Hatchet II Blu-ray Review
I can speak only as I find this Region B-coded check disc to look. And, before I go any further, I can should state that I hope the retail copies are an improvement.
Hatchet II comes to Blu-ray with an AVC encode and a 1.78:1 aspect … and boasts a largely unimpressive image. In low light, which is the majority of the film, detail is poor, except for close-ups, which allow more to be scrutinised in the way of faces, clothes and a staggering variety of wounds. Black levels are slapdash, with some shadows being thick and deep, and robust enough to provide some of that all essential visual mood and spooky contrast, but many more times the darker elements are too easily diluted with grey and their integrity and strength simply lost. As a result, there isn't much sense of visual depth to the film itself and the contrast isn't so well maintained. Partly this is also down to the photography, which was captured on the RED camera, and the limited space of the sets and Green's rather flat direction.
Object delineation isn't too bad at all and scenes set in the daylight, or are just better lit, are much stronger and more sharply detailed, but this is a film and a resulting image that relies mainly upon things being up close and personal … and in the dark. We can certainly revel in the carnage. Eviscerated flesh is keenly observed and the intricacies of prosthetics well rendered. We are given plenty of opportunity to inspect Victor's leathery deformities and injuries. Once we see things further away, though, the image loses its acuity in the mushy murk.
Colours, by and large, are downplayed in favour of a grimy, grungy aesthetic. Occasional moments, such as the flashback scene of the curse being uttered, are blown-out with a yellowy , heightened look. This is all intentional. But there are some issues. The reds, so liberally brought into play throughout, are suitably livid and bright, but there is one killing towards the end in which the blood becomes a weird pinkish-brown that doesn't look at all right and doesn't appear to be associated with any sort of stylistic choice either. It doesn't fit the palette in the rest of the film and sort of stuck out to me.
There is banding in evidence, as well as some aliasing. But the most aggravating thing about the transfer was the periodic colour shifts in portions of the image. This would result in once dark areas suddenly becoming swamped by clouds of a purple hue that would bubble away until the next shot cleared them up. One regular recipient of this was Tony Todd, himself, as the Rev. Zombie. Little bursts of purple would fuzz up his features almost as though we were viewing him on some sort of heat-registering thermal imager. On a couple of occasions this effect would intensify as he moved towards the camera. I wouldn't say that DNR is a problem, and nor is edge enhancement. But this remains an unremarkable picture in almost every category.
In summary, we have a transfer that isn't up to the task of handling the source and is quite inconsistent. Nevertheless, the Hatchet Army (UK contingent) are sure to enjoy what encode does well with it.
There's not much to say about Hatchet II's audio. It is supplied with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that makes no errors and sounds perfectly clear enough, but is actually quite short of ambition. This is a film that could have really gone to town on its soundmix and delivered a thoroughly unnerving sonic experience, if the same level of passion had been applied to the audio design as to the gore FX.
There simply isn't much activity going on of note. We have lots of separated protagonists traipsing through a veritable war-zone, with the potential for all sorts of heart-stopping sounds and effects to catch them, and us, off-guard. But there is actually very little in the way of memorable surround instances that make use of the environment and the atmosphere. There's a little bit of the wind drifting through the trees, the odd bird-call and insect humming. And then there's Victor doing this odd thing of howling his surname out across the swamp to unnerve his trapped victims. Now this element does work pretty well. The unearthly wail of “Crowwwwleyyyyyy!” sweeps across the soundscape, floating on the wind. It could certainly have been more pronounced and better steered, but this still sounds quite effective in its own right. The surrounds also pick up the odd creak and groan, and they lend weight to a couple of the more overt stingers, but this is really quite a restrained use of viewer immersion.
Action-wise, we get some gunshots, but they lack power and direction. Bodies are routinely hacked and sliced and cut-asunder and we get the impacts of them being hurled around, though none of this sticks in the mind as being anything other than perfunctory. Even the ripping/buzzing scream of that immense chainsaw lacks the sort of bite that it should have had. You compare how this thing sounds to the original tool in Tobe Hooper's Texas Chainsaw Massacre and there's simply no contest. When Leatherface fires his up, you feel its power coursing after you, its high-speed grinding shriek genuinely dislodging your teeth from their moorings. In Victor's hands, the saw has little weight or vigour. Likewise, the sander and the outboard motor. Effects for the mutilation taking place are well-handled, though. They may be over-the-top, but there is some glistening, gloopy detail to the tearing-away of jaw-bones, the wrenching out of a body from the very skin that covers it, and the monumentally repeated bludgeoning of a couple of heads that are literally stoved-in. The sub gets in on the act sometimes, deepening a few of the nastier impacts.
