CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
Well, it's a crashing, crushing disappointment. Shot in secret, the fourth and quite possibly not final (if the by now obligatory mid-credits sting is anything to go by) instalment in Adam Green's Hatchet series is sadly the least of them: a bloody but entirely uninvolving slasher boasting a thoroughly hateful raft of characters, a level of callousness that extends to at least four deaths that have nothing to do with slasher icon Victor Crowley, excessively vicious kill shots played for grossout laughs, and actual comedy that straight up doesn't work. It's a crying shame, it was one I was particularly looking forward to and yet at times, particularly in the first twenty minutes of sitcom bickering, I was seriously considering switching the DVD off.
Like the best slashers, plot is not the main attraction. For the most ludicrous of reasons, a bunch of shallow, self-obsessed idiots end up running around the Louisiana swamps in the middle of the night yet again. There's a film crew wanting to make a fake trailer for a slasher movie based on the Victor Crowley myth, along with their idiot guide; there's the sole survivor of the previous movie dragged back for a TV programme by the promise of big money, along with the idiot crew. By the most ludicrous of chances, Victor Crowley turns up again and works his way through them while they bicker endlessly about whether to stay in their crashed charter jet or make a run for the boat...
The first Hatchet worked because it was the 80s retro-styled slasher movie we'd always wanted since the 80s themselves but couldn't get because they stopped making them, many of them were terrible, and censor boards around the world cut out the juiciest bits. It was gleefully disreputable fun, it was cheerfully nasty, and it made a point of being done with practical gore effects rather than painting them in on the computer afterwards. The second was weaker, in part because they tried to top the original's splat quotient. And the third one (which Adam Green didn't direct) was generally pretty good and wrapped up what was then the trilogy perfectly well. But this time the head-stomping, limb-lopping and entrail-spilling is pushed so far that it ends up as the kind of excess you used to see in insane Japanese splatter movies like Tokyo Gore Police or Shogun Assassin.
Adam Green's best film so far remains (the co-directed) Spiral, which was far more subtle, emotionally engaging and better told. More, bigger, nastier, bloodier, isn't necessarily better. Nor is cruder: a scene involving a set of male genitals just sits there on the screen, as inert as the offending objects themselves (it's apparently there to redress the genre's historical predilection for female flesh rather than male, right?). Certainly the gore highlights are done with panache and enthusiasm, but there's too much of it: it's no longer enough to just stick a machete in someone's skull the way Jason used to do. I actually felt uncomfortable at the level of bodily destruction, in the way that bits of the later Saw movies looked like crime scene photos; set against the jokey trash-talk dialogue, it's an odd mix that doesn't gel. I was really hoping for a good time with Victor Crowley (Hatchet 4 doesn't appear on the screen at any point, whatever the DVD box art says) but it does feel that, like so many other horror series, it had already reached its natural end point and didn't have anywhere else to go. Occasional fun moments aside, it's disappointing.