At the tail end of the 1980s, the decade of the slasher was coming to an end. By the time Edge of the Axe – getting a new UK Blu-ray release from the fine folks at Arrow – first arrived in the UK in 1989, there were already eight Fridays, five Elm Streets and five Halloweens. That malaise is immediately apparent in José Ramón Larraz’s US-Spanish co-production, which is a largely tedious affair.
The sleepy rural mountain community of Paddock County is dogged by a spree of violent murders, committed by a masked man wielding an axe. Police are clueless and residents are terrified. Friends Gerald (Barton Faulks) and Richard (Page Mosely), however, are more interested in romance. Richard’s older wife Laura (Patty Shepard) is almost certainly having an affair, while Gerald has formed a bond with fellow computer obsessive Lillian (Christina Marie Lane).
For far too much of Edge of the Axe‘s mercifully slender 90-minute runtime, the two threads of its narrative are spread miles apart. The stalk-and-slash sequences are efficiently brutal and gory, but the languorous pacing and oppressive tedium of the teen romance storyline is tough to get past. More or less every line of dialogue is stilted in the extreme and no one feels like a rounded human. It’s almost a mercy when the characters are picked off by the killer.
It doesn’t help that the performances from Faulks – looking like a rejected member of the One Direction line-up – and Lane are wooden and unconvincing. Even when the two halves of the narrative dovetail for the twisty finale, any fun there is to be had at the surprisingly inventive story turns is undercut by the stilted acting. There are shocks to be had in the script, particularly in the final reel, but Larraz rushes them in at the end of an otherwise very formulaic tale.
Edge of the Axe is a truly bizarre, disjointed film that only works at all as a result of its stellar set pieces of gruesome violence. An early sequence, culminating with a dismembered pig’s head in a bed, is a masterful slice of gore and the memorable final shot hints that the horror might not be over.
But this is, first and foremost, an exercise in style over substance that lacks the requisite ideas to fill its time on the screen. Its characters are nonsensical cartoons, its storytelling is desperately sparse and the musical score is intrusive and weird. None of the pieces of Edge of the Axe click together, and the result is a movie that never really hits the mark.
Dir: José Ramón Larraz
Scr: Joaquín Amichatis, Javier Elorrieta, José Frade
Cast: Barton Faulks, Christina Marie Lane, Page Mosely, Patty Shepard, Fred Holliday, Jack Taylor
Prd: José Frade
DOP: Tote Trenas
Music: Javier Elorrieta
Country: USA, Spain
Run time: 91 mins
Edge of the Axe is on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.