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Let me give you a little timeline, here. This movie was released in 2007. But I'm pretty sure I never heard of it until 2017, when the fourth movie in the franchise was released. It was fairly well-reviewed, so I thought maybe someday I'd like to see it. But of course, I wouldn't want to watch things out of order, so I decided I'd have to start with the first movie. Not that I had any particular plans on when that might happen. It was a low priority. Then one day in 2018 (probably late February), I decided to look through a rack of DVDs my dad has out in the garage, things I reckon he's planning to sell someday at a garage sale or whatever. Most of them are of no interest to me, but I picked out a few I wanted to watch, and one of them just so happened to be "Hatchet." A few days or so after that, there was an episode of "Agents of SHIELD" that guest-starred Joel David Moore. He looked familiarish, so the next day (March 3), I looked online to see what I might know him from. There were a few things I had seen in his list of credits, but nothing I specifically remembered him from. However, one of his credits I hadn't seen yet was this movie, so I decided to watch it that very night.
Well. This is supposed to be a sort of return to the style of slasher films of the 1980s, which I'm not actually all that familiar with. So basically, if you are a fan of such movies, your reaction to this movie is either going to be something like "Yay this is just like the stuff I loved back in the day" or "Meh, this is just a rip-off of stuff I've seen a million times." Perhaps I'm lucky that I don't really have anything to compare it to. But I can tell you that my feelings about the movie were mixed. On the one hand, it contains some of the goriest killings I've ever seen, and I am not a fan of gore. I can stomach it, if I have to, but I don't enjoy it. And I found myself averting my eyes several times. On the other hand, whenever there isn't any killing going on, the movie is mostly pretty funny. And the characters were alright. And I liked the fact that there is no really clear understanding of exactly what the killer is, despite having a fairly clear backstory. I mean... he's supposed to be dead, but he doesn't seem like a ghost, or anything. And in fact, he's not actually that hard to hurt, if you're brave enough to fight back. But no matter what you do, all you'll accomplish is to slow him down for a very brief time. After that... he's pretty much guaranteed to pop up wherever you are at any given moment. It really makes no sense, and what I like about it is that the characters are obviously aware that it makes no sense, but the plot doesn't really try very hard to explain anything. Because why would it? Movies like this don't make sense, and I just felt like this one struck the perfect balance of self-awareness without moving into the meta-ness of 1990s slashers like "Scream." Besides, the characters are too busy trying (and mostly failing) to stay alive to waste a lot of time figuring things out rationally.
Anyway, it begins with a man (played by Robert Englund) and his adult son, gator-hunting one night on a Louisiana swamp. Before long, they're both killed horrifically, though we don't really see what (or who) kills them. Later, the scene changes to Mardi Gras. There's a guy named Ben (Moore), who was recently dumped by his girlfriend. His friends have taken him to New Orleans to get his mind off her, but it isn't working. He really isn't enjoying any of the festivities, and decides to go off and take a "haunted swamp tour," which some other friends had told him about having taken the previous year. One of the friends who is currently with him, Marcus, decides to accompany Ben, even though he really doesn't like the idea. But he's not going to ditch his friend in his time of need. So they go to the place Ben had heard about, where they meet a guy played by Tony Todd, who doesn't do the tours anymore. But he advises them to try a different place, so they go there. When they get to the place he mentioned, we first see a guy named Doug Shapiro (Joel Murray), who is filming a couple of women named Misty and Jenna getting topless and making out with each other. Though between takes, the two women constantly bicker. (Misty is played by Mercedes McNab, whom I've seen in a few things before, most notably Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, although somehow I didn't recognize her at all, even though I was trying to.) Shapiro is ostensibly a director making a movie, though that never really seemed very believable. Anyway, all that is soon interrupted by the appearance of the swamp tour guide, Shawn, who has a very over-the-top persona he puts on for the tourists, but he clearly doesn't have much idea what he's doing. Then he takes Ben, Marcus, Shapiro, Misty, and Jenna to his tour bus, where some other tourists are already waiting. They include a woman named Marybeth, as well as a married couple named Jim and Shannon.
After a brief bus ride, they get to the swamp, and board a boat. Someone in another boat tries to warn them that the swamp is off limits and dangerous, but Shawn ignores him. It becomes increasingly clear that he doesn't know what he's doing as the tour progresses, and eventually the boat hits a rock and starts to sink. So they all have to get to shore and try to find a way out of the woods. Unfortunately, the woods are haunted by Victor Crowley, a local legend. He was born hideously deformed, and... I don't want to spoil the whole backstory, but eventually he dies tragically. And now... he kills anyone who comes in the woods. He's the one who had killed the two guys at the start of the movie. And it turns out that those guys were Marybeth's father and brother. Since they never came home, she's worried that Crowley may have gotten them. At first, no one really wants to believe the legend is real, but of course they all soon see that it is, and Crowley begins killing them one by one, in various gruesome ways. (The title of the film refers to the hatchet he carries, as part of the legend. But it actually plays a surprisingly minor role in the movie. There are so many other ways of killing people.) His motivation is... no, I was gonna say, "his motivation is unclear," but actually I think it goes beyond that. I don't think he actually has any motivation at all. There is a vague explanation that Marybeth repeats of his being "trapped in the night of his death," or whatever. But like I said before, the movie doesn't really try to make sense. He may have been someone you could sympathize with when he was alive, but at this point, he's basically just a mindless killing machine whose motivation doesn't seem any more complex than "this is a slasher movie."
Beyond that, I don't want to reveal any more details of the plot. So I'll just say, if you have a strong stomach, the movie is fairly entertaining. If you actually like gore, I suppose it's very entertaining. And... I don't know what else to tell you.