When directors say that their film is ‘for the fans’, it is typically a defensive gesture: a counteractive response to critics who have not seen the merits in a work, and who, naturally, cannot be imagined as fans themselves, only disappointed ones. Yet Adam Green’s exultantly CGI-free nostalgic throwback Hatchet (2006) really was a film made by one of horror’s great fanboys, and its two sequels (2010, 2013) – as gratuitously unnecessary and deliriously over-the-top as any Eighties slasher sequel – really were made for both the genre’s and his own fans, to the exclusion of practically everybody else. Green has also earned himself a special place specifically at FrightFest itself, as his endlessly enthusiastic and entertaining onstage anecdotes, his all-round approachability, and the hilariously reflexive FrightFest intros that he, along with his friend and frequent collaborator Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2, Mayhem), have made as ‘the Douche Brothers’, all ensure that the fans for whom he makes his films are the very people who regularly attend the festival.
The Hatchet films seemed to sink to their death with the trilogy, but there is no keeping a monstrously deformed, kill-happy swamp ghost down, and so now, in Victor Crowley, old Vic (Kane Hodder) rises again to do that thing that he does – with a serial repetition that could properly be called bludgeoning. This time around, though, Green is not just pastiching a Reagan-era mode of by-numbers splatter, but also reflecting upon his own resurrection of that style through the Hatchet legend that he has created himself – and so this new film comes with a decidedly postmodern, self-reflexive feel.
It is ten years since Crowley last killed, and now his (maybe) sole survivor Andrew Yong (Parry Chen) is stuck in a rut of endless chat show interviews and self-published accounts of his survival, even as he is suspected of having made the whole thing up and carried out the killings himself. Andrew reluctantly agrees – on the promise of big bucks – to make one last appearance on a Real Crime TV show that will take him back to the scene of the massacre. Meanwhile low-budget filmmaking couple Chloe (Kate Booth) and Alex (Chase Williamson) and their makeup girl Rose (Laura Ortiz) are headed to Honey Island Swamp – now a ghoulish tourist mecca – to raise money for their Crowley-based horror film Hatchetface by shooting a fake trailer in situ, and they are recruiting local tour guide and wannabe actor Dillon (Dave Sheridan) to star in it for cheap. In this collision of past victims, self-regarding media types and rip-off exploitation filmmakers, all trapped together in the bayou of butchery, what could possibly go wrong?
Much of the film’s first half is filled with cartoonish characters (who we know are all lambs for the slaughter), throwaway gags and some very coarse dialogue, all satirising the bottom feeders of the Hollywood system and the serial celebrity manipulators of the American media – although of course, once Crowley himself resurfaces, it is back to business as usual, as Green delivers all the geysers of blood, grotesque mutilations and hammering murders to satisfy every gore-hungry need of his fans – at least until the next Hatchet film. There is even a death (or two) by what might be described as the film’s biggest fan. Some of Green’s fans, though, might prefer to see him do what he did with Spiral (2007), Frozen (2010) and Digging Up The Marrow (2014) – i.e. venturing into new terrains rather than getting bogged down in the old swamp.