When I first watched Hatchet years ago, there were two main elements that drew me in: the gore and the mythology of Victor Crowley. Adam Green, being a huge fan of horror himself, clearly caught on to the fact that what makes villains iconic is what separates them from other villains. Freddy Krueger is the man who haunts your dreams with his razor hands. Michael Myers is the masked shape who stalks babysitters on Halloween night. Leatherface is the ferocious hillbilly who wears human flesh and punishes trespassers with a chainsaw. All of these fictitious serial killers have unique attributes which make them as memorable as they are terrifying. Recognizing this pattern, Green wisely chose not only to create a monster, but a fleshed-out, feared-by-the-locals, urban legend. In doing so, he gave the horror industry one of their most infamous miscreants — Victor Crowley.
The third installment in the franchise, written by Adam Green, and directed by BJ McDonnell, does a terrific job of holding onto what made the franchise so successful in the first place. Hatchet III is permeated with severed limbs, intense action, and blood-splattered trees, much to the delight of the Hatchet Army. With the high body count and exploitative nature, this slasher serves as a celebration of 1980s classic horror. The combination of Green’s vivid imagination and McDonnell’s big-movie feel collide to create practical effects so eye-popping and maniacally gruesome, they’d make Peter Jackson proud.
Even with all of the pressure to create the bloodiest film in the trilogy yet, Green and the gang still don’t forego the main concept that makes the original so effective: the superstition. The legend of Hatchetface lives on, and his undead presence still haunts the Honey Island Swamp, doomed to spend the rest of eternity crying out for his father, and using his trusty blade, caked with the remains of his victims, to strike down anyone who interferes. Reverend Zombie may have lied about his intentions, but his words spoke true when he stated “you can’t kill a ghost”. Although Marybeth believes she has defeated Crowley once and for all, she soon finds that no physical harm can ever rid the swamps of the monster that killed her family.
In order to destroy him permanently, Marybeth must retrieve Crowley’s father’s ashes and deliver them to his hands personally, because she is the last living descendent of the Dunston clan. This return to the magic that wasn’t as present in the second film is utterly satisfying for fans who have longed for a continuation of the story that they hold so dear, and uses the locals’ fascination with the occult to the filmmakers’ advantage.
With nostalgic, random tie-ins to the first movie, stellar performances by Danielle Harris, Zach Galligan, Kane Hodder, Derek Mears and Caroline Williams, and top-notch, pulse-pounding music by Bear McCreary, Hatchet III proves to be a fulfilling end to the trilogy. In a genre filled with cliche sequels and unwanted prequels, it’s refreshing to know that some filmmakers can keep their integrity throughout a franchise, and even end on a high note.