Dialogue is fine – no problems here. Andy Garfield's naff score is also pretty well catered-for. His music is composed purely of off-the-peg stingers and generic creep-outs, but there is no character to any of it, no identifiable theme. Worst of all, he rams some appallingly mismatched action cues into the pot later on, exactly as he had done in the first Hatchet. Well, at least he's consistent, I suppose.
Overall, you can't complain about the audio mix. Personally, I had hoped for more excitement from it, but the transfer is not to blame. A good solid 7.
We get two fairly enthusiastic commentaries, both fronted by Adam Green. On the first, he is joined by genre-faves Tony Todd and Kane Hodder, and all are all able to provide ancedotage and insight into the whole vogue of horror cinema and how the Hatchet franchise was realised. On the second, Green has his tech-people to keep him company, cinematographer Will Barrett and makeup-FX creator Robert Pendergraft who are able to discuss the gore and the mayhem and how to capture it all, and clearly enjoy seeing the fruits of their labours. Fans will lap this stuff up and, quite pleasantly, the two tracks manage to go down their separate routes with little repetition.
The making-of, entitled Hatchet 2: Behind the Screams, lasts for 34 mins and goes in-depth into the production. We certainly meet a lot of people, cast and crew, and hear a lot of how this all came together. Naturally, Green takes centre-stage for much of the time, but there are lots of little anecdotes from all and sundry, producers to fx-men, actors to Green's cat. It's all very enjoyable and light-hearted, and stuffed to the gills with on-set footage of the kills and how they were done. We even get some storyboard comparisons slotted-in. Much of this very amusing, but the sheer joy that all these people have and the type of praise that they are showering upon one another is often a little too much to swallow. Hatchet II just isn't that good, folks. Mind you, speaking of showers, it is great to see Danielle Harris being filmed in one on her first day's shooting – and the reveal of a once-hidden tattoo is quite rewarding.
There is a 6-minute glimpse of the effects-shop team who brought home the bacon on the movie. Innovation, imagination and sheer enthusiasm are the orders of the day for this bunch as they talk us through how various kills were designed and executed.
Hatchet 2: First Look is exactly how it sounds – a pop-promo marketing piece that is geared towards the fans of the initial outing and makes use of highlights from the larger behind-the-scenes feature.
And finally we get some TV and Radio Spots, as well as the film's theatrical trailer.
Cult item or not, Adam Green's Hatchet II is a pretty poor horror film. All the gore and uber-violence in the world can't save this turkey from dreadfully inept direction, insipid characterisation and, worst of all, a monster that we are completely and utterly unafraid of. I greatly appreciate the dedication to old school effects – and you should too – and I can't deny the amusing depravity of some of the imaginative kills, but to neglect to provide menace and suspense is simply unforgivable. It's not even “fun” – you know, that description that genre efforts claim as a get-out clause when no-one of real talent is behind them – it's just banal and repetitive. Just having “genre celebs” in it is not enough to grant it kudos. Tony Todd and Tom Holland are terrible. Danielle Harris tries hard but isn't really up to the task. And poor Kane Hodder, a superb bogeyman, is let down by colossal over-exposure and lumpen, ham-fisted set-pieces that rob him of all intimidation.
Going by my UK check-disc, the image has some problems too. The transfer seems to be riddled with compression errors, though that purple chroma-fuzz is the most obviously aggravating. But the audio is solid, if determinedly perfunctory. I'm sure that more could have been done with the soundmix, though I doubt that fans will have much to complain about with the odd ambient effect being thrown around, some dementedly visceral and fleshy sounds, and the creepy taunting wail of the killer. Some of the extras are good fun, though we don't get the gag reel that the first film had. We get a couple of interesting commentaries and the making-of is surprisingly entertaining.
Hatchet II may be nastier than its predecessor, but it is not as good a movie. The first one was hardly a classic either, but it hung together better than this sloppy, overcooked retread. I'm massively disappointed with this, folks. With a gleefully nasty slasher throwback, you really aren't asking for much, are you? But when a film set in a creepy swamp owned by a hulking monster-man and filled with people that you can't wait to see getting shredded becomes incredibly boring – there's something fundamentally wrong with it. They really were done far better back in the heyday. In fact, they're done far better these days, too.
Hatchet II is worth seeing for the gore, I suppose, but if even a die-hard blood-junkie like me remains unmoved by the whole thing, there's little chance that any new fans will be won over.
It's a hack-job, I'm afraid … and not in the best sense of the phrase.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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