For Hatchet III, BJ McConnell, taking over from Adam Green as director, continues the series’s tradition of cartoonish ultra-gore set in Louisiana’s wetlands. Again, it all begins where the preceding film left off, with Marybeth (Danielle Harris) battling the murderous Victor Crawley (Kane Hodder), who haunts a backwoods New Orleans swamp and decimates anyone who crosses his path. Narrowly escaping death after an errant chainsaw cuts Crawley to bits, Marybeth hightails it to N’awlins, where the sheriff’s department follows her instructions back to the story’s boggy ground zero, now riddled with two films’ worth of mangled bodies. Unfortunately for them, Crawley has somehow managed to regenerate to his original form and immediately begins killing anew.
As seemingly all of New Orleans’s law enforcement is systematically slaughtered by the psychotic Crawley, Marybeth teams up with an investigative journalist, Amanda (Caroline Williams), who claims to know the mythic secret to stopping the boogeyman. For a film whose primary objective is filling the screen with as much blood and guts as possible, Hatchet III spends an inordinate amount of time foisting proactive-less exposition at audiences, resulting in a jagged pace and much dead air. Worse, when McConnell finally does get around to depicting Crawley’s killing spree, the film practically becomes a blur of spatial incoherence.
The previous Hatchet films, while far from highbrow, at least benefited from Green’s more formalist ambitions; as evident in Frozen, he particularly excels at crafting a sense of temporal uniformity. McDonnell is a significantly less eloquent aesthete: Though he tries his best to mirror Green’s deliberate rhythms, his style ends up recalling the punkish amateurism of bargain-bin ’80s horror flicks. Not exactly a bad thing for a series so clearly indebted to the legacy of Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp, but McDonnell, too hesitant to stray from the beaten path set by Green’s previous films, lacks the looser, more whimsical hand that would have allowed Hatchet III to transcend its thoughtlessly imitative state.