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A group of three criminals on the run from the law, go about terrorizing the local townsfolk of a small community, before descending on an isolated farm which is home to a young girl named Lisa and her paralyzed grandfather. After being sexually assaulted by two of the gangsters, she retaliates using an axe and a razor blade. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Frederick R. Friedel's Lisa, Lisa (1974, more famous titles include Axe and The California Axe Massacre) is among those weird and twisted horror exploitation films that were made in the US and elsewhere especially in the seventies after Herschell Gordon Lewis had "created" the "gore movie" term with his Blood Feast (1963) and other similar films of his. The closest thing to Friedel's film that I can imagine is Marc Lawrence's ultra rare Daddy's Deadly Darling aka Pigs (1972) which has equally menacing rural milieu, dark and deadly farm houses and overall feel of unexplained psychosis.
Axe opens with a scene with three well suited gangsters that wait for their friend who apparently has betrayed them and so will get a lesson from the boys. A murder takes place after which an escape from police to the farm areas. They terrorize an innocent shop keeper on their way and finally make it to a house inhabited by a shy, silent and very strange girl, Lisa, and her paralyzed and helpless grandfather whom Lisa lives with, alone. The gangsters soon notice the attractiveness of the young girl (very strangely and making the film even more "suspicious" considered what will happen later in the film, the cover of the old British tape which was banned, says the age of the girl being thirteen while there's not a mention of her age in the film itself!) and some axe wielding and also boringly slow moving terror soon happens.
The film runs only 60 minutes plus the credits but it feels much longer. This is the kind of marginal horror film that practically cannot be seen/watched more than once as it offers nothing significantly special or interesting that would give a motive to see it again sometimes in the future. Even those mostly looking for gore in their films won't get too much from this film, which isn't always the case. The story is filled with mysterious holes and unexplained things and none of the characters get developed to anywhere so they are all more than uninteresting. Nothing about the past of the gangsters and the reason of the beginning, nothing about the girl and her strange silence and self destructive behaviour, nothing. But there are some elements in the film that make me wonder what was in the head of the director/writer, other than to make another exploitation cheapie for the drive-ins.
Most notably I mean the ending which is among the most twistedly repellent I've seen in these films. The cannibalistic habits of Tobe Hooper characters will feel tame in comparison to those of the Axe's people as nothing is explained and Lisa acts as "naughtily" towards her relative as she does towards the thugs. This is definitely among the things that I will remember about this film, and also the final nail to the coffin of these "so twisted and insane no wonder the directors don't have plenty of future films on their credits" films to which the mentioned Pigs, in which, the pigs of a mysterious old farm keeper eat people, also belongs.
Otherwise Axe is not as strong or graphic as some of the time's other efforts. There are couple of murders and attempted violations of the girl, but much is left off-screen which definitely isn't a bad idea. Still this is an exploitation film and includes also some nastier bits and gore, with the kind of close-ups and other camera proofs that make it clear what were the motives to make this film and market it like. There's nothing interesting visually, and the editing is sometimes very bad as well as the acting and that makes it naturally even more difficult to sit through, despite its short running time.
The only really interesting and effective element in the film is the soundtrack that consists of very strange and high keyboard voices and waves that naturally are among the things that make the film look and sound so weird when compared to other films of its kind. The soundtrack may sound annoying too, but it adds nicely to the atmosphere and it becomes clear that things inside Lisa's head are not as they should, but since nothing is explained further and nothing else is this interesting, it cannot raise this film too much higher and the element can be appreciated only as a single succesful piece in a very flawed work. But it still could be completely without interest (and run longer), so spending the hour with this odd example of the seventies B cinema didn't just go in vain as it could have! 2/10
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