Ten years later: Victor Crowley lives, and the fourth film in the Hatchet series, aptly titled Victor Crowley, just so happens to be the best one. Everything about it works, from its blood splattering deaths and dismembered limbs, to its fast-paced, campy tone. It may also be the funniest. Goddammit, Hatchet fans, you’re in for a treat.
Made mostly in secret and surprise released by director Adam Green, the latest Crowley killing spree takes place 10 years after the events of the first three films. Kane Hodder reprises his role as Crowley and Perry Shan returns as Hatchet III survivor Andrew Yong. Yong is on a book tour selling his tale about how he survived that murderous Louisiana swamp. His reputation might as well have been massacred by Crowley, too; few believe his story and many think he’s the one responsible for all the gruesome deaths. His agent Kathleen, played by the (fanboy moment in 3…2…1…) magical, impeccable Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp), doesn’t seem to care whether or not he’s telling the truth. She just wants to make that paper. Kathleen convinces him to accept a TV gig that will bring him back to the swamp (albeit, only overhead in a plane) in exchange for $1 million. He’s frightened as hell, but can’t seem to leave that much money on the table. Unsurprisingly, the plane crash lands in Crowley’s homeland, and we’ve got a Hatchet sequel, people!
Adding to the body count are Chloe, an aspiring director with hopes of filming a movie surrounding the Crowley legend, along with her boyfriend, Alex, and friend, Rose. The trio hook up with Dillon, a wannabe actor and swamp tour guide who’s a goofy schlub with zero self-awareness. The four find themselves in the same badlands just as Andrew’s plane, full of a camera crew, TV host Sabrina, and his scene-stealing agent, crash lands in the haunted bayou. After a YouTube video chants the voodoo incantation resurrecting the deformed, maniac-giant that is Victor Crowley, all of the characters quickly learn that the legend isn’t just a story made to scare tourists.
As always, Green’s special effects are top notch. Hatchet has always been a series full of blood gushing gore and mangled bodies. While Crowley delivers more of the same, its kills are next-level (none of which I’ll spoil here) and a ton of fun, in the same cartoony way the series is known for. You’ll be laughing as you’re wrinkling your nose and wincing. Green also traps his characters inside the broken down plane, with Crowley outside, lurking and taunting them. It adds a different spin to the series’ usual running-aimlessly-around-the-woods trope. There’s a sense of claustrophobia here as the characters weigh the pros and cons of disembarking the plane. There’s another wrench in the escape plan as one character is pinned to the ground by a plane seat (as a result of the crash), and struggles to survive as swamp water begins to flood the plane. These various elements are simultaneously in play, tossing a couple of curveballs at its audience. This far into the franchise, the surprises are welcomed.
What’s so great about this movie is that it’s so blatantly obvious how much fun the actors and director are having, and that vibe is contagious. It’s completely over-the-top, but the cast and crew are in on the jokes. Hatchet never takes itself too seriously and I think that’s one of its greatest strengths. Green has proven to be a master of tone. Crowley also has a high-octane ending that might even be the bloodiest. And don’t forget to stay seated as the credits roll—trust me, you won’t want to miss the final scene.
The movie is currently being shown in select U.S. theaters (along with a few international film festivals) as part of Dark Sky Films’ “Victor Crowley Road Show” event in celebration of its 10 year anniversary. It’s a bit surprising that a franchise’s fourth film would be its best, especially in the horror genre, but Crowley brings about a higher body count, super creative kills, and a lot of fun for genre fans. Distributing a cult movie in a very cult-y way definitely elevated the viewing. We saw the film with a theater full of horror superfans at a one-night-only event, and that always adds to the shared experience. (Shoutout to CT Cult Classics for making that happen here in Connecticut.)
Throughout the years, Hatchet has earned its stripes. Not only has it incorporated legends (Robert Englund and Tony Todd appeared in earlier installments, and Kane Hodder remains villainous gold), but Green has created a story that carries a perfectly balanced disgusting-yet-campy tone. As a huge fan of camp, I love how the series both serves as the ultimate send-up to 80’s-style horror, while also maintaining originality. Green has checked all of the boxes and then some, giving fans what they want while creating something that has become a huge part of his brand. Here, four movies in, Victor Crowley proves that the series still has plenty of life left, and that this certainly won’t be the last time we see Crowley terrorizing Louisiana. That much we can count on.