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MOVIE REVIEW: 'Hatchet' knows the formula and does it right

To the dishonor-and-dismember roll of Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddie Krueger, you may now add Victor Crowley, the deranged and deformed bogey man of "Hatchet," an homage to '80s-style horror from writer-director Adam Green that avoids the post-irony smirk of the "Scream" satires. Green, who appears to have memorized the "Halloween"/"Friday the 13th"/"Nightmare on Elm Street" playbooks, comes not to kill the Slasher Kings, but to celebrate and emulate them.

It would be impossible for anyone who has seen a chapter of the above-mentioned movies and the graveyard of imitations to be shocked or surprised at anything in "Hatchet." But it's impossible not to admire Green's reassembly of the pieces. He's like a master ship model maker - even if he's re-creating a junk as opposed to an elegantly crafted warship. The proof: Even when you know what's coming, you reflexively recoil.

The plot is simplicity squared, then quartered: Ben (Joel Moore, who played the hapless Owen in "Dodgeball"), having broken up with his girlfriend, is unwilling to be reminded of her sexy charms by partaking in the debauchery of Mardi Gras in pre-Katrina New Orleans. Instead, he opts for a boat cruise of the voodoo city's allegedly haunted landmarks.

Ben guilts his best pal Marcus (Deon Richmond), who would far rather be on Bourbon Street, into accompanying him, joining a tour led by a less-than knowledgeable Asian guide named Shawn (Parry Shen). Along with obligatory sexy babes Misty (Mercedes McNab) and Marybeth (Tamara Feldman), the good girl with the dark secret, the group includes a pair of Midwestern rubes and a producer of porn movies with his potential starlets, who provide the gratuitous nudity.

Trouble starts when the boat sinks, leaving all stranded in the very same swamp cited as the stomping, or sludging, grounds of Victor (an impressively frightful Kane Hodder), who is as single-minded, psychotic, elusive and unstoppable as all of the B-movie legends who have inspired him.

"Hatchet" is a movie where one man's hoary cliches are a genre fan's clever inside jokes, and geeks will undoubtedly be double-geeked to spot Freddy himself, Robert Englund, and a couple of other slasher movie regulars in cameos. But Green - like John Carpenter, Wes Craven and the get-it-done directors he obviously admires - is smart enough to ratchet up the horror in "Hatchet" to a level that should satisfy party-hard gore hounds and casual tourists alike.


3 stars

Rated R; graphic violence, language, nudity

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes