THE AXEMAN OF HENDERSON COUNTY
Director: Larry Parmiter
Year of release: 2014
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 75 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "A small town gets the axe" and "When the moon is full, the nightmare begins...".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: What we have here is an extremely obscure and low budget independent slasher film which is probably best known and most notable for starring former wrestler ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan.
The story begins with a flashback type segment in which we see a bickering couple having a domestic incident as their young son looks on. The situation ends in a very traumatic manner for the onlooking youngster.
In the present day in the sleepy southern town of Henderson County we are then witness to the double murder of two employees at a record shop who fall victim to a dark clothed madman wielding an axe. As more bodies soon begin to pile up as a result of the axe man’s psychosis the Henderson County Sheriff and his Deputies do their best to crack the case and keep the town’s people safe. Under pressure from the Mayor (the aforementioned Jim Duggan) to get results quickly the Sheriff finds the situation complicated when he begins receiving letters from the killer.
Good points: *Rush Whitacre as Sheriff Jake Genovise is very much the lead character throughout and his performance is worthy of being the focal point of the film. I throw the word “likeable” around a lot in my reviews but it applies here and he comes across as an honest hardworking guy doing his best to serve the town and keep the community safe. Former wrestler Jim Duggan who may be the reason some choose to seek this out is good as well in a smaller support role. Though he plays a serious character in the form of the town mayor he brings a comical aspect to it.
*The axe murderer in terms of his attire and mask is acceptable. I wasn’t too keen on his mannerisms as I thought he pranced around a bit too much for my liking but appearance wise he was solid enough. He is dressed all in black with a dark sweatshirt and pance/trousers etc so it’s serviceable if not very imaginative. The mask however stands out as being a bit stronger, though I don’t think it was actually a balaclava it reminded me a lot of the mask from the original Prom Night but with more detailing in the form of red thread/cord around the mouth. The person voicing the killer during the letter writing scenes I felt also did a good job.
*There are quite a number of deaths which occur taking into account the relatively short running time and although this isn’t a good movie the action keeps it ticking over at least and prevents it becoming too boring. Though the low budget is very much in evidence with the kills in terms of the camera work which is jerky and avoids showing the weapon actually penetrating the victim at the moment of impact the aftermath special effects aren’t too shabby. With the exception of some bad CGI here and there the wounds we see are okay and there is a decent amount of blood. You’ll certainly see worse anyway at this very low budget end of the market. Picture quality is also crystal clear throughout so that helps.
Bad Points: *The main area where the film falls down is that it feels very light on story. It doesn’t feel as if much effort has gone into the script and it felt to me as if it needed more characters. We only really have the Sheriff and his two underlings plus the Mayor to speak of with a handful of others in smaller roles such as the coroner and newspaper editor and while they don’t do a bad job they don’t add much to the plot. At one point for example the Sheriff meets up with a local medium/psychic but she tells him absolutely nothing of value so it adds zero drama to the film. Making things worse is that unlike the vast majority of other films in the genre there is no final girl or boy, no main target for the killer in other words as well as no central group of characters be them young people or otherwise for us to get to know and begin to root for as they gradually get picked off. Instead all of the victims are just random townspeople that we don’t know from Adam. As such it’s hard to feel empathy or become emotionally invested in what’s happening. Though the Sheriff is likeable he is never really in danger himself so it isn’t as if we are worried about his safety. You could argue it’s a bold move not to feature the typical group of young people and a final girl but it’s absence only hurts the film and is probably just down to lazy writing, incompetence or the lack of funds to hire more actors rather that being a purposeful attempt to make this different.
*There are also some lazy parts in the script specifically the ending which comes very abruptly and doesn’t offer any kind of resolution. Big spoiler: Things finish with the killer still very much at large and the Sheriff no closer to catching him. It leaves things feeling very unfinished and rather than being a bold move to give us a surprising end and darker tone it came across more as them just not having a clue how to end it, like they couldn’t be bothered or just ran out of money.
Small spoiler: Another aspect to things which could have been handled better is when the killer begins leaving instructions for the Sheriff by letter. The thing for example about how people would be spared if they played jazz music seemed random and to come out of nowhere. Maybe that was the idea but typically you would expect it to relate to something seen in the scene at the start or the flashbacks but it didn’t as far as I could tell.
Another mild spoiler: Finally it was stupid how the Mother of the girl who survived by pretending she was pregnant had a funny turn when overhearing her daughter telling the Sheriff what had happened to her. It was as if she were hearing the report for the first time but this was some time after the girls release from hospital so surely she would have already have heard about the facts of the incident shortly after it happened?
*The music though okay in places becomes a bit overbearing and annoying at times. For example on one occasion the Sheriff responds to an emergency call which results in him conducting a search of a building after an attack by the villain. To accompany this we get comical light hearted music playing in the background which ruined what should have been a more serious tense scene.
*Probably due to the budget there were issues with the sound quality where it would frequently cut out momentarily. This happened throughout the film though it wasn’t as big of an issue as it sounds as thankfully it never occurred during dialogue.
Verdict: This is another of those very low budget slasher films that will only appeal to a certain crowd anyway but this one is heavily flawed and let down by not having enough going on plot wise to hold it together. The script I thought needed more work and polish and it was disappointing not to have the usual group of young people as fodder for the killer as it typically the case. There are a couple of fun to watch characters, a decent mask and taking into account the budget some acceptable gore effects. Due to these small positives it just about elevates itself above a two to earn a low three out of ten score.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Father: Shoots himself with pistol. (Death occurs in flashback sequence or rather we move forward in time after this opening segment).
2)Male record shop worker: Hacked in the back with axe.
3)Female record shop worker: Axe embedded in her back.
4)Pub/bar worker (Son): Axe to the forehead.
5)Pub/bar worker (Father): Hacked in the chest with an axe.
6)Fat balding pizza shop worker: Axe to the top of the skull.
7)Long haired female pizza shop worker: Axed in the stomach.
8)Short haired female pizza shop worker: Axed under the chin in the throat, one of the better looking deaths!
9), 10), 11). And 12): A family of four, Mother , Father and two Daughters found dead at the end. Bodies seen in their house .