It isn’t often a sequel picks up exactly where the last one left off; it’s even rarer when the story actually picks up there, too.
After surviving a night of horror (wait: what?!), Marybeth (now played by Danielle Harris) escapes the swamp but needs help retrieving the remains of her family, tapping Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) for his expertise on local legend Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) using a bit of blackmail. Zombie reveals more of Victor’s back story, including the curse that keeps bringing the monster back. With the help of Captain Shawn’s brother Justin (conveniently also played by Parry Shen), Zombie puts together a team to assist Marybeth, but the “good” reverend has other plans for Hatchet Face: ending the curse once and for all and taking the swamp back for himself.
The first Hatchet film succeeded in what writer/director Adam Green set out to do: make an old-school American horror and creating a cult following over his contribution. Fans being fans, however, they’re never satisfied with a one-off when a franchise is born! With several other films under their belts since their debut film, the Green machine knows how to get a production going and put a film in the can, but can they duplicate the raw feel and fun of the first film while expanding their franchise for Crowley fans?
Getting a full-movie commitment from Tony Todd rather than a mere cameo was a good start, but it reportedly took some convincing for Danielle Harris to take over Marybeth’s part since she was passed over for it on the first Hatchet movie (see the extras for details). One thing that worked very much in this film’s favor are all the call backs to the first film; clever fans who paid attention will get more out of the sequel with all the winks and nods. The expanded backstory initially feels like another elaborate gag, but it does a great job expanding the Crowley story and giving daddy Thomas (also Kane Hodder but out of his monster makeup) an expanded and deeper role. While some of the kills seem more over the top, it’s clear that most of the cast is there simply to become victims, and there’s plenty of fake blood and gobby bits to go around.
While holding his own until an untimely death in the first film, Parry Shen playing his own brother looking for himself showcases what Adam Green will later refer to as his “secret weapon.” Danielle Harris acts like more of a scrapper than Marybeth 1.0, also adding a bit more of an authentic accent to her local character’s sassiness. Hodder of course wallows in Crowley’s kills, especially going toe-to-toe with R.A. Mihailoff, essentially setting up a Jason vs Leatherface confrontation that ends with one of the best kill gags of the movie.
The run-and-gun exteriors have been replaced with more obvious inside sets for a large part of the film, but it’s forgivable and probably had far fewer bugs and actual gators to deal with. If you’re a fan of the first film, you can’t go wrong with the its sequel, especially with the sudden-death ending echoing the first film but not before a few cheer-worthy call backs — you never know who’ll pop up in the Louisiana swamps. Come for the kills and stay for the body count, because a third Hatchet film can’t be far behind, right?
Hatchet II is rated R for strong bloody horror violence, sexual content, nudity, language, and using a severed head for a table ornament.
Three skull recommendation out of four
Death Meets the Man Himself: Kane Hodder (TFM 2018)