VHS Review: Axe



A trio of criminals seek refuge at a farmhouse where a peculiar teenage girl is living with her paralyzed grandfather. 

Axe happened to be one of my last sought after Video Nasty films. Finding a copy wasn’t easy. Luckily, I was able to purchase the uncut version on DVD in 2006 but being an avid VHS collector, this trusty uncut version on DVD just wasn’t enough. That’s what flea markets and closing down Mom & Pop stores are for. It’s all about the hunt. Sure I can buy it online but where’s the fun in a treasure hunt without the adventure?

This 1974 horror film landed a spot on the Video Nasty list in 1984. The UK would not allow a pass with cuts until 1999. The uncut version would become available in 2005. And for what? Axe is relatively tame. Powerful advertisement goes a long way, “Little Lisa took her axe, gave her captor 40 wacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave his partner 41.”  False advertisement, much? We can thank Mary Whitehouse and her blind religious movement along with homophobia for that. There are interviews where this women dares to say that she doesn’t have to watch the films, she can tell that they’re a danger to society. Whitehouse is the Queen of judging a book by it’s cover.

There are two alternative titles for the film; California Axe Massacre, which is odd considering it happens nowhere near California, and Lisa, Lisa. The reason behind the title change is due to the major floppage at the drive-in circuits. Lisa, Lisa would have been a more suitable title.

So what do we know about this Lisa character? Unfortunately, we are gypped out of a back story. There’s very little character development. It’s clear that Lisa is out of her tree but there is no explanation to help the viewers. Other than hacking up chickens and caring for her handicapped grandfather, there isn’t much to know about her. I’d like to think that maybe she killed her parents and her grandfather is scared shitless of the girl, unless I missed a few details after zoning out due to boredom, which doesn’t happen often.

Lisa’s dull farm life is interrupted when these three disturbed “gangsters” are on the run after murdering an associate by beating him with a doll. No shit. The back story behind this beating is never explained either. One of the gang members tries to give Lisa his penis but like most attractive young felines, Lisa is disgusted by the idea of an old, obese guy’s wang so she declines violently. This attempted ‘rape’ scene is fully clothed so viewers will either have a sigh of relief or feel disappointment. Some sickos like to see full on rape much like the graphic scenes in I Spit on Your Grave. Any who, with two members left under her roof, I’m sure you can guess where this is going. One of the criminals has a tender side. Maybe he has a chance with Lisa. Maybe she’s too far gone to feel anything but disgust for fellow human beings, if she feels anything at all.

The murders take place off screen, for the most part and even though the film is a mere 68-minutes long, it still manages to drag on. Maybe they could have expanded the length with a little back story. Then there’s that total WHAT THE FUCK SCORE with a sax and bongo drums.

Director Frederick R. Friedel (who also plays one of the bad guys) lacks the cinematography skills and the picture quality is too dark with absolutely dreadful editing. Even the acting is down right abysmal. The only good thing I can say about this early 70’s feminist revenge flick is that Friedel rewards his viewers with an eerie mood. It ends on a chilling note and there’s a memorable scene where the trio of doom taunt a store clerk by shooting a bottle of ketchup off of her head.

In closing, I’d skip this entry and go straight for I Spit on Your Grave. Unless you’re in the mood for a tame, uninspired thriller posing as an infamous horror film.