Wednesday, January 16, 2008

HATCHET (2007)

Every few years a horror film comes along that is touted as some kind of return to form for some sub-genre. Usually it’s the moribund slasher genre which has never really gone away since its smart re-birth with SCREAM in 1996. But every so often a film will be talked about as a new classic of this bastard step-child of the horror film and in almost every case it turns out to be a piece of crap. The perfect case in point would be HOSTEL which was one of the most lauded and most laughable wastes of time in recent memory. That HOSTEL was held up as brilliant shows either how far horror has fallen or just how low the bar is set for gore or slasher movies. Don’t get me wrong. I know that most slasher movies will stink up the screen by their very nature. But it is possible to make a good movie in the genre. Of course, what most slasher fans consider good and what I consider good are rarely the same thing. But there’s little I can do about fans who are really only looking for brutality, gore and OTT violence. If that’s your thing we’ll just have to part ways amicably and move on.

The latest horror film to be called a ‘return’ to old school horror (i.e. 80’s style stalk & slash) is Adam Green’s HATCHET. Having created some impressive buzz through festival showings the movie hit screens last spring with a sickening thud. It bombed terribly causing the director to complain that too many folks had illegally downloaded it and watched it for free. As much as I’d like to agree with him about that possibility the truth is that HATCHET simple sucks. It’s just really, really bad. No amount of sympathy can I dredge up for a film this poor. If anyone honestly thinks this is a good movie they should please explain why. Seriously. Why?

Granted- it has an impressive amount of quality blood & guts and an equal share of nice nudity. Also it is pretty short. Those are about the only positive things I can say. Problem one with this sucker is that it is badly written. The film is filled with awful humor that never once made me laugh or even smile. It seems that script writer Green saw a few episodes of SCRUBS and thought it’d be great to have that kind of ‘witty’ banter peppered throughout the film. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about. Two buddies- one black, one white- joke and verbally spare in a light, smart way that gives us insight into their characters. Except that here it’s just flat rat-a-tat-tat one liners that simply had me rolling my eyes. There were a few lines that that were so stiff I actually wonder if they were meant to be funny or not. They are so flat that they might have been serious lines of dialog but the surrounding ‘funny’ stuff is so off that I couldn’t be sure. I’ve often said that the worst thing in the world is a comedy that isn’t funny. Here we have that as well as an un-scary horror tale. Two crappy tastes that taste crappy together!

While I’m tempted to blame most of the problems with the film on its terrible screenplay actually the worst aspect of HATCHET is that it is very poorly directed. There is not a single scene in the movie that couldn’t have been better directed. I know that sounds a little crazy but its true. The last time I saw such poor choices for camera placement or actor blocking I was watching really bad television. Green doesn’t even have a since of how to give a shot a sense of creepy atmosphere. The movie takes place in the swamp but it never feels scary in that basic way a swamp setting seems to naturally generate. They might as well have been running around a parking garage for all the sense of foggy dread we get.

So, to sum up I’ll just say you can skip this one, friend. I took the bullet for you. Go about your life happier and seek out better horror movies.

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