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Dustin Putman

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Hatchet III  (2013)
2 Stars
Directed by BJ McDonnell.
Cast: Danielle Harris, Kane Hodder, Zach Galligan, Caroline Williams, Parry Shen, Robert Diago DoQui, Derek Mears, Cody Blue Snyder, Rileah Vanderbilt, Sean Whalen, Jason Trost, Diane Ayala Goldner, John Michael Sudol, Sid Haig.
2013 – 81 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of NC-17 for pervasive strong violence and gore).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 14, 2013.
Maybe there will be future "Hatchet" sequels, maybe not (okay, there probably will be). No matter, "Hatchet III" completes a very definite trilogy, one with a complete story and character arc that finishes things off in grandly visceral style. It all began with a big idea and a small budget from writer-director Adam Green, who craved the unapologetic, straightforward slasher films (and their iconic villains) from his youth and yearned to recreate those things for 21st-century audiences. On its way to seeing the light of day, 2007's part-funny/part-scary "Hatchet" ran afoul of the MPAA, who demanded extensive cuts in order to procure an R rating—a harsh sentence when far more extreme and realistic studio pictures have no problems whatsoever. Then again, no one ever accused the ratings system of being fair or making sense. 2010's lesser-but-even-more-violent "Hatchet II" forewent the MPAA altogether, heading to theaters unrated and causing a big controversy with the AMC theater chain because of it (the movie was pulled during its first week). He might not have been able to catch a break, but Adam Green had achieved what he set out to do, gathering rabid fans hungry for a murdering backwoods monster and turning it into a new horror franchise.

For "Hatchet III," Green has once again penned the script while passing directorial duties to first-timer BJ McDonnell. The managerial switch is rather seamless, the picture carrying with it the same down-and-dirty aesthetic of the previous entries while improving upon the standard, unevenly paced "Hatchet II" by staying more focused and wasting no time getting down to the blood-spattered business at hand. It's still no more than a body-count movie set in the Louisiana bayou, mind you, but Green and McDonnell have never lost sight of the fun inherent within this sort of genre pic. Furthermore, they've stayed faithful and true to the two recurring leads and adversaries, deformed boogeyman Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) and the resourceful, vengeance-seeking Marybeth (Danielle Harris).

Opening up on the final frame of its predecessor, a gore-drenched Marybeth finishes off the guy responsible for the deaths of her father and brother, Victor Crowley, blowing a hole through his face and chainsawing him clear down the middle. Snatching his scalp and busting through the doors of the New Orleans police station, she announces he's dead—along with about twenty or thirty of his victims. Marybeth is promptly locked up by Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan), but pretty soon Fowler's ex-wife, journalist and local legend aficionado Amanda Pearlman (Caroline Williams), comes calling. She knows full well that Victor is a ghost, not a living man, and as such he is destined to be reborn each and every night. Believing that Marybeth is the key to truly stopping Victor's reign of terror once and for all, Amanda convinces Deputy Winslow (Robert Diago DoQui) to bust her out of jail so that they can return to the cursed Honey Island Swamp one last time.

The "Hatchet" movies have always had a sense of humor, and "Hatchet III," more so than the second, feels like a rebound to the whimsically gruesome tone of the still-tops original. When Marybeth tells Sheriff Fowler about her trials and travails over the past few days, returning time and again to the swamp knowing full well that Victor Crowley was out there, his reaction plays like a cunning comment on character behavior inherent to all slasher flicks: "That has to be some of the most idiotic and contrived decision-making I've ever heard!" Director BJ McDonnell additionally throws in running Easter eggs for the fans (proof that he and Green truly cherish their fanbase), while the cast of genre vets impress enormously. In addition to returnees Danielle Harris (2009's "Halloween II") and the ultimate Jason Voorhees himself, Kane Hodder (2010's "Frozen"), Zach Galligan of "Gremlins" fame, Caroline Williams (feisty radio deejay Stretch from 1986's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2"), and Sid Haig (2005's "The Devil's Rejects") get juicy roles. As lead heroine Marybeth, Harris gives the character an exhausted weariness—she's been through hell and back in these films, after all—but also a newfound back-talking sass. Whether she lives or dies, Marybeth is pissed off now and not about to take anything from anybody. Meanwhile, Williams is a standout as folklore buff Amanda Pearlman, bubbling over with energy and, by the end, unexpected pathos.

"Hatchet III" is fast and brutal at 81 minutes, oozing with sliced-open heads, by-hand decapitations, and plenty of human mincemeat who get their skin pulled completely off of them. True to form, Parry Shen (who played an ill-fated tour guide in "Hatchet II" and his equally unlucky twin brother in "Hatchet II") makes a welcome appearance as a third character, though the choice to not make him a triplet was truly a missed opportunity. If "Hatchet III" is certainly more fun than frightening and its trajectory doesn't deviate from formula very often, it does deserve props for daring to locate a finite conclusion to the story—not only for Victor Crowley, but also for Marybeth. Are there ways to make another sequel? For sure. Until then, this is a satisfying and faithful capper to a series that was made by true-blue horror buffs as a love letter for true-blue horror buffs. Job well done.
© 2013 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman