I'm always hesitant to be too harsh to creators who have real passion for the genre. Horror needs new blood and if you've got guys like Rob Zombie and Adam Green out there who genuinely love and revere this stuff, you've gotta support them and hope their talent grows. The big problem with fanboy creators, unfortunately, is that the stuff they bring to the table tends not to be anything original but reheated leftovers marketed as "homage" to the genre classics. Horror in general suffers from a strong desire to cannibalize its past rather than look to its future and I think this was one of those things that hamstrung my enjoyment of Hatchet.
Don't get me wrong, I had a very good time watching the movie. It's well-shot, it's got a wacky sense of fun, it's completely over the top, and the acting is really good. But after the movie was over, after the popcorn bowl was empty and my co-reviewer Professor Demon Bunny
was put away for the night, I left the movie with that "I just ate too much fast food" feeling. I'm full, but I'm not really satisfied.
Fanboy films spend way too much time playing to the audience. Characters just about turn to the camera and comment directly on the tropes of the stalk and slash genre. The humor is way too self referential, in a way that breaks my connection with the story. It does no good, for example, to comment on how dumb a certain action is when the characters go and do it anyway. And while I love and admire the work of Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Robert Englund, and all the other chappies they wrangle into these things, their appearance is kinda distracting. I see Tony Todd in his AWESOME cameo as an eccentric voodoo tour guide and I get distracted by salivating fanboy glee.
That sense of self-satisfaction torpedoed one of the other major aspects of the the movie for me, which was that Hatchet wasn't particularly tense-scary. Oh, it's got blood by the buckets, courtesy of effects maestro and Friday the 13th Part VII helmer John Carl Buechler, but we see the monster too often, he's not particularly subtle or mysterious, and it's just a series of jump scares between strings of jokes.
Having said that, one of the things that really worked for me was the cast. I've been known to complain about the slasher movie tendency to make their stock victims complete assholes, but the characters in this movie were all really fun and likable, from the sweet Midwestern couple to the theatrically goofy tour guide. Also, I tend to think it's crass to go on about how attractive a leading lady is but if I went to high school with Tamara Feldman I totally would stutter around her.
In the end, I thought Hatchet was fun in a very superficial way. I don't want to come down too harsh on the movie or on Adam Green. I watch DOZENS of slasher movies a year and most of them are crap. His, at least, was kinda nifty. But I hope that he's got something more inventive and original than "Old School American Horror" up his sleeve. That ground has been trampled on by so many feet it's impossible to distinguish any one individual mark.