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
In its trailer, Axe promises to be another slice of rural American Gothic in the vein of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Psycho (1960), but bears more of a resemblance to two other films on the final DPP list, The Last House on the Left (1972) and Fight for Your Life (1977). Unfortunately, and despite its claims to be as good as Chain Saw Massacre, Axe comes as a major disappointment. After watching Stephen Thrower's glowing review on the excellent DVD Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide, I was expecting a 'beautiful and well-made' little gem that could hold its own against Polanski's Repulsion (1965). I should have kept in mind that this is the guy who loves and defends Jess Franco movies. Far from being the 'well made and beautiful' art film Thrower would have us believe, Axe is a very poor movie in almost every respect. Its premise is familiar but has great potential: three low-life criminals on the run from the police hide out in the country farmhouse inhabited by a near-mute, neurotic girl and her invalid grandfather. Even before the criminals arrive it is clear that the girl, Lisa (Leslie Lee), is capable of extreme behaviour, which makes an inventive change from the usual, 'normal' household invaded by violent outsiders.
However, this one spark of inspiration quickly becomes forgotten during the course of an incredibly plodding, amateurishly-made movie. Most of the blame lies with writer-director-editor Friedel, for whom this was clearly a labour of love. The script is weak, with bland, stereotypical bad guys and flat dialogue; the direction is hopeless with regards to telling the story and creating tension, while the editing only compounds the flaws in both of these departments. (The interminable opening and closing credits are a good indication of the film's deadly slow pacing.) Then there's the acting: Jack Canon comes off 'best' (a relative term) out of the three villains, playing the leader of the gang, while Friedel easily gives the movie's worst turn as Billy, the criminal with a conscience but an atrocious beard-and-hair combo. Even the actor playing Lisa's invalid grandfather gives a more emotive, engaging performance. Yes, Friedel is bested by a man playing a fully-paralysed mute. Lee, however, is surprisingly effective as the enigmatic Lisa, and it's a shame she didn't have a better script and director at her service. There is something in her performance that recalls Camille Keaton in I Spit on Your Grave (1978) or Zoe Tamerlis in Ms. 45 (1981), but unfortunately this film is far too weak to stand up against these superior movies.
So why did this end up on the DPP list? As has been pointed out by others, one can only assume that the film's title and the misleading video sleeve were to blame, suggesting something along the lines of The Driller Killer (1979) or The Toolbox Murders (1977). It's unlikely that any of the film's few murder scenes would have made an impression on any of the MPs watching the Nasties compilation in the House of Commons, nor for that matter anyone renting this out in the hope of an evening's entertainment. As Thrower pointed out in his review, had the film been released under its original title, Lisa, Lisa, this probably wouldn't have come near the Video Nasties list; better still, it may never have come near my DVD player.
Film: * (out of 5) Nastiness: * (out of 5)
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