue they didn't always make the right choices, but I usually give people in life-or-death situations the benefit of the doubt.  This movie does a good job at putting you in their position, freezing alone up in a mountain with limited options to survive.  Another thing I liked about this movie is that they filmed on location.  It made it seem so much more real that they were actually on a ski lift while it was constantly snowing and hailing.  Kudos to Adam Green for this, since I don't think it would have had the same effect in a green room with CGI snow.

Speaking of Adam Green, the man has a good sized cult following after making Hatchet I & II.  While I didn't enjoy the first movie as much as others did, I have slightly higher hopes for the sequel (which is currently in my queue).  Hatchet II had a controversial release last year, the MPAA refused to lower it to an R-rating, so he had to release it to theaters as an Unrated cut.  After only 3 days, AMC Theaters decided to pull it from all their screens without even telling Mr. Green.  Needless to say, he was upset and is not in good terms with the MPAA or AMC.  Good thing you can always count on AMC to show trash like The Roommate (opening at 5% on Rotten Tomatoes)!

The acting was good for a horror movie as well.  Kevin Zegers plays a decent pretty boy in Dan, while Shawn Ashmore nails the pot-head who longs for a girlfriend.  Emma Bell is probably the weakest of the bunch, but still not as bad as most female leads in horror movies.  In fact, she is going to star in Final Destination 5 (should have stopped at 2). 

I would recommend this movie to horror fans, or anyone who has ever been skiing/snowboarding and wondered what would happen if they got stuck on the lift.  There is a little amount of blood and gore, but not much.  What do you expect out of a movie that has only 3 people in it?  Overall, the production value was great and the acting was good.  While taking place in only 1 spot for the majority of the movie, it does a good job at not boring you to death.  It is one of those movies where you can easily put yourself into their shoes and think about what you would do if you were in that situation.  The reviewer for calls it 'one of the scariest movies ever made,' which is going a bit far, but it is definitely worth checking out, especially on a miserable winter day.  Is it summer yet?

Total Score:  6/10
Buckets: 1.5/5

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

Directed by:  Steven Monroe
Written by:  Meir Zarchi (original), Stuart Morse
Starring:  Sarah Butler, Jeff Branson, Andrew Howard

"Oh, no you didn't!"
(2010 Version)
It has been a slow few months for Splatter Films.  Winter is in full swing and good movies are hard to come by, especially good horror movies.  So instead of waiting for a good one, I just watched a few time-killers, hoping to be surprised.  One of which was I Spit on Your Grave, a remake of the 1978 version with the same name.  There was a little buzz surrounding it, since the original was very controversial for its time.  I figured I’d give it a shot, since it had an appealing poster, and an IMDb rating higher than 6 (eliminating my other viewing option, Chain Letter).  While I’m sure I made a better choice, but I’d recommend choosing ‘none of the above.’

As with most movies, I try not to read up about it too much, since plot descriptions and reviews tend to spoil the movie and ruin the experience.  From my experience, movies are almost always better with no expectations.  Unfortunately, this movie could not be saved no matter how much I knew about it.

Let me enlighten you with the lovely plot details.  We are introduced to a young lady named Jennifer Hills (Sarah Butler) who is driving to a cabin in the middle of the woods to write her next novel.  I'm not sure if they actually gave a reason why she chose this particular town to stay in, but it turned out to be a bad choice.  After wearing as many skimpy outfits as she possibly can in a few days time, the local troublemakers decide to have some fun with the lonesome city girl.  The hoodlums, led by Johnny (Jeff Branson) and dirty Sheriff Storch (Andrew Howard), harass her for a while and then end up raping her repeatedly.  Before they can kill her and get rid of the evidence, she manages to escape down the river and comes back to exact her revenge.

While the first half reminded me much of The Last House on the Left, the second half just turns into Hostel with torture porn shots coming one after the other.  Jennifer's character wasn't developed enough in the beginning to justify making her revenge plausible.  From all we know, she just likes to jog, write novels, play with her cell phone, and drink wine... but I guess she also dabbles in torture.  She single-handedly manages to turn the tables on each of the 5 people who raped her, using everything from Lye, fishing hooks, pulleys, hedge clippers, and a shotgun to replicate each rapists personality trait.  Either she's secretly a psychopath, who just let the people overpower her at first just to think they've gotten the upper hand, or she just watches too many horror movies.  Either way, I wasn't buying it.

