Even though viscera and vital organs are tossed about as usual, and yet another bunch of luckless supporting characters are ripped apart like so much warm bread, there’s something curiously underwhelming about the blood-soaked mayhem on display in “Hatchet III.” Even die-hard fans may be disappointed by this ultra-violent low-budgeter, the latest and least installment in the cult-fave franchise about fear and loathing and corpse accumulating in a notorious stretch of Louisiana swamp country. Pic opens June 14 in simultaneous VOD and limited theatrical release.
The law of diminishing returns has caught up with the series that began with 2007’s “Hatchet,” a grisly homage to ’80s slasher pics, and continued three years later with the more technically proficient but equally graphic “Hatchet II.”
Once again, the hideously disfigured and superhumanly ferocious Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) slices, eviscerates and sometimes simply rips apart one unfortunate after another. This time, however, the shock value is greatly diminished because, well, there are just so many times one can be rattled by repetitious carnage. It doesn’t help much that while the earlier pics relied on satirically exaggerated savagery to elicit laughs, “Hatchet III” traffics in broader comedic touches and self-conscious overplaying.
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The new sequel begins more or less where the last sequel left off, in the wilds of Honey Island Swamp, with plucky Marybeth (Danielle Harris) believing she has finally delivered the coup de grace to the rampaging Crowley. But when she shows up at a Jefferson Parish police station, drenched in blood with a shotgun in one hand and Crowley’s scalp in the other, she is greeted not as a heroic survivor, but rather as a homicide suspect.
The local sheriff (Zach Galligan) is understandably dubious when Marybeth claims she ventured not just once, but twice, into the swamp to avenge relatives slain by Crowley, a bogeyman dismissed by most as nothing more than a local legend. “That has to be the stupidest story,” he snarls, “and some of the most idiotic and contrived decision-making I’ve ever heard.” At which point many viewers, not all of them film critics, may feel inclined to agree.
Unfortunately, Crowley turns about to be alive and well — or at least undead and mad as hell — and eager to methodically murder the first responders and SWAT teamers who venture into his Honey Island Swamp domain. Even more unfortunately, Marybeth is forced to make a return visit to the scene of the crime by a reporter (Caroline Williams) obsessed with writing the final chapter of the Crowley saga.
Working from a script by executive producer Adam Green — who wrote and helmed the first two “Hatchet” pics — director BJ McDonnell maintains a suitably brisk pace, but generates little in the way of genuine suspense. There are no surprises here, not even during the messy death scenes, though longtime franchise devotees may enjoy some of the wink-wink, nudge-nudge inside jokes.
It’s especially amusing to see Parry Shen — who appeared in “Hatchet” as a supporting character, and in “Hatchet II” as that character’s twin brother — on view here as a third, unrelated character who isn’t at all amused when someone suggests he bears a striking resemblance to one of the victims discovered near Crowley’s haunting grounds.
It should be noted that, unlike the first two “Hatchet” pics, the latest installment features no female (or, for that matter, male) nudity whatsoever. On the other hand, it does showcase more than enough severed, torn and otherwise abused body parts to keep its target audience happy.