In the horror thriller Hatchet II, the great character actor Tony Todd plays a fraudulent New Orleans witch doctor who peddles a bogus brand of voodoo to tourists gullible enough to stumble into his tacky little shop. The role was conceived as a comic character, a shameless con man masquerading as a conduit to the spirit world, but Todd has such a dignified presence and such a sonorous, hypnotic voice that he’s impossible to dismiss, though he’s similarly impossible to take seriously. In a performance no less impressive for anchoring a slasher sequel, Todd masters a tricky balancing act between humor and menace that echoes Hatchet’s loving, sure-handed juxtaposition of shaggy swamp comedy and gruesome gore.
In his sequel to his 2006 sleeper hit, writer-director Adam Green casts Halloween sequel heroine Danielle Harris as a plucky young woman who just barely survived a brutal massacre at the hands of a deformed, possibly supernatural bogeyman in a swamp that killed all her traveling companions. Harris seeks out Todd in search of answers regarding the identity of the mysterious figure that attacked her, but he nurses sinister ulterior motives that lead him to dispatch a team of money-hungry adventurers to the swamp to confront the ultimate undead evil.
Hatchet II is distinguished both by a funky, frisky sense of humor, and gore of great quality and quantity. There’s enough viscera on display here to please even the most debauched Fangoria subscriber, but it’s delivered throughout with playful, nasty wit, as when a swamp hook-up gets interrupted in the most gruesome manner imaginable. Hatchet II takes full advantage of the freedom that comes with being unrated, and while the gore is explicit and aggressive, it seldom feels gratuitous. Green has clearly spent far too much time imagining the many ways in which the human body can be vivisected. Thankfully, he’s also spent a lot of time dreaming up surprisingly funny, vivid characters that qualify as more than just interchangeable slasher-bait.