In the horror world there are movies that you hear about that, for some reason or another, develop a pretty healthy reputation and are hard to find. Generally, that’s why they’re over-hyped: only a few people have seen them, so there isn’t a lot of opinion on the matter. Or, those nancies across the bond, Britain, put it on the “Video Nasties” list, indicating it’s sick and depraved, though by today’s standards, most of those films are Sesame Street. Such is the case with the 1977 somewhat hard to find flick, AXE, which was also called Lisa, Lisa, The Virgin