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Now that the 2007 slasher opus "Hatchet" obviously didn't spawn "the next icon of horror" as hype had it, it's much easier to separate the film from the flam and enjoy it more. That goes double if you listen to director Adam Green's commentary on the film's Blu-ray debut.

Sporting winking cameos from fright-film vets at all levels —? Robert Englund ("A Nightmare on Elm Street"), Tony Todd ("Candyman") and Joshua Leonard ("The Blair Witch Project") —?  "Hatchet" pays homage to things that go bump in the night, particularly in the New Orleans swamp. And that'd be Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder, who joins Green on the talk track), a facially deformed Jason Voorhees wannabe who flattens human heads as if they were cans to crush so all will fit in the recycling bin.

Crossing tracks with him are a boatful of Mardi Gras tourists taking a haunted swamp tour, including a "Girls Gone Wild"-esque guy (Joel Murray) making another nudie-cutie video (was this idea swiped by "Piranha 3D"?), and our lanky hipster protagonist (Joel David Moore). Don't get too attached.

"Hatchet" plays the gore aspect of the coin very well. It's the guffaws part it has trouble with, and its gratuitousness in that department remains a tad off-putting, veering too much toward becoming a cartoon "? an adults-only cartoon, sure, but a cartoon nonetheless.

Perhaps Green felt he had to use it as a crutch, given the limitations of his budget he explains in detail on the commentary. He points out he learned a lot from making "Hatchet," so I believe that this year's "Hatchet II" will be a rare improvement. Before the sequel hits, this Blu-ray —? porting over the DVD's many extras — stands as an excellent opportunity for revisiting and/or introducing. —Rod Lott


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