In my Horror Wimp/Horror Lover post, I mentioned that while I was no longer as scared as I used to be, my stomach still had its limits. This weekend, I stretched to find out just how far those limits go. A friend invited me to go see Hatchet II and I couldn't resist. It's a slasher film, and after watching the original Friday the 13th about a week ago, I was hungry for more. The fact that this film is unrated due to gore only occurred to me until after I said yes, and when the little wimpy voice in my head told me I must be out of my mind for agreeing, I told it to be quiet and man up. I was going to see my first horror movie in a theater since the day when I walked out of the House on Haunted Hill remake like a chicken. I was an adult now, I could do this!
Since I mentioned not seeing the first one, Dayna was happy to invite me over and let me see it first. I loved it. It's set in New Orleans and actually filmed here, so that's always a win for me. On top of that, it's really funny AND a great throwback to classic slasher films of the 70s and 80s. Absolutely no CGI in this one (or the sequel, for that matter) just makeup and buckets of fake blood. What I'm learning though is it isn't really my stomach that's the problem. It's my face.
I don't have a problem with watching people be decapitated, gutted, having any of their limbs removed, cut in half, having their insides spill out or their brain matter exposed. But you attack someone's face, eyes, or mouth and I will squirm, recoil in horror, put my hands in front of my face, and probably make some kind of cry of pain. In the first Hatchet the most talked about kill scene comes about halfway through the movie and it involves someone's face. My reaction caused Dayna to look over at me and ask if I was OK. I managed to laugh at myself and enjoyed the rest of the movie.
I found out reading an interview today that the filmmaker, Adam Green, didn't like the fact that what people regarded as the best part of the movie came in the middle, so he set out to top that kill as many times as possible in the sequel. No doubt that is a large part of the reason that Hatchet II is unrated and, of course, a large majority of the kills are all about the face. I guess it makes sense for a killer who was cursed to be deformed and died because someone put a hatchet in his head to want to destroy everyone else's, but oh man were my limits tested. There's a scene at the beginning of American History X that makes me squirm every time I see it and you don't even see what actually happens. In Hatchet II, they recreated it and showed everything. At least I'm pretty sure they did, my hands were in front of my face so I didn't actually see it.
I don't want to spoil too much else about the kills because I know for people who enjoy these movies, the big draw is all about seeing these things happen. If you enjoy gore, this is a movie you need to see. The sequel is a bit more serious than the original. The first movie was a group of tourists and the second is a group of hunters who are purposely out to get him so it makes sense for the tone to shift a bit. It does however still have some great funny moments and I really enjoyed the additional background on the character.
I was always very resistant to films that are gore just for the sake of it, but now I'm learning that it's a very thin line between gory stories with value and flat out blood and guts exploitation. The first Saw movie has a lot of really horrible deaths, but the whole point is that it's a guy who is dying of cancer and wants others to appreciate life more. Unfortunately the success of that movie led to sequels which mostly just involved them trying to think of more horrible traps for people to end up in more than any kind of story. Slasher films tend to be fairly thin on plot but personally I think as long as your killer has an interesting origin/identity and your heroine grows and changes you've got a pretty good story on your hands. Many of the classics also liked to make sure that those dying were usually immoral in some way or really annoying so that you felt they were getting what they deserved. The Hatchet films went out of their way to turn this last trope on its head, a necessary twist for fans who have seen these movies so many times. So does that destroy the value of the story, if it's no longer about "evil" being punished by evil? In my personal opinion the answer is no, but I could see how someone could easily debate that. It's not much different than an attempt to define art or pornography. The standards are nearly impossible to define because they are different based on each person's opinions and experiences.