Last night I attended the premiere of Hatchet III at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. While I was there I got a chance to check out the film and chat with the folks involved on the red carpet. The film itself is a fun final act to the trilogy, and though it’s more in the vein of action-horror, as opposed to the straight up slasher style of the first two, it’s a fitting (possible) end of the franchise. While fans might have worried with Adam Green stepping down as director, director BJ McDonnell, who worked as a cameraman on the first two films, understands the tone and the characters previously established, and with Green on board as Writer/Producer Hatchet III feels right at home in the saga of Honey Island Swamp. As a bonus, the film is loaded with Easter eggs for fans of the series, so odds are if you enjoyed the first two you’ll have a good time with this one. While I was there I was able to talk to Adam Green, Danielle Harris, Kane Hodder, Derek Mears, Zach Galligan, Rileah Vanderbilt, Caroline Williams and Robert Pendegraff. Hit the jump to for the see what the cast and crew had to say.
First to come down the line was Robert Pendegraff, head of the makeup effects department on Hatchet II and III, who completely re-designed the makeup application process for part III. When I asked him the motivation behind the switch he said, “In Hatchet II we had foam latex prosthetics and Kane would have to sit through three and a half hour applications to be Victor Crowley, and an hour and half to remove it. So he had like five hours in the makeup chair every day and that can take a lot out of an actor after a while. On this one we opted for silicone prosthetic because it goes on much easier and has a lot more movement to it.” And in regards to the practical-only aesthetic of the Hatchet series Pendegraff said, “It’s a lot of fun really because you have this tremendous challenge of not having certain tools to work with, and you’ve got to go back to the roots of making effects and do it all the way they used to do it back in the 80’s. And to me that is like better than anything, because I loved all that stuff as a child and loved all the effects that they did back then.”
Next up was Zach Galligan of Gremlins fame, who described his character as, “a typical sheriff in that he’s a by-the-booker, and in classic horror movie fashion he starts out as a non-believer and then gets converted into the believer. He’s forced to be a believer because there’s Victor Crowley right in front of him. So how he deals with that and how he manages to overcome, or not overcome, that situation is basically the heart of the picture.”
Actress Caroline Williams said fans of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 should be excited since she plays “a character that could only come from the mind of Adam Green, because he knows how the fans in our genre loved the character of Stretch from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. So in this movie you get to find out what happened to her. Her name might be Amanda Perlman, she might be in Louisiana and not Texas, but basically if you took Stretch and plopped her down in the Bayou you’d find out what she’d been doing since she quit playing head banging music and was doing something real.”
Then I had a brief moment to speak with the fearless director, Mr. BJ McDonnell about his transition into the director’s chair, “It was really cool because I’m used to being on sets with these people, the cast and the crew and everybody so it was kind of a home for me. It felt pretty good to be there, not to say I wasn’t nervous the first night, I was completely nervous the first night, but once we got going it felt like home.” When I asked him about his decision to film on location in the swamps of Louisiana he said, “On the first Hatchet we shot on a ranch out in the desert and we would be limited in the areas we could actually shoot. The second one we were in a sound stage and it caused the same problem, you can only shoot certain areas and you can’t just point a camera and get what you want. Shooting in a swamp you can actually get the biggest scope possible of what you want to get, you can shoot the whole thing. You can make it beautiful. It’s like getting the production value for nothing because you’re there.”
As a big fan of the Friday the 13th films (yes, that includes the remake) I had to ask Derek Mears whether we could expect a Voorhees on Voorhees fight in his scene with Kane Hodder, Mears replied, “For sure, that’s one of the reasons we’re doing this. I’ve been offered so many times, ‘Hey you and Kane, you and Kane, we want to see you guys fight.’ Kane and I are friends and the projects weren’t right. So we said, ‘You know what? This is the one to do it, let’s do it.’ So I hope the fans dig it.” So, as a fan, did I dig it? I did. They made a ballsy decision that subverted my expectations and put a big smile on my face.
Next I got to speak with Franchise creator Adam Green and his lovely wife actress Rileah Vanderbilt, who plays SWAT agent Michaela Dougherty in the film. Green was emphatic about the role that fans have played in the success of the Hatchet series, “This movie has been a huge part of our lives and the fans especially have been a huge part of our lives, it’s weird it’s like extended family in a way. Everyone will say, ‘I owe it all to the fans’ or ‘I have the best fans’, but this movie’s literally built by fans. There’s no marketing machine, there’s no commercials. It’s the fans who did this.” Was it hard for him to watch another director take over? “It was great because he never took it over, it’s still mine. You’ve got to remember he’s been part of the family since day one, he shot the first two movies and that was why we picked him. We didn’t want a new director coming in who was going to be like, ‘I’m going to change this all up now and make it something different.’ He stayed very true to that vision. I wrote it so I decided everything that was going to happen in it. I cast it. I was on set every day. I was in editing every day. I had final cut over it. So it’s really not that much different, but what BJ really brought this was this cameraman sensibility and excitement for all the action in this movie, and it just felt like another Hatchet movie.”
For Vanderbilt, who served as key makeup artist on the last two Hatchet films and previously played the part of young Victor Crowley, how was it to finally appear with her own face on screen? “It was really fun. Adam wrote a really awesome script and I think the part that he wrote he had me in mind for, so it was really easy. It was nice to finally be me, not somebody else. Also the great thing is that it happened in the last one, because if not I probably would have been dead meat in the first one or the second one, so I wouldn’t have been around for all three.”
Next up was scream queen Danielle Harris, who played the series’ protagonist Marybeth in the last two installments. When I asked why her character continued after Crowley after all the punishment she’s taken, Harris replied, “She’s fucking over it. There’s really nothing – she has nothing to lose, she’s lost everything. So she doesn’t want to go back in, but she’s like ‘Screw it, I’ve lost everything, I’m done. And fuck him.’” On her status as a horror icon Harris commented, “It still trips me out. I’d only done two horror movies before 2007 really. I did Urban Legend, but most of the following is from my old Halloween days. It’s pretty amazing and I think coming back for Rob [Zombie]’s 2007 Halloween rebooted it. I think these movies as well, this is a whole other world. What I think is so great is you have Kane and Myself, we were done with our franchises, I was done with Halloween, he was done with Friday the 13th, so to be able to start over again with two completely different characters, I think that’s why we like Hatchet so much.”
Finally it was time to speak with Victor Crowley himself, Mr. Kane Hodder, who thinks fans respond to Crowley because, “He’s so incredibly violent, and I think they like the fact that he kills a lot of people that are stupid. They’re like, ‘yes I’m glad that guy finally got it, because he was an idiot.’ It’s just the uniqueness of his setting, what he looks like, where he live, I think it’s just the combination of all of it.” And his favorite part of being a part of the Hatchet franchise? “The best thing is working with Adam Green, I’ve been doing this a long time you never have as much fun on a set as you do with Adam.”
Be sure to check out Hatchet III when it opens this Friday on VOD and in limited theaters.