HATCHET written and directed by Adam Green, with Joel Moore, Kane Hodder and Robert Englund. An Anchor Bay release. 93 minutes. Opens Friday (September 7). Rating: NNN
When adam green was eight years old, he discovered Twisted Sister and was sent to the Jewish summer camp from hell.
The two events are unrelated, although both are directly responsible for his new movie, Hatchet.
Hatchet is a gory, goofy throwback to the classic 80s horror films Green grew up watching in small-town Massachusetts. A sliver of Halloween, a slice of Friday The 13th, it's about a group of tourists terrorized in a Louisiana swamp by a deformed psychopath named Victor Crowley.
"I came up with the story when my parents sent me to summer camp, where they made us clean the toilets and sweep the floors," says Green. "I only found out later that the name of the camp was Hebrew for work, so it turns out my mom sent me to Camp fuckin' Work.
"Anyway, the counsellors always told us to stay away from this one cabin or Hatchetface was going to get us. Of course, I wanted to know who Hatchetface was and why he was called Hatchetface, but that's all the story they had.
"It was just a way to scare us away from the cabin where they did their drugs and had their orgies. So I came up with the Hatchet story to scare the other kids."
Green is slouched in a chair in downtown Toronto. He's wearing an L.A. Guns T-shirt; a huge fan of metal, he was once frontman of the band Haddonfield, named after Michael Myers's hometown.
A natural storyteller - motormouth might be more accurate, and it comes as no surprise that he used to do stand-up comedy with SNL's Andy Samberg - he's about to connect the dots between Camp Work and Twisted Sister.
"The first tape I ever got was Twisted Sister. I played it so much I wore it out and buried it in the backyard," he says.
Obsessed with lead singer Dee Snider, he wrote school reports on him ("I got my first and last A-plus"), attended concerts and record signings and wrote him fan letters describing what an inspiration he was. For some reason, Snider took a liking to his little stalker.
"He even brought me onstage to sing at one of his shows," Green says, almost in disbelief. When Green was making "shitty little cable TV shows" while dreaming of a Hollywood career, Snider encouraged him to steal equipment and make a movie.
So he made a short film about Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers stalking the same campsite by mistake and falling in love. It became an underground hit and encouraged Green to make Coffee & Donuts, a semi-autobiographical comedy made for $400 that was bought by Disney for its potential as a TV series. Green got funding for Hatchet through private investors, and it was picked up by Anchor Bay, which has a stellar rep for its genre DVD releases, and is moving into theatrical distribution.
Not that the budget was that much bigger. "It's set mostly at night in a swamp, and we shot it in the desert in California," says Green. "There's one scene in a cemetery that we made out of cardboard. You can actually see mausoleum shake when the actors bump into the it, but we couldn't afford to do a second take."
It's those kinds of moments that add to Hatchet's cheesy charm, which is also helped by the fortuitous casting of the Holy Trinity of horror, Robert Englund (Freddy Kruger), Tony Todd (Candyman) and Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees) as Victor Crawley.
"It's like having Chaney, Karloff and Lugosi in my movie," says Green excitedly. Not that it made Hatchet an easy film to sell.
"My own talent agents didn't want to represent it, because they said nobody wants to see this kind of 80s-style gore," says Green. "They were like, 'It sucked then; it sucks now. '"
But he persevered, and when Hatchet premiered at the Tribeca Fim Festival, Dee Snider showed up on the red carpet.
"It's been an incredible ride," says Green, who is considering a Hatchet sequel as well as a few other projects. "Even now, in Hollywood people look at me as this sophomoric frat-boy-humour splatter guy," he says, as though accepting his fate as the new Eli Roth.
"But ultimately I want to make family films. I know it's strange to hear, but the movie that made me want to do this was E.T., and we haven't had a movie like that, something timeless that can touch people, since then.
"Besides, my three favourite movies are E.T., My Dog Skip and The Exorcist."
HATCHET (Adam Green) Rating: NNN
The sets are cardboard, the acting's wooden, and the storyline is a recycled mix of every 80s slasher movie ever made. Yet there's a silly charm in this homage (its anything-to-entertain enthusiasm makes me hesitate to call it a retread) to 25-year-old horror movies.
While tourists being hunted and killed is hardly a new story, and there's certainly plenty of blood splattered about, this is not a piece of torture porn, since the deaths are over the top and intended to elicit laughs as often as chills. And any genre fan will get a kick out of seeing Robert Englund, Tony Todd and Kane Hodder, as the swamp-bound serial killer Victor Crawley, in action together.