In the early part of the aughts, studios started to remake Wes Craven’s films. To a certain extent, this was, I believe, an attempt to give Craven more financial benefit from his work. He was tangentially involved in these films as a producer, they were all written and directed by different people.
The Hills Have Eyes was probably a good place to start. It is a film known mainly to fans of Wes Craven and horror. However, a lot of people in the mainstream are likely to have simply heard the name.
Bringing in Alexandre Aja to write and direct. He had made a real impression with 2003’s High Tension, and honestly, was probably a strong choice. High Tension was part of the French Extreme trend in horror where stories could be messy and plot twists do not make sense. Here, the extreme violence of his work really is at home.
The core story is there. A family is on vacation in their RV. They go on a detour to shorten their drive time and the car appears to break down. They discover there are other people hiding in the hills and those people attack them and kidnap their baby. And then the family must fight back.
The original film is about a family from civilization versus the feral family. The film plays up the family divisions, with Big Bob’s tough Republican versus Doug’s “weak Democrat” played up big time. In fact a lot of the film is devoted to Doug becoming a violent badass. This is not an exaggeration. Doug goes from a guy barely able to think of using a gun to hand to hand violent killer. The film is pretty good at manipulating the viewer, because Doug is trying to save his baby.
The remake’s biggest alteration is that the feral family are ravaged by radiation. They are basically mutant monsters. Visually, this is really effective, though it loses something to make the Jupiter family outright inhuman monsters.
This is a decent remake and I think gorehounds will find it enjoyable.
Back in 2006, Adam Green made a splash within the horror genre with a throwback to 80’s slasher films called Hatchet. The story of a group of folks on a Louisiana swamp tour who run afoul of the local legend Victor Crawley.
The legend went that the poor young deformed Victor lived with his father. One night a group of kids tried to scare Victor, only to set the house on fire. While trying to save Victor, his father accidentally kills him with an axe. Years later, after a series of deaths, that part of the swamp was declared unfit to visit. The tour group discover that Victor is more than a legend…he is an “unkillable” murder machine.
The first hatchet got a positive enough response for Green to make two sequels, which garnered a cult fanbase. And really, it is a fun franchise. The violence is far to ridiculous to be judged seriously. Green filled the films with horror royalty like Robert Englund and Tony Todd. The films relied on traditional practical effects and buckets of blood. Like, an absurd amount. Green always approached the films with a sense of humor. And using the most famous Jason, Kane Hodder, he managed to create a pretty memorable bad guy. The first film also had a really memorable teaser trailer:
Green ended the franchise with Hatchet 3 in 2013. And Victor Crawley was laid to rest. Late last year, fans were invited to an anniversary showing of Hatchet. Except, when Adam Green stepped before the audience, he informed them that instead, they were about to watch a brand new fourth film in the franchise, simply titled Victor Crawley.
The film has a bit of a shaky start with a brief flashback of a couple who meet a terrible fate. The film picks up with Andrew (Parry Shen), the lone survivor of the third film who has written a book about his experience with Crawley. Chloe, an aspiring horror director is hoping to get Andrew to join her and her film crew (well, her boyfriend and friend) in making a film about his meeting with Crawley. Meanwhile, he is talked into joining a television crew for an interview in the old Crawley stomping grounds.
Chloe and her friends are trying to figure out the voodoo incantation that made Crawley into the terrible monster he became by looking it up on YouTube. When they are distracted by the sound of a plane crash, they forget the phone and the incantation plays over and over. As to be expected, the survivors of the crash and the filmmakers must try and survive the night with Crawley.
Green tries something a bit different hear. In prior films, the characters roam the swamp, this time around they stay inside the wrecked plane most of the film as Victor tries to draw them out to creatively murder them.
Like the previous films, this one relies on outrageous practical effect gags and copious amounts of fake blood splashed everywhere. The humor of the films is still there, with Parry Shen (who has appeared in all four films as three different characters), Laura Ortiz and Dave Sheridan are all quite entertaining and Sleepaway Camp’s Felissa Rose provides some good laughs as Andrew’s brash and loud agent. And Kane Hodder returns to play Victor Crawley once more, giving the series a pleasant consistency with it’s villain.
Victor Crawley is not reinventing slashers, but it is a pretty fun ride with a sense of humor about itself.
The Blu-Ray contains a couple commentaries and a behind the scenes featurette. There is also a nice little interview with Green where he opens up about why he returned to a franchise he thought he was done with. Green talks about a serious bout of depression (brought on by the death of a close friend, his marriage ending and his TV being canceled when the network was shut down by a merger) and how George Romero helped point the way out of his spiral.
If you like the Hatchet franchise, I doubt you will be disappointed by Victor Crowley. And if you are a fan of over the top 80’s slashers, you should check out the film (if you are not already familiar with the franchise).