DAY OF THE AX
Director: Ryan Cavalline
Year of release: 2007
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 75 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "The ax is family" and "Still on the loose..."
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: As a young boy J.R. Sorg was discovered to have murdered his Mother in cold blood. Committed to an institution the bloodshed was only temporarily put on hold as more killings ensued years later after the maniacal Sorg engineered an escape. After many more murders in the aftermath of the break out J.R. has managed to stay one step ahead of the authorities to evade capture. With the Police looking for leads J.R.s Father is brought in for questioning where he gradually reveals details of the likely source of his sons madness and his probable mission. Meanwhile a trio of friends are making their way to a camp ground, a site not far from the Sorg family farm. Before long the friends find themselves at the mercy of J.R. who is hiding out at the old homestead in the company of his twisted siblings.
Good points: Throughout the film a good job is done in establishing the history of the J.R. Sorg character both in regards to his previous crimes and also his place in the Sorg family. To the segment at the start made up to look like a police or news cast produced reel that brings us up to speed with his crimes to the extracts from interviews with such people as his doctor it all serves to build up a detailed picture of the troubled lunatic.
Spoiler: I felt the best device for fleshing out the J.R. character came from the scenes of the police station interrogation with the Father. Here religious aspects were introduced which connected the boy to Jesus and the Devil. I really enjoyed this religious angle as it was slowly introduced and I think it added greatly to the characters menace.
Another spoiler: I also liked the brief glimpse we had of the devilish children running around in the woods. Though we only saw them briefly it played in nicely with some of the dialogue earlier from Mary Ann and Sweetie and these demonic creatures added something a bit different that I wasn’t expecting while at the same time still being relatable to the religious angle already introduced.
J.R. Sorg holds up as an intimidating killer which is as much down to his mask and outfit and the guttural animalistic sounds he makes as it is to the characters history. The mask/outfit is a very familiar one, the old sack over the head gimmick that we’ve seen many times before coupled with blue overalls. Despite the familiarity it still looks good and a more unique spin has been added in the form of noticeable black stitching and detail on the sack around the eyes and mouth. To me it kind of resembled a rudimentary skull type design and it made for a great looking (if largely unoriginal) killer. The actor under the costume does a solid job as well with the mannerisms and noises he frequently makes which help bring the character to menacing life. Although the film is patterned after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in some ways one way it differs is that J.R. is not bossed around by his family as Leatherface sometimes is but is instead very much the dominant one himself which adds to his aura.
Bad Points: What I felt that Day of the Ax was really lacking was a solid final girl and other watchable protagonists to help balance out the more evil characters on the Sorg family side. We don’t have any likeable characters we can root for that go up against this clan with final girl Sara being particularly wishy-washy and instantly forgettable. It doesn’t help that she and much more so her two friends are actually unlikeable more than anything as they are almost constantly bickering and swearing. Literally every sentence shared between these three is littered with swear words, extreme ones too which quickly become grating. As good as the history of the J.R. Sorg history stuff was it did kind of come at the expense of Sara, Darrin and Jill as they didn’t seem to get enough screen time either so as well as being unlikable when we did see them they also were somewhat under developed. When they come to be in peril it feels like we’ve barely seen them beforehand so it’s hard to feel connected to them or care if they survive. The little we did see came across as obnoxious as I say so more care here was required first to tone down the swearing and then more thought should have done into developing them and building them up before they arrived at the camp or at least before the real danger came into effect.
The Pluto character also wasn’t to my taste as I found him to be annoying more than anything else. Though okay in small does he had too much air time for me and quickly became overbearing. He was very much modelled on the Hitchhiker and Bill Moseley characters respectively from the first two Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. If you are a big fan of either of those then perhaps this Pluto fellow will end up doing more for you than he did for me.
There was some strange editing in evidence on multiple occasions throughout the film. I find it hard to describe other than to say it was sort of these weird linking segments that would appear for a few seconds between normal scenes. Though it’s hard to describe it any better it would be very obvious what I mean if you were to see the film or have already seen it. Sometimes these bits in question are accompanied by speeded up speech which was annoying and overall I found these moments quite jarring and they took me out of what I was watching a little bit. One in particular that was rather odd was a slightly longer one towards the end which featured what looked to be a small village being blown up. It was probably intended as some sort of metaphor but it seemed random and out of place more than anything else.
On a few separate occasions characters escaped from tied rope restraints all too easily which was very unrealistic. The one at the end in particular came across as very amateurish and hurt the product by just being an eye rolling moment
Verdict: At first glance this feels like a bit of a knock off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with pieces of Halloween and perhaps Mother’s Day thrown in but as things develop it begins to build it’s own identity as the full history of the J.R. Sorg character is revealed. After initially being a bit dubious I warmed to it as it went on and particularly enjoyed the more original religious themes. The killer is another strong point as he looks very impressive but much of the good work is undone with how the three camper protagonists come across. They are far too under developed and unlikeable with an over reliance on swearing This is worth taking a look at though if you are enjoy low budget cinema or/are a fan of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Male hiker: Bludgeoned by sledgehammer by J.R.
2)Female hiker: Same as number 1.
3)Captured female #1 (Kate): Hit on the back of the head by Sweetie with an axe.
4)Adam: Bludgeoned with small mallet by Pluto.
5)Mary Anne: Suicide (cuts her own throat).
6)Captured female #2: Hit in the head with sledgehammer by J.R.
7)Jill: Struck in the face/head with either a sledgehammer or axe by J.R. and then her face is pulled off.
8)Darrin: Finger and hand chopped off and then stomach cut open and guts pulled out by J.R.
9)Mr Sorg: Suicide (shoots himself under the chin with a pistol).
10)Sweetie: Struck in the mid-section with an axe by J.R.