Hatchet: Blu-ray review

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Anchor Bay’s new Blu-ray disc replaces their old DVD as the definitive edition for fans who want to add the film to their collection.

HATCHET is back – this time on Blu-ray, and just in time for the release of HATCHET 2, which is set to arrive in theatres on October 1. Writer-director Adam Green’s salute to “Old School American Horror” was previously the subject of an excellent “Unrated Director’s Cut DVD,” loaded with extra features. Anchor Bay’s new Blu-ray disc (release date: September 7) ports over their old bonus material and adds a brand new audio commentary with Green and Kane Hodder, who plays the film’s backwoods legend, Victory Crowley. With the behind-the-scenes details having been thoroughly covered in the DVD, there are few gaps to be filled, but the new commentary is a welcome addition, and the widescreen high-def transfer reminds us just how good this modestly budgeted film looks.
HATCHET is presented in a 1080p transfer of its complete, unrated 84-minute cut, with 1.78 aspect ratio for 16×9 televisions, with the English audio track in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and with subtitles in Spanish, English for the hearing impaired. Although Adam Green, in the audio commentary, expresses reservations about the high-def transfer (which he apparently feels will reveal flaws in the image), the photography actually looks quite wonderful. The atmosphere of the swamp – as much as over-the-top gore – makes the film work, and this is rendered with beautiful clarity: the night scenes are dark and shadowy, without being murky, and every drop of slow-motion blood gleams like a liquid ruby.
The disc’s sole new feature, the audio commentary with Green and Hodder, mostly eschews details of the film’s production, instead addressing the aftermath: going to festivals, finding distribution, battling the MPAA. Green expresses frustration over HATCHET’s limited theatrical release (marred by weak promotional support and cuts need to achieve an R-rating) but focuses most of his attention on pointing out subtle details that set up HATCHET 2: for example, Victor Crowley’s skin coloring hints at his parentage, which involves a Voodoo curse. Green also recalls that his producer bugged him about whether it was worth the effort to get Tony Todd (CANDYMAN) to play a brief cameo as Reverend Zombie; Green insisted, knowing the character would play a much larger role in the sequel.

Kane Hodder doing a burn stunt as the deformed Victor Crowley
Kane Hodder doing a burn stunt as the deformed Victor Crowley

Overall, this commentary is less jokey and fragmented than the previous one, which was interrupted by technical troubles and suffered from the absence of Hodder. The actor, best known as the stunt man who wore Jason’s mask in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 7 through X, expresses appreciation for being given an opportunity to play dramatic scenes with out makeup (in flashbacks of Victor Crowley’s father), and he happily notes that he was satisfied with the kills as written in the script (he usually insists on adding his own twists).
Unlike Anchor Bay’s recent Limited Edition Blu-ray of THE EVIL DEAD (which was missing some bonus material from its previous Ultimate Edition DVD), the HATCHET Blu-ray includes all the previously available features. These include:

  • Audio Commentary with Co-Producer-Writer-Director Adam Green, Co-Producer-Cinematographer Will Barratt and Actors Tamara Feldman, Joel David Moore and Deon
  • The Making of Hatchet
  • Meeting Victor Crowley: An in-depth look at the creation of a new horror icon
  • Guts & Gore: Go behind the scenes of Hatchet’s special makeup and prosthetic effects
  • Anatomy of a Kill: Witness the “jaw-breaking” birth, design and execution of a death scene
  • A Twisted Tale: Writer/Director Adam Green recounts his decades-long friendship with “Twisted Sister” front man Dee Snider
  • Gag Reel
  • Theatrical Trailer

The featurettes are presented in 1.33, standard def. For more details, read our review of the DVD here.
With its good-looking high-def transfer, new audio commentary, and inclusion of all the old bonus material, Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray disc becomes the definitive version for fans who have yet to add HATCHET to their collections. Those who already own the DVD may think twice about whether the new commentary is worth the price of a second purchase, but the improved picture and sound quality enhance the horrors in a way that brings the viewing experience to life even more vividly than before.
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