Sunday, July 10, 2011

150 Days of Halloween: Wrong Turn and Hatchet

I have a guilty pleasure. Campy, over the top, American slasher films. Born from the bloody puddle left behind by Jason in the woods of Camp Crystal Lake, these are some of my favorite movies to watch. The acting is often terrible, the gore is out of control, and everyone making the movie is in on the joke and a fan of the genre. Most of the time that take a page out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre's book and set it in the deep south with deformed and inbred killers. New England is the land of ghosts and cults, but the deep American South is for grisly murders by wannabe Elephant Men. Holywood is terrified of the south. Its a shame too, the south, particularly the Cajun sections, have incredible ghost stories and legends. Robert E. Howard knew what it was all about.

Oh well, the average Hollywood directors fear of a Deliverance like encounter aside, I forgive the setting for the ridiculousness it provides, and provide it does. Wrong Turn and Hatchet are both totally over the top, Wrong Turn tried to be serious, while Hatchet gleefully pokes fun at itself and drops any pretense to being anything other then a messy good time.
The poster doesn't want you to have to wonder who will make it to the end.
 Lets start with Wrong Turn, which tries to take itself seriously despite the three mutants who giggle through the whole film. Well, really only one does, but hes the best one. Trying to take itself seriously is a bit of a shame, and can be a bit disrespectful in some ways. Hatchet is like a love letter to the creepy swamps and Bayous of Louisiana, while also poking fun of the false Voodoo shops and tours that spring up wherever the college Mardi Gras culture does down there. Wrong Turn, on the other hand, isn't having fun with it. The killers are not vengeful ghosts that died because they were killed for their deformities, they are inbred cannibals. While Hatchet can be a love story to the ghost stories of the area, and a send up to over the top slashers, Wrong Turn just feels afraid of the South.

We get the standard here for this kind of story. A bunch of kids exploring the woods have their car wrecked by a trap, and soon after a young doctor crashes into the car as well. Stranded, they start walking down the road looking for help. Cue anyone who stayed behind being picked off, to make sure you know they will die, they have sex and smoke pot. Yep, they sealed the deal. If I ever think I might be in a horror movie, I will immediately give up all all substance and swear off the opposite sex, I know the score.
This is why you don't date your sister.
The main group, meanwhile, find the killers shack and find the evidence of the cannibals. Thus we enter the second act as the killers arrive back at the house as well. Our heroes flee into the woods, and the inbred brothers begin to hunt them down one by one. Once we are down to the Lone Female and the Savior Male, we hit the cliched final act. Lone Female is captured and the Savior Male dramatically fights back to save her. They apparently kill all the Bad Guys and drive off into the sunset in each others arms because we need a Romance of Convenience. Oh, then cue the sequel hook, of course.

This right here is why Cold Prey was so damn good. The killer had a decent back story, the characters were all believable, the scares were top rate, and they ditched the tired and vaguely sexist cliches of the genre. The Lone Female was replaced with an actual Strong Female, she reassured the frightened people around her. She kicked the killers ass and make all the plans. She was a legitimate bad-ass, Ripley would be proud. Not so with Wrong Turn, which was apparently afraid to defy genre conventions.
Aside from the retread of old memes, the acting is decent, the prosthetics for the killers are well done and interesting to look at, and they manage some good tense moments with fights in tree tops, chases in wide open spaces, and moments of silent hiding in close quarters. If you want a good movie, stick with Cold Prey, but if you want a generic American slasher that still manages to be fun, give this a go. As long as you are not in a horror movie yourself, consider some friends and substance for added fun.

Now for the real gem of the night. Hatchet knows better then to take itself seriously, and lets you know the score right at the open. How does it do that? By having Robert Englund, horror legend and Freddy Krueger himself, open the movie as the first death. If a movie has Englund in it, its a movie by fans, for fans, the man is an icon and a fan himself. If you ever wonder why the Nightmare on Elm Street remake sucked, this guy not being in it is a big part of that.
So much fun.
Anyway, this time we have the deep south setting again, but without it being as totally disrespectful to the area as Wrong Turn. It pokes fun at the invading tourist industry, the cast has a female native who is also a bad-ass, and the killers deformities are not due to inbreeding, nor does deformity automatically make him a killer. It changes the tone a bit, the setting itself is no longer the villain.

So, following the death of our legendary cameo, we join a group of party goers at Mardi Gras. Two of them break off, one unwillingly doing it to make his newly single friend feel better, to go on a sketchy haunted swamp tour. They join the con artist running the tour, a touristy middle aged couple, a sleazy man filming two girls for a Girls Gone Wild style video, and the daughter of the man who died at the open, out looking for her Father. Not before another legend has his moment, Tony Tod, Candyman himself, is the man who sends our two party goers to the tour.
Thank you Image Search.
The movie has fun all the time, characters ham it up at all times, the horror is totally over the top and often a joke itself, some of the lines are only barely delivered with a straight face. Its just a good time all the way through. The movie drops subtlety in favor of total lunacy, the killer sprints in and tears people apart in the most literal sense. Heads are pulled apart, limbs go flying, blood hits the scenery by the bucketful. Its glorious if you love the genre, its just having a good time, and your invited.

Anyway, the obviously expendable cast members die in increasingly over the top ways until we are left with the obvious survivors. Trouble is, we have three, the recently heart broken dude who is hilariously awkward. The daughter out for revenge, who is the clear love interest for our awkward hero, and his best friend who provided most of the snarky and clever lines. Trouble is, the awesome best friend character is black, and hes in a horror movie. Yeah, hes fucked.
Drink it all in.
So we have our exciting final encounters, the last minute surprises and kills, and the sequel hook. Hatchet is a winner for anyone who loves over the top horror, for the gorehounds, and the genre junkies. Its just as big a fan as you are, and it shows. I know I had fun.

All in all, a nice little double feature of slasher goodness with these two. Wrong Turn could have been better, but it manages to do some interesting things, and Hatchet is a glorious blood bath. Tomorrow brings totally different fare, check out The 150 Days of Halloween for the films coming up and for past reviews. Now that Steam has ended its Summer Camp event, I am free from its spell, so hopefully no more late reviews.


  1. when the movie came out it was pretty nice, really scared the shit out of me at some points! :X

  2. Haven't seen Hatchet, that's one brutal jaw rip kill.

  3. So that's where that gif is from...

  4. Eliza Dushku? then I got to see this.

  5. Hatchet seems cool. I might give it a try

  6. Great review for great movie.

  7. this is too scary for me this early in the morning ;)

  8. These two movies are awesome fun to watch!

  9. Wrong Turn was so awesome. I remember the arrow scene got me hardcore.

  10. w00t! that skull opening thing looks awesome! really fake, but awesome!

  11. Totally lurrrve these two movies. And there's me thinking I must be the only one.

  12. Quite a thorough examination...well done.

  13. Woah. I may need to give these a viewing.

  14. Funny review, not a big fan of the genre but I might see hatchet anyway! +followed