Some people just don’t stay dead, especially if they need to churn out more sequels of a slasher franchise. Victor Crowley has joined the ranks of Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kruger: (ugly) serial killers who refuse to die no matter how many times they’re decapitated or grinded into a pulp. Hey, I guess you need to appease those bloodthirsty fans.
Victor Crowley sees the return of the silent-but-deadly Kane Hodder as the deformed ghost of the Honey Island Swamp. He’s joined by franchise staple Parry Shen, who has played a different character in each of the Hatchet movies. For the fourth installment, Shen reprised his role as Andrew Yong, the only survivor of Hatchet III.
For those of you who haven’t seen the Hatchet trilogy, no worries. The movie offers some exposition in the form of a campfire ghost story, creepily narrated by an unseen child. It tells the tale of Victor Crowley, a boy cursed with a voodoo spell and born monstrously disfigured. Young Victor lived with his father, hidden away from the eye of the public in a small cabin in the swamp. One Halloween night, a prank pulled by a group of teenagers went horribly wrong, resulting in Victor being burned alive in the cabin. However, the voodoo curse brought Victor back to life. Legends says you can still hear Victor crying out for his father. Oh, and he’ll kill you with a hatchet if you get too close.
It’s been 10 years since the events that took place in the first three Hatchet films, where 40 people were viciously butchered in the span of three days. Andrew is promoting his new book (poorly titled “I, Survivor”), retelling how he came close to death at hands of Victor Crowley. Parts of his book were fluffed up by the ghost writer, alleging that Andrew himself was able to take down Crowley (typical case of a man taking credit for something a woman did). However, most people don’t believe that an urban legend was responsible for all those murders. Despite being exonerated of all crimes, Andrew’s innocence is still questioned during an interview on a talk show, and his book signings are plagued by hillbillies accusing him of murder.
The only people who do believe him are a trio of amateur filmmakers (played by Katie Booth, Chase Williamson and Laura Ortiz). They plan to make a movie about Victor Crowley, and they want Andrew Wong to star in their production. But before they can pop the question, Andrew is whisked away by his agent Kathleen (Felissa Rose) after receiving an offer to have Andrew accompany a documentary crew back to the swamp. At first, Andrew refuses to return to his place of trauma, but changes his mind when Kathleen tells him the price tag: one million dollars. All he needs to do is take a private plane back to the swamp, do a few interviews, then return home with a bundle of cash. Simple enough, right?
Nope! The plane ends up crashing into the swamp, killing a handful of passengers on impact (though hardly waking up Kathleen, who swallowed a handful of Vicodin before lift-off). To make matters worse, the amateur filmmakers happen to be in the area, looking up Youtube videos of voodoo verses on their smartphone. Distracted by the plane crash, they run to the scene, leaving behind their phone stuck on autoplay. The audio of the videos is enough to resurrect the ghost of Victor Crowley, and the bloodbath you’ve all been waiting for ensues.
Fans of the Movie Crypt (creator Adam Green’s podcast) will notice a few Easter eggs hidden throughout the film. Of the things I noticed upon first viewing, there’s a boat named Arwen (after Adam Green’s dog), and a brief cameo by Green and Joe Lynch (co-host of the Movie Crypt) as the pilots. Adam Green does some hilarious voice work with the intercom announcements, playing it up with overdrawn “uhhhhhhhs” before every sentence. Adam and Joe, you guys make great movies, but I would never trust you with piloting a plane, even if you offered me a million smackers!
It was great to see Parry Shen take control of the situation. In previous movies, he played the role of the clueless victim, but this time, Andrew knows what he’s dealing with. As soon as he hears Victor Crowley’s ghostly wail in the distance, he launches into action or orders the everyone to not go outside. Most of the movie takes place in the wreckage of the plane as the survivors try to come up with an escape plan, illuminated by a single red emergency light.
The bar has been set pretty high in terms of creative kills in the previous Hatchet films, but Victor Crowley delivers in top-notch gore, though the kill count is surprisingly low compared to previous efforts. The award for best kill will have to be when Victor interrupts a phone call by ripping off the person’s arm and shoving it up their ass until the arm comes up through their mouth, cellphone still in hand. I think it would be safe to say that the majority of this film’s budget probably went towards the buckets of blood; acting and location only came second. Like the Hatchet films before it, Victor Crowley ends on an abrupt bloody note. But those familiar with the mythology know that Victor Crowley will most likely return again and again and again. Today, the swamp. Tomorrow, the world (or in space!)
I’ve always enjoyed how Adam Green’s infusion of humor makes his movies so much more than your average slice-and-dice flick. He pays tribute to horror royalty while paving the way for a new generation of horror icons, leaving fans shouting for more.
3 / 4 eberts
Victor Crowley is available on VOD, Digital, Blu-Ray and DVD as of February 6th, 2018.