Editor’s note: This review originally appeared on Fangoria.com prior to a mass site overhaul that saw two years’ worth of work completely wiped away from the inner crevices of the net.
Written by: Matt Molgaard
Ahhh, the clash of 1980s slasher throwbacks! Both Hatchet and The Tripper are silly, campy potential classics that most either love, or completely hate. I myself fit into the former category. Neither picture can lay claim to technical mastery, but I find both features to be extremely entertaining, humorous and accurate in their homage. If you dig those wonderfully terrible slasher flicks that (thankfully) flooded the market throughout the 1980’s, you may very well get a kick out of both of these films.
You’d figure a group of hippies headed for a modern day peace festival in the middle of nowhere could avoid trouble. Not in this case; it’s problems for Ivan (Lukas Haas), Samantha (Jaime King), Jack (Steven Heath), Jade (Paz de la Huerta), Joey (Jason Mewes), and Linda (Marsha Thomason) from the get go. First it’s the local hillbillies (one of which, “Muff” is played by writer/director/producer David Arquette), busting bottles over heads and wielding knives recklessly. Then things get a bit worse for this weed smoking ensemble when some nutjob in a Ronald Reagan mask shows up. Clearly disgruntled, Reagan hacks his way through a few handfuls of hippies, and whether or not anyone will survive becomes an issue of concern long before the final credits roll.
David Arquette’s second venture into writing and directing (he made his directorial debut with 2002’s Selling Air and his writing debut the same year when he penned an episode of Son of the Beach) is absolutely awesome! There’s some good laughs, some over the top acting (mostly by Arquette himself), blood, guts, a masked madman and of course: full frontal nudity…I think that’s pretty much everything that made some of those old school slashers so damn wicked. There’s a (well implemented, and much needed) light hearted feel to the film that emphasizes the humor, and captures a youthful essence quite effectively. Reagan is also a lot of fun, as he’s actually got some dialog to handle which adds a little depth to the antagonist for a change. The Tripper is just all around fun. Arquette never pretends to take himself too seriously and it’s a good thing, as the film just isn’t supposed to be a serious film.
An interesting side note: The Tripper was released on April 20, 2007 (4-20). A familiar number for you cannabis heads out there!
Fear Factor: 5
Makeup/Mechanical Effects: 7.5
Replay Value: 7.9
Total Score: 35.5
Ben (Joel Moore) and some friends head to New Orleans for Mardi Gras to blow off steam and consume ridiculous amounts of alcohol. But Ben’s recent relationship issues have got the man down, and partying just isn’t doing the trick. So, what better to do than head for the haunted swamp tour? Reluctantly, Marcus (Deon Richmond), Ben’s buddy joins Ben… for no reason other than support, Marcus is perfectly content with the booze and boobs back at Mardi Gras. It turns out raging with alcoholic savages back in town would have been a much safer bet.
On the tour Ben and Marcus are told the tale of Victor Crowley, a deformed boy who was killed by his father accidentally as a child. Legend has it the spirit of Victor Crowley still haunts the swamp, and as the story goes, he’s willing to murder anyone trouncing about his neck of the woods, and he’s more than happy to do so in brutal fashion. Unfortunately for this group of tourists, the legend is true. Victor Crowley is deformed, he does still inhabit these parts, and he will rip anyone in his path to pieces, especially those anywhere near his childhood home. Of course, this group find themselves practically sitting on his doorstep, and Victor is in no mood for company.
Hatchet is an energetic offering from (then) second time filmmaker Adam Green. Strong casting and a forthright screenplay provide the foundation for an entertaining and sound tribute piece. The acting isn’t performed without hitch, but the films few leads provide strong enough performances to salvage the picture and then some. Much like The Tripper, Hatchet is an intentionally silly picture with plenty of jokes and preposterous carnage. The special effects team did a wonderful job with all the on screen brutality, and while the action doesn’t carry much realism, it’s definitely reminiscent of the slasher fare of the 80’s. Though not flawless, Hatchet is a spirited effort that really is one of the better slasher flicks of the past decade.
Side note: It’s fair to say that Hatchet officially launched the career of Adam Green, as the young filmmaker experienced a surge in recognition, which has led to his involvement in seven projects since Hatchet’s 2007 release.
Fear Factor: 5
Makeup/Mechanical Effects: 7.9
Replay Value: 8
Total Score: 35.8
With Hatchet edging The Tripper by less than a half point, it’s pretty easy to consider this one a draw. Given some of the feedback I’ve received in regards to past Face Offs, I’ll expect a heated backlash for my opinion, but I stand by it. These are two modern day campy slashers that outshine the vast majority of modern slashers. Plus we’ve got two brand new masked serial killers born on film… whether either will prove to have any form of longevity is debatable, and only time will tell. However, with a Hatchet sequel already announced, we could very well see victor Crowley eventually build himself a legacy.