DVD Review: Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet

DVD Reviews, Reviews

It’s common to see first-time directors try to tackle the horror genre today because most see it as a cheap way to make money. There’s no doubt that the horror genre has a cult following that is willing to purchase – or at the very least, watch – just about anything with that “horror” label, so this business model seems to make sense. Unfortunately for us fanatics, this means a lot of low quality, heartless drivel that is painful to watch. If there isn’t any passion from the filmmakers behind a horror film, fans of the genre are cheated out of his or her money and time. Thankfully there are still directors out there who not only want to make horror movies, but also need to make them because it is his or her passion. These are the films horror fanatics are searching for, but these gems have become more and more rare as time goes on.

Let me be one of the first to throw out Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet first-time writer/director Frank Sabatella’s name into the mix of horror directors to watch. This man is a unique talent, and has taken his passion for the slasher flick – specifically the Friday the 13th series – to the next level, with a full-fledged modern slasher that is more than homage: it is a bar-setter for future modern slasher films of this decade.

Blood Night was inspired from the Long Island urban legend of Mary Hatchet, who was believed to have killed her parents with a hatchet. This is precisely how Blood Night begins, and we get a glimpse of the wonderfully gruesome gore that is to come in the rest of the film. Twenty years after the obligatory opening scare scene, we meet a group of teenagers (who all look way too old to be in high school). This group of high school seniors makes plans to celebrate Blood Night – the anniversary of Mary’s death – with booze, sex, and a cemetery visit.

Once the yearly rituals of egging people, throwing tampons around the city, and general obnoxiousness start to die down, the group heads to the cemetery where they try to summon the ghost of Mary Hatchet with a Ouija board. Graveyard Gus (Bill Moseley – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Devil’s Rejects, Army of Darkness) shows up and tells one of his famous Mary Hatchet stories. Soon, as the group starts dwindling in numbers, they realize that Mary Hatchet may be more than just an urban legend, and are forced to run away from the spirit of the woman they began the day celebrating.

Blood Night fuses the creative kills of the early Friday the 13th series, and the gore of Rob Zombie’s movies, all the while adhering to the rules that the 80s slasher craze created for the genre. What’s especially refreshing about this independent film, though, is the big budget feel that Sabatella finds through creative cinematography and special effects makeup.

Having two horror icons is merely icing on the cake. Bill Moseley is terrific as Graveyard Gus, the Vietnam War veteran who drinks to deal with the visions of the past that still haunt him to this day. His role is minor, but important, and he is perfectly cast. Fanatics of the original Friday the 13th will want to pay special attention to his clothing, which is an homage to one of the more memorable characters in that film. The ever-beautiful Danielle Harris is a scene-stealer, and delivers one of the funniest/dumbest jokes I’ve heard in a long time. Her acting is always progressing, which is a sign of a true talent. Both of these actors seem right at home in their roles, and are two people the horror genre never wants to lose for “better” or “more serious” work.

As much as there is that will appeal to slasher fans in Blood Night, purists may be disappointed to know that this movie, unlike most in this subgenre, is not about figuring out who is behind the mask, killing all these teens; that answer is blatantly obvious. Instead, Blood Night focuses more on the characters (another rarity in the genre), and how they handle these killings. Each character is unique from one another, and his or her personalities shine through. You’ll either love them or hate them, but if given a chance, most will make you laugh at one point or another.

Loads of sex, even more blood, and some genuinely funny moments make Blood Night one of the best, independent, modern slasher films released in a long time. Frank Sabatella is exactly what the horror genre needs: a horror fan with an incredible eye for filmmaking. Blood Night is absolutely recommended for horror fans everywhere.

This DVD from Lionsgate has above average picture quality. The 16×9 widescreen presentation has a 2.40:1 contrast ratio. The dark scenes lose detail, but no more than other DVDs. The colors don’t look great, but the quality is perfectly watchable overall. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio option is equally as acceptable. The audio isn’t tested very often with loud moments, but the soundtrack that accompanies the film, as well as the dialogue, is mixed well. There are also English and Spanish subtitle options.

Lionsgate includes a nice amount of extras, including a behind the scenes feature called “The Making of Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet (7:18). This feature includes interviews with the cast and crew. Though there isn’t a lot of information divulged about filming, it’s still interesting to hear the cast’s thoughts on the film. There are also straight interviews with the director and cast, including Frank Sabatella, Bill Moseley, Danielle Harris, Billy Magnussen, Nate Dushku, and Alissa Dean (28:31). There is an outtakes reel that would seem out of place in most horror films, but fits in with the tone of the movie well (6:19). The inevitable selection of Lionsgate trailers is also present. Trailers are included for Blood Night (1:37), Siren (1:26), Psych 9 (1:47), and A Nightmare in Las Cruces (1:34).

Blood Night is a solid effort from any horror director, let alone a young director making his feature film debut. The kills are over-the-top, and the girls are sexy, but the real reason to watch Blood Night is for the level of mastery Sabatella shows in only his rookie effort. The movie isn’t perfect – the kills take a while to get rolling after the opening scene, and the killer is blatantly obvious – but this DVD is one that any slasher fan could get into.

Lionsgate presents Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet. Written and Directed by: Frank Sabatella. Starring: Danielle Harris, Bill Moseley, Nate Dushku, and Alissa Dean. Running time: 83 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: June 14, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

Branden Chowen is, first and foremost, an actor. He is in his final year of graduate school, where he will (hopefully) soon receive an MFA in acting to compliment his BFA in the art. He spends his free time watching and reviewing movies for Inside Pulse Movies, and We Love Cult. He is also one of the co-hosts for The Drive-In, which is the official podcast of Inside Pulse Movies. He is an avid horror fan, and will spend time watching just about any horror movie that looks interesting. You can contact Branden by email at bchowen[AT]insidepulse[DOT]com, or follow him on Twitter @Psymin1.