The kills are decent, since they are semi creative and extremely painful looking.  There isn't a ton of blood in it, but enough to satisfy a few gore hounds.  The acting was decent, some parts are a little shaky, but overall not a bad job.  Andrew Howard probably did the best job playing the dirtbag Sheriff, but Sarah Butler and Jeff Branson were decent as well.  One of the actors went full retard for his part, which never bodes well, and adds little to the movie.  All in all, the production value wasn't terrible, but the editing and script were sub-par, even for a horror movie.

In conclusion, this movie is not worth seeing.  Many people will immediately be put off by the graphic rape scene(s), and the climax (no pun intended) just isn't worth sticking around for.  It is just so distractingly unbelievable that a girl like Jennifer can think of these elaborate schemes and traps, days after being physically and mentally tortured.  There are just way too many gaping plot holes in I Spit on Your Grave.  Even putting this aside, the movie just doesn't have enough substance to merit a viewing.  And for those of you wondering, there is no spitting on anyone's grave the entire film.  They couldn't even get the title right.

Total Score:  3/10
Buckets:  2/5

Friday, December 10, 2010


Directed by:  John Erick Dowdle
Written by:  Brian Nelson
Starring:  Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O’Hara, Bokeem Woodbine, Geoffrey Arend

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched a new horror movie, hence the stretch to write a review for Devil.  Being a much dreaded PG-13 horror film, and based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan, my expectations were rock bottom. Luckily, it turned out to be pretty decent.  In fact, it might even be his best movie since Unbreakable, which isn’t saying much.  Nothing can be worse than The Happening (except maybe Twilight).  This is probably due to the fact he had little to do with this movie as possible, leaving the writing and directing to someone else.

The plot is based around an old folktale that begins with a suicide, and ends with the devil punishing a group of people until no one remains.  The movie starts with that suicide, a jumper from a large office building.  After that, the wheels are set into motion as all of our main characters become trapped in an elevator in that building.  On the case is Detective Bowden (Chris Messina), who is a recovering alcoholic after his family was killed in a hit and run accident.  Also behind the scenes are a couple of security guards, one of whom is the token folklore expert, giving out vital information sparingly.  He naturally proves his theory to the police by dropping toast and having it fall jelly side down (or is it jam?).  Anyways, this ‘devil’ will be disguised as a regular human and our job during the movie is to figure out who it is.  Is it Sergeant Crisp from The Rock (Bokeem Woodbine)?  Maybe… maybe not.

Everyone involved did a pretty good job here (although the detective kind of bothered me for some reason).  As the film chugs along, you change your suspicions to a new person every 10 minutes.  Once you are sure its one person, they die, so you start suspecting another, and then they die.  There aren’t any clues revealed to completely give it away, and everyone has their own reasons to not be trusted.  The best way to watch is to just enjoy the ride and not over-think things, since you’ll most likely be wrong. 

Production value was decent, and they made the most out of the low budget, which was more than earned back its opening weekend.  With an 80 minute runtime, this movie will not waste too much of your time.  If you skip the ‘clever’ upside down intro shots and the credits, that leaves you with about an hour and 10 minutes, an ideal length for a movie like this.  You’ll only have to wait an hour to find out who the devil is!

Overall, this movie turned out to be better than I thought, but not great.  It wasn't overdone and stupid like most Shamalama movies, so that was nice.  There also weren't any plot holes that I could think of, which is rare for most mainstream horror movies.  That combined with the short runtime made it a very efficient thriller.  Devil is what it is, and it’s a good popcorn flick.  So don’t be the ‘smart guy’ and continuously try to impress people by figuring out who the devil is from the beginning.  Just sit back and keep your theories in your head, since no one cares if you knew it was them all along… because you most likely didn’t. 

Total Score:  5/10
Buckets:  0/5