BR: Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet (2009)

August 24, 2011 | By

Return to: Home Blu-ray, DVD, Film Reviews / B

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Film: Good / BR Transfer: Excellent/ BR Extras: Good

Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada / Region: n/a / Released: July, 2011

Genre: Horror / Slasher

Synopsis: Oversexed teens unwisely use a Ouija board to summon the malevolent spirit of Mary Hatchet, beginning a night of much teen-chopping.

Special Features: Audio Commentary with director / co-writer Frank Sabatella.

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Review:

Frank Sabatella’s feature film debut is based around a series of urban legends, fusing the story of a young girl who murdered her parents with a hatchet, and the ghosts that haunt a massive mental asylum. This rich combo was deepened by Sabatella and co-writer Elke Blasi into a more iconic Halloween legend in which a young girl, ‘Mary Hatchet,’ goes homicidal during a particularly pitched menstrual cycle. When her baby is taken away during her years in an asylum, she breaks out and massacres the night shift before the police gun her down.

Years later she becomes a new urban legend, where kids sport Mary Hatchet masks, commit various pranks, and dare her spirit to return from the grave, renewing her search for her lost infant.

For Blood Night, the focus is on a rather large group of kids who trek off to her grave (topped with a remarkably unblemished headstone) with light candles, and a portable Ouija board to entice her malevolent spirit into the physical realm.

The cemetery groundskeeper, Graveyard Gus (Texas Chainsaw 2’s Bill Mosely), gives the kids the full Mary Hatchet legend, and the group break off, with the teens heading over to a house unencumbered by parents. Booze is consumed, boobs are flashed, nerds crash the partee, and out-of-town visitor Alissa (Halloweens 4 + 5’s Danielle Harris) upchucks in the loo from alcoholic overconsumption prior to the sudden arrival of Mary Hatchet.

As teens die off in spectacularly violent fashion, the group is rejoined by Gus, and all try to make amends by visiting Mary Hatchet’s loony bin in the hope of finding clues to reuniting her with her lost child’s cadaver, and halting further teen dismemberment.

Sabatella stages deaths with plenty of bravado, combining practical and slick digital effects, and maintains an effective mood of doom throughout the film, commencing with a pre-credit sequence that details Mary Hatchet’s sad descent into madness and making blood pudding. There’s also good use of the 2.35:1 ratio in several scenes (such as the cemetery, and the opening montage), but whether Mary Hatchet is an outright tribute or update of the slasher genre, it’s severely hampered by gratingly annoying teens.

Their collective I.Q. – even after Alissa’s arrival – probably isn’t more than a mosquito. The guys spout endless bad banter about penis size / envy / lust; the girls feign insult; and the entire house party sequence prior to the blood-letting is just an interminable montage of teens being horny, wowed by asses & boobs, and reacting with glee as they get it on upstairs.

Now, that’s all standard for the genre, but filmmakers of vintage slashers knew pacing was paramount, and dialogue had to be sparse. Moreover, any character moments tended to straddle the border of ridiculousness, with tragic backgrounds deliberately clichéd – thereby giving audiences more subversive humour than the bevy of contrived & prolonged dick jokes in Blood Night.

Sabatella’s film runs 77 mins., but there’s obvious padding: the cemetery sequence is prolonged with banal sexual banter; the stills in the main credit sequence repeat most of the info from the prologue; and the house party is stretched beyond need with terrible dialogue exchanges.

Mosely’s believable performance overshadows the cast of attractive but shallow newcomers, and thirtysomething Harris barely squeezes through her role of either a high school brat or a university freshman visiting her best friend for the weekend. Until her character becomes integral to the group’s survival, she has little to do, and her absence from most of the party scenes feels suspiciously like a marquee cheat – basically Harris being used by the producers to lure viewers hesitant about another retro slasher starring unfamiliars.

The cast of teens is also too big: there’s nothing more damaging to a slasher than following a large batch of annoying characters hurrying from location to location, and the director not killing them off fast enough because their function as human chum weren’t properly mapped out in the screenwriting stage. Slashers aren’t supposed to be Shakespeare, but they need to move, and have tightly wound tension or intense atmosphere; teens standing around or exchanging banalities don’t serve the film, or audiences.

It’s also a shame there weren’t more interior and extrerior details of the real asylum used for the finale. The actual edifice is a behemoth of abandon and dourness, and Sabatella generally keeps his camera trained on locations of direct action instead of visually widening the building’s menace as some kind of a giant teen trap – awaiting the foolish willing to taunt twitchy dead spirits. Budget and time limits may have tightened the allowances for capturing further visual atmosphere, but why not milk a great location when you’re there?

Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray features a crisp transfer of the film and a surprisingly detailed 5.1 mix that’s more than punchy: the sound design is first-rate, and will give a home system an excellent workout with a constant flow of little audio nuances.

Sabatella’s commentary is adequate; he goes through the basics of the urban legend, filming, cast, and the locations, but there’s no background details of his prior work, and how the film was assembled with a modest budget, nor of its exploitation prior to this wider home video release. Mary Hatchet was previously available in a limited 2-disc set from the film website, and a standalone DVD-R from Amazon, and AB’s BR seems to gather most of the extras from the limited set.

Note: the Blu-ray immediately begins with the film. There is no chapter menu, and the commentary must be selected on the fly. While the sleeve describes a making-of featurette (“Spilling Blood: The Making of Blood Night”) and an outtakes reel, these extras didn’t load after the film’s finale. Without a formal menu, their absence is either an issue with certain players (in this case, the LG used for this review), or the BR master used by Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada lacked the extras present on the U.S. DVD-only release from Lionsgate. Because the BR was the source for this review, it can’t be confirmed if the missing extras are present on AB’s DVD edition.

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© 2011 Mark R. Hasan

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External References:

IMDB Official Film Site

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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