UK Release Date: 3rd September 2018
Runtime: 79 minutes
Director: Adam Green
Writer: Adam Green
Starring: Kane Hodder, Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, Dave Sheridan, Katie Booth, Chase Williamson, Felissa Rose, Brian Quinn, Krystal Joy Brown, Tiffany Shepis
Synopsis: The lone survivor of a murderous Crowley rampage a decade ago returns to the Louisiana swamp for a lucrative TV documentary, only for his plane to crash right in the vicinity of the killer’s hunting grounds.
The first scene of the fourth Hatchet movie, arriving five years after the third and set a decade after the original bloodbath, sees a woman prone on the ground while eponymous killer Victor Crowley hacks off each of her limbs, followed by her head, complete with copious sprays of blood and viscera to accompany each blow. If that turns your stomach and makes you want to run in the opposite direction, the film isn’t for you. If, however, you’re a gorehound and that scene sounds like the coolest thing you’ve ever heard, writer-director Adam Green has answered your prayers all over again.
While I’m a slasher fan, I confess that I had never seen a Hatchet movie until I popped in the disc for Victor Crowley. The plot is pretty basic slasher fare. Crowley (horror legend Kane Hodder) was blasted to smithereens while covered in his father’s ashes (apparently!) at the end of the third film. Andrew (Parry Shen) is the only survivor of that massacre, but many assume that it was he who was actually the killer. His mostly uninterested publicist (Felissa Rose) organises a big TV opportunity if he is willing to return to the Louisiana swamp where it all happened. Their plane, however, crash lands in the bayou and the survivors cross paths with a student film crew who are shooting a movie based on the events, as well as the obviously reanimated and murderous Crowley.
To give Hatchet 4 some credit, it delivers more or less exactly what it says on the tin. It’s largely a parade of inventively grotesque set pieces in which Hodder’s hulking, deformed monster tears people limb from limb. Green’s camera fastidiously documents every drop of claret and piece of mangled tendon, never looking away to create tension or scares through subtlety. This is a horror movie aiming to disgust its audience rather than scare them. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, as it obviously has its audience, but it feels a little route one.
Many have referred to the Hatchet movies as postmodern and self-referential. It’s certainly true that Green knows his horror and there is a neat reference to Halloween, as well as the return of Candyman leading man Tony Todd from his role earlier in the franchise. However, the film itself isn’t as smart and self aware as it probably should have been. The comedy seldom lands – Q from Impractical Jokers gets a weirdly large role – despite the best efforts of Laura Ortiz, who is the standout by far in the crowded ensemble cast.
It would be easy to pick at the movie’s mishaps and flaws, but that feels somewhat beside the point. Hatchet 4: Victor Crowley is a gift designed to reward fans of the franchise for their loyalty and dutifully delivers everything they could possibly want. For unconverted viewers, though, it’s a by-the-numbers slasher that fails to showcase a shred of character and never raises the pulse through scares. Indeed, its rather indulgent violence is exciting only in that it inspires revulsion. People often mischaracterise horror as mindless and sadistic but, sometimes, they have a point.
There are a couple of commentaries and an hour or so of ‘making of’ stuff. The highlight, though, is an interview with Green in which he illustrates his genuine love for his franchise and the people involved in it, as well as telling some lovely stories about recently deceased horror icons George Romero and Wes Craven. It’s almost enough to make the movie more enjoyable.
Pop or Poop?
Hatchet 4: Victor Crowley plays out as a parade of unspeakably horrible violence, only loosely linked by flaky pastry pieces of plot that crumble under the weight of the gore. Adam Green’s return to his most famous franchise sacrifices scares for weak jabs at comedy and detailed close-ups of battered faces and dismembered bodies. For fans only, this one.
Hatchet 4: Victor Crowley is available on DVD in the UK now, courtesy of Thunderbird Releasing.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.