Going into this project I was more than aware that I would have to tackle more than a few duffers on the DPP list. Plot holes, ropey make-up, terrible acting; it’s all part and parcel of what’s to be expected on my path through some of cinema’s trashier slums. There is however one technical fault which can never be excused, never be forgiven, and for that I name and shame George Newman Shaw. His unforgivable crime: for utterly failing to record the majority of dialogue in the short but shlocky AXE!
The failure of the film isn’t wholly his fault, as there exists no physical matter know to human science heavy enough to describe just how leaden the plot is. Slow pacing could be tolerated if we were lucky enough to actually hear what the characters were saying. Yet coherent dialogue seems to be a convention, nay a luxury with which AXE casts to the wind. In the process a dull film is magically transformed into an agonizingly infuriating experience.
Three shady men break into an apartment to await the return of a man. ‘Why’ only starts to become apparent once they stick a gun in his face. Not much exposition after that as the hoodlums then take turns kicking the camera about, just to really give us a subjective sense of what its like to get beaten up. Only this assault is beset with a sickening sense of vertigo accompanied by the sound of someone throwing slabs of meat into a table in the background. I know, suspension of disbelief and all that, but old George Newman Shaw really wasn’t weaving the audio magic.
Oh and did I mention the bongos? Being a budget production the soundtrack can only stretch to a demented man on a set of bongos, obfusciating the dialogue as much as humanly possible. Maybe the director was raised in a Beatnick café, and as such relates free-form bongoing (of the beat-poet variety) with sheer and utter terror. Maybe George Newman Shaw shared that terror and as such felt obliged to put them bongos right at the top of the audio mix. Maybe it’s George Newman Shaw on the bongos himself? Who knows? Who cares?
The plot plods on to through an empty convenience store, the thugs indulging in a bit of William Tell rouguery along the way, and finally settles in a scary house in the middle of nowhere. This tired old horror icon is home to a paralyzed old gent in a wheelchair and his shoe-less daughter. And in establishing this location the director takes every care to demonstrably show that every nook of this house is furnished with an axe. Just like the title of the film! Oh my, where could this be-headed?
One of the three stooges turns out to be the archetypal raper. I guess the balding one pulled the short straw when it came to casting. As per convention he of course gets it in the neck. The youngest thug turns unsurprisingly out to be a soft-touch. Uncertain of this questionable path he’s come into, he of course harbours feelings for the shoeless girl. He of naturally gets inexplicably shot by the police. And the third gets hacked to pieces along the way. With an axe of course. The film takes a good 66 minutes to convey all of this, and despite being this short you feel every second being wrenched away.
Buried and forgotten beyond the Video Nasties list, this film is practically impossible to find outside the odd Asda bargain basket. The bongos will linger in the memory, if not in my dreams, but in all other senses this film will be swiftly forgotten.