Originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis
Plot Outline: John Harrington is a man with a couple of chips on his shoulders: first of all, he’s married to a nagging wife who, despite their unhappiness together, promises to never leave him till’ death do they part (THAT’S always reassuring) and he seems to suffer from a paranoiac disorder. Every time he murders a young bride on her honeymoon, he remembers a forgotten memory in his life that never makes sense in his head, but the memory remains like a puzzle piece in his brain; it’s in there and he has to remember every piece of the memory in order to find out what it means. Of course, working at a bridal gown tailor that he inherited from his mother’s death and dealing with brides on a daily basis, it’s an easy task for John to accomplish the bloody deeds. However, the police start coming on to him, his wife is growing into a bigger pain than she already is and John is developing a little crush on the new model that just arrived in the business. Will John be able to reveal the shrouded memory deeply veiled by his subconscious before he is caught? Or will he lose against the pressure and suffer the consequences of taking a few lives for lost memories?|
I’ve always thought it rather hard for me to really enjoy a horror film that lacks a lot in violence and gore, yet here I am reviewing one of Mario Bava’s thrilling horror classics and the first Bava film I have owned and seen on a positive note. Hatchet has a very unique atmosphere of intrigue through its cinematography, effects, acting, and psychological character analysis that can get a viewer involved regardless of its small focus on the violence involved. Between its expressionistic visuals and artistic style, Hatchet weaves its own feelings to the screen in a very involving way. Hatchet has its imperfections of course, boasting a somewhat small budget in various scenes, a very touching theme song that makes too much of a first appearance for us during a time of artistic yet chaotic opening credits, and maybe not enough killing scenes to get the full feeling of suspense, but all of which adds up to a wholly different and entertaining cinematic experience.
The cinematography was enriching and often times dazzling to the eyes as the viewer is presented with distorted mirror shots and kaleidoscopic effects starting with the opening credits sequence featuring stop motion blue powder moving over red and black photos of the main character to every time John has a flashback and so on. The acting was pretty well played for the majority of the cast as Stephen Forsyth brought a sweaty, haunted, sociopath to life and everyone else remained fairly believable from the cruelly annoying yet oh-so-lonely Mildred to the playful and comforting, yet naïve new model Helen. The dialogue also showed some intelligence as inspector Russell makes his first appearance and juxtaposes John’s hot-house with the criminal mind. I will admit that there are some moments where Steven Forsyth’s character seems incredulous, seeing how he obviously left finger prints at his establishing murder scene at the beginning of the movie and how he covers up a murder in the movie by making the police think that the victim’s scream was on a horror movie that he was watching previously, but still, not every serial killer is caught out of clever wits but dumb luck and sometimes a character is more believable when he has his obvious faults as Forsyth’s character proves here. The Music did seem to clash against one and the other as the visually chaotic opening credits was filled with peaceful, tranquil orchestration that, though peaceful, we get to hear it at least thrice in the film and it only fits in at one moment. Though the wiggy synthesized psychotic music fits in when John gets a knack for some cleaver wielding and the harmonic flute and harp music fit various moments of relaxation, the soundtrack also sports an electric guitar at various moments, inappropriate for the scenes or not, though later in the movie the use of the electric guitar works for one or two crazy moments that the protagonist goes through. I did happen to find the theme that John’s mysterious ghost has to be a rather sad song that fit the purpose pretty well. As mentioned before, the movie presents very little in onscreen violence much less blood, yet the direction for each murder scene is set-up in a very artistic fashion that still makes the implemented murder vivid to the viewer. All of which fits a very perfect description of Bava’s work with film as horror is expressed far from the common shower of blood and the shock of a violent butchering.
Although it seems embarrassing to admit that Hatchet for the Honeymoon was released with a PG rating, Hatchet remains as an intriguing and visually artistic film of suspense and mystery that has the potential to entice a viewer looking for classical suspense as the movie has done for me, even if initial mystery and light atmosphere may sound easy to piece together and pass up to some mystery solving viewers. I especially found the psychological theme of our main character returning to the womb rather interesting as expressed in the séance scene where Mildred is briefly possessed by John’s mother. Hatchet still remains a great spiritual suspense film that I would recommend for anyone looking for a prenuptial chill up the spine.
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