Hatchet II 

Not even a gnarly beheading can rescue this chop job

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Hatchet II

GRADE: B

The never-ending slasher genre is as seemingly critic-proof as the shambling, indestructible killers who populate it are resistant to knives, guns and dwindling market share. Still, there's a profit margin to be squeezed somewhere, and remaining gore fans are a dedicated and appreciate bunch. So comes the Hatchet franchise, designed for diehards who can tell you in which installment Jason took Manhattan (Ed: It's VIII ).

The "plot" picks up right where the 2006 original left off, with Marybeth (Danielle Harris) as the lone survivor of a massacred boatload of bayou tourists, who ran afoul of a hulking, deformed madman named Victor Crowley.

Our intrepid gal barely manages to escape dismemberment, hightailing it back to New Orleans, where, despite her abundant cuts, bruises and dead friends, everyone insists that Crowley is but a folk tale, told to scare the gullible. Apparently the legend is working, because no one wants to venture back into the swap, which is killing the tour boat business of huckster preacher "Revrend Zombie" ( Candyman 's Tony Todd). Ever the entrepreneur, Zombie offers up a cash bounty for anyone brave enough to form a posse and go monster-hunting, though his hidden agenda is to bring along Marybeth and her uncle, who was one of the kids who set fire to Victor's farm in the first pla... and then, whoops, I stopped caring.

For a monstrous, drooling overall-wearing psychopath, Vic's sure handy with maintaining power tools, which he uses to dispatch the hunters, one by one. Generally I'm going to bet on the guy with the high-powered rifle and night-vision scope, over the shambling, malformed hillbilly, but this is a horror flick after all.

About all Hatchet II has going for it are some fairly creative kills, like the guy who gets his head lopped clean off during coitus, but director Adam Green somehow forgot to turn the lights on, and he shoots everything, including the carnage, through a thick, boggy layer of confusion. At least the cast is made up of a murderer's row of genre icons, including Tony Todd, Robert Englund and the man behind Jason's hockey mask, Kane Hodder. If you know those names, or are the kind of hardcore gore-lover who can spot a Lloyd Kaufman cameo, then you're probably looking for nothing more than quality splatter. Others should just keep looking.

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