A deranged guy in a mask kills people with an axe.
A new year (well, it’s been a month so far, so sue me) means a new series of articles. One in which has been percolating in my brain regions for many moons. The whole idea of boutique labels and even some big time companies putting out wonderful genre titles in the last few years has been wonderful. It’s also made my wallet much lighter in the long run. Labels such as Vinegar Syndrome, Severin, Arrow, Synapse, Mondo Macabro, Garagehouse, Scream/Shout Factory, Code Red, Scorpion Releasing, etc. have done an amazing job of showcasing films, some forgotten and some in need of a new shine so future generations can see what some of us old folk have been yammering on for years.
But there are tons of films still sitting in a dusty basement somewhere, usually just on VHS and in need of some praise to get the masses of film aficionados talking. Sometimes that talk might lead to a new transfer on DVD or Blu-ray, which would be amazing. But really this series is just one film lovers outlook on movies that have fallen off the path since the days of the video store and are just in people’s collections as a movie they might bring out during a fun movie night. The films that someone else sees it and goes, “Oh wow, what the hell did I just watch? I need to find out anything and everything about it. And where can I locate this film?!”
The first film I’m highlighting is a film that I had heard about for over a decade now. One that every time a person here or there mentioned it, they would say, “Forgotten slasher classic” or “Cool looking killer” or even “Some weird shit goes on in that film”. Very few and far between commentary from people, but it was one that shoved its way in the back of my head and fermented. And continued to ferment until one day I found a copy of the film, and said, “Holy shit! This is that film I’ve been meaning to see!” And that film is Edge Of The Axe from 1988 and I’m here to tell you that… I enjoyed it.
I might have hyped it up in my own head and I’m going to go on record and say it’s not the missing brilliant piece of what-the-fuckery that something like Blood Rage is. But not many films can be like that. But Edge Of The Axe is also a TV movie so that diminishes some of the gore quota that I think I was expecting from a film where the main killing tool is an axe. Directed by José Ramón Larraz, sorry, I mean his pseudonym Joseph Braunstein, a Spanish-American Made for TV movie from 1988. A prolific director from Spain, Larraz directed some bizarre films, such as Symptoms (recently released via Mondo Macabro in the U.S. and the BFI in the UK), Black Candles, Vampyres (on Blu-ray from Blue Underground), The Violation of the Bitch and one I still haven’t seen yet Rest In Pieces (which has some killer box art). Come to think of it, the majority of his films have amazing box art.
So, what’s the film about? Besides a psycho with an axe killing people, that is. Set in the town of Paddock County, the police have no clue who is hacking up the townsfolk. Trying to keep it under wraps so the town doesn’t go into a panic, it’s hard to deny a psychopath is committing the murders, killing them with their axe in some of the more brutal scenes of axe violence. What I mean by that is that instead of the usual gore factor of axe killings of an axe cutting off a body part or just sticking in someone’s chest, these axe shots are blunt, and plentiful as well. Not sure why, but that actually made me cringe more thinking of slowly trying to protect oneself while someone is just hitting them as hard as they can, in a punishing series of hacks.
While this is happening, we’re introduced to two guys, Gerald Martin (Barton Faulks) and Richard Simmons (Page Mosely), who are just trying to pick up girls. Weird because Richard is married to a rich older woman while they go and hit on some women near the lake. Gerald is a computer whiz and drifter, having not been in town very long and meets the cute Lillian Nebbs (Christina Marie Lane). A film like this is make or break when it comes to the characters within the story. Yes, a good slasher movie has creative kills and a cool looking killer, but ultimately the ones that rise to the top have likable characters that you actually hope don’t get murdered by the end of the film. Happy to say that I like the main characters a lot. I also enjoyed the late ’80s instant messaging between two computers, that of Gerald and Lillian, and how throughout the movie it’s almost played out more like a giallo, what with the whole masked killer in a cape and black leather gloves, as well as the tried and through ‘who is the killer?’ question, making you think, “Well, it’s got to be this guy…” and when the answer is right there, you laugh and go, “Good job, movie.” A haunting ending shot as well elevated this film for me, from being good to a great little slasher/giallo hybrid and one that deserves more attention.
I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to ruin anyone’s first time viewing of this film. But I will leave you with the intro of the film that is somehow the only thing besides the trailer on YouTube. Check it out and spread the word to the great boutique labels out there to save this film from the depths of VHS.