Director: Joston Theney
Year of release: 2013
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 103 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Taglines: "A vacation to dismember" and "They were axin for it".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: A trio of crooks meet up at a rustic log cabin to split a bag of money which they’ve recently acquired presumably through nefarious means. Before their business is concluded they are interrupted by the arrival of an extremely tall and powerful fellow who brutally does away with the criminals and in doing so claims the loot for his own.
Sometime later a group of nine young adults arrive on site for a reunion holiday, the first time they’ve gotten together since their college days. Unfortunately for the reunited companions the now significantly richer psycho is still loitering within the vicinity. He begins to whittle away their number in an attempt to protect his ground and bag of cash.
Good points: *Most aspects of the killer I wasn’t very keen on but one area in which he did excel is in his sheer size. As mentioned in the story description he is a really large guy and as such he has an intimidating presence and more of a menacing, dangerous feel to him which otherwise would be sorely lacking. He also did some nice whistling on occasion which admittedly seems a funny thing draw attention to but it worked and added a tiny bit of creep factor.
*The kills like the murderer himself are something of a mixed bag but I’d go out on a limb to say that the good outweighed the bad and they easily became one of the stronger aspects of the film. Some of them are a bit disappointing as we just see the killer striking the blows instead of the impact on the victim but there are also some much better parts including such things as a decapitation, the cutting in half of someone around the waist and something involving a brain.
CGI blood accompanies some of the poorer death scenes which spoils things a little but its thankfully absent for the highlight kills.
Another slightly annoying thing was that several of the characters stumbled around after they’d been struck in a futile attempt to continue what they were doing. This came across as a tad silly and was maybe overused.
Overall though the deaths and special effects tied to them were better than okay for a lesser known and probably smaller budgeted production.
*Mild story spoilers: The director and writer Joston Theney takes a lead role in the film himself and his character (Darren) actually ended up being my favourite. As I’ll touch on later this isn’t saying much as the characters on the whole aren’t likeable. This guy though along with perhaps Stacey was the closest thing to a traditional final girl/boy and he went through more of a story arc than the others. He started off as someone whom the girl he was interested in looked down on, a little bit of a wimp perhaps and someone dismissed as a “nice guy”. As things progressed he began making good strides with his crush as well as acting quite bravely towards the end . It was a change to see a black guy making it through to the ending parts as well, something which often isn’t the case in horrors as is actually referenced to Darren in the film by one of the other characters.
The acting from Joston Theney as Darren was among the best on show as well. One or two of the others such as the actress who played Cassidy were also of a decent acting standard as far as films of this budget range go.
*The tagline “They were axin for it” is really good. It’s easily one of the better taglines I’ve come across so kudos to whoever came up with it.
Bad Points: *The picture quality isn’t the best with the colours looking very drab, dull and washed out. I didn’t notice it initially in the prologue scene, maybe because it was dark but as soon as the main group of characters were introduced it became really apparent.
Along with this the audio wasn’t up to standard at times and I sometimes missed bits and pieces of the dialogue. Some of the characters didn’t speak very clearly anyway which only made the existing audio failures worse.
*Imposing height aside the killer was disappointing in that he was provided neither mask or costume nor was he the type of killer who’s face is kept off camera for a dramatic reveal towards the end. Here we knew who was behind the murders from the start but the man responsible wasn’t memorable or distinct enough to make a big impression.
He was also lacking a bit in backstory or at least I think not much background was given. At one point a tale is told of a rash of unsolved axe murders which occurred in the area (known as Cutters Creek) years ago. My initial thought when first watching was that the killer was supposed to be part of the criminal gang from the beginning who decided to double cross the others in order to claim all the cash for himself. In this scenario the tale about the axe murderer from years ago would have been irrelevant or maybe just a red herring plus it wouldn’t make sense why the guy was still hanging around killing random people instead of heading home with his prize. Possibly he wasn’t anything to do with the gang at all and was in fact the axe murderer of old simply killing those in his territory. Unfortunately it was poorly explained and not helped by the bad audio so I was unable to tell which it was. Either way the story was bare bones and needed more for the viewer to chew on.
*Axeman is not a film which takes itself very seriously and as a result there are a number of silly unappealing characters who suck much of the enjoyment out of the proceedings. Chief among them was Randy who can only be described as a lecherous, overly sexual man-child who was beyond annoying. He’s supposed to be irritating I get that but these type of characters just do more harm than good in my view and would be better off being omitted altogether.
Other silly characters I could have done without were Brinke stevens sheriff character and the deputy Darlene. The lesbian pairing of Liz and Tammy also began to grate on me and I quickly became sick and tired of seeing them constantly paw at each other. By the time the killer finally got to them I felt like throttling them myself!
With one or two exceptions the cast of characters as a whole were an unlikeable bunch which is always a deathblow of sorts for any slasher. Here they came across as a bickering bunch who were overly crude and focused on sex.
Verdict: This one didn’t really do much for me I’m afraid and while by no means one of the worst I’ve seen it certainly left a lot to be desired. The main failings were the story which was too basic and threadbare coupled with a largely unlikeable cast. Sound and picture issues don’t help while a mask-less killer is largely forgettable as well.
It’s not all bad as despite a super bland appearance the killer is at least imposing and there are some stand out scenes when it comes to the deaths and special effects.
Somehow this spawned a sequel which I’ve not seen as I don’t think it’s currently available in physical form (or if it is then it’s very rare). On this evidence though I don’t think I’d be missing much.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Vale: Pickaxe style weapon thrust through the back of his head. Blade came out of mouth.
2)Paulie: found dead with something buried in his eye, knife hilt perhaps.
3)Female gangster: Hacked up with axe though we just see the killer striking the blows and not the impact.
4)Randy: Knife embedded in the side of his head. Decapitated shortly after.
5)Doug: Stabbed in the chest and then cut in half with machete.
6)Sheriff Charlene: Head twisted around. Neck broken.
7)Liz: Stabbed in the chest and then something is used to pierce her throat (possibly her own rib bone?). Later dies from the injuries.
9)Brian: Top of head ripped off and brain pulled out.
10)Vivian: Stabbed in the eye and then head stomped down fully onto the blade to push it further in (as she crawled away).
11)Cassidy: Found dead with throat cut.
12)Stacy: Throttled multiple times and then stabbed (impact of blow off camera).
13)Darleen: See below.
14)Darren: it’s implied he is killed at the very end along with Darleen as they are charged by the killer wielding his axe.