SYNOPSIS: Picking up literally where HATCHET left off, II starts with Mary Beth (now played by Danielle Harris) escaping and returning to civilization to try to make sense of her ordeal. She's told by Jack Cracker that Reverend Zombie can answer her questions and, after some wrangling, he agrees to take her back to Honey Island Swamp to seek out Victor Crowley. A assortment of characters to replace the ones who were murdered in the first HATCHET also attend. Then they're murdered.
I love the way this starts with HATCHET's last scene. It gives II a really distinctive feel and stronger linkage between the films. Continuity is one of HATCHET II's stronger points in general, as we get Mary Beth in our Final Girl spot again, as well as return appearances by minor characters like Jack Cracker and Reverend Zombie (now bumped up to main event status).
Plus this happens, and while it's a staircase lower than the bitchy interactions in the first film, it's still way cool.
A few scenes bring literal lols. I liked the found footage from Shapiro's camera, especially the portions that posthumously take his creepiness to new heights. "Dude, I'm fourteen-uh!"
Best dialogue is actual sex dialogue, though. "Do you like this better than ice cream?" "Do you like it better than Jesus?" AWESOME.
I also really dug the nods to other films, like FROZEN and BEHIND THE MASK.
The effects and gore are still mighty spiffy. It seems like HATCHET II has less bloodletting, or maybe it just takes longer to show up, but the quality makes it worth the wait. Victor Crowley looks good and the film gives us a little more of his ambitious killing, which is lots of fun.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
One problem with belt-sanding and hatcheting your intriguing ensemble cast to death in the first film is that you have to replace them with a whole new bunch of characters. And there's no guarantee that the new kids will have the appeal of the old gang. In this case, they definitely don't. Character and dialogue across the board seems to have slipped in HATCHET II. It's not that the actors are bad or anything, it just seems like a lot of the energy and enjoyment that powered HATCHET I are long gone and no amount of cameos can make up for it.
You want proof? Parry Shen, who was amazing in HATCHET, returns as his character's twin brother and the viewer thinks, "There is seriously no way that this can go wrong!" But whereas Sean was interesting and hilarious throughout HATCHET, brother Justin is pretty much just a concerned and scared brother in II. The film does give him a few chances to flex his comic muscles (the cookie scene), but mostly his character is pretty dull and paper-thin. He doesn't have to be comic relief again, necessarily, but invest him with some kind of interesting attributes, so we'll care when he dies.
The accomplished mixing of multiple elements in HATCHET the first is mostly absent here. There's well-done comedy and horror to be found, but it's more isolated and doesn't blend as well.
...and gives Kane Hodder a chance to act without being buried under makeup, but otherwise it kind of seems extraneous. Maybe it'll all pay off in HATCHET III.
Danielle Harris does a nice job here, but I must admit that I prefer Tamara Feldman in the Mary Beth role. Part of that might be owing to HATCHET's superior script, but Feldman just seemed a lot more confident and assured.
I like Tony Todd's performance and having him around makes up for Sean's collection of accents not being present, but Reverend Zombie is probably better as a supporting character than a lead role. Zombie's shadiness subtracts from Crowley's menace in a lot of ways—you've got your two strongest personalities both in chaotic/lawful evil roles with a bunch of hero/victim characters who don't have enough panache to balance things out. Again, the problem is probably a script that needed more work.
Ehhh, it's okay. Not really anything that you need to rush out and see, unlike the mandatory first HATCHET. We'll see whether the third installment gets the series back on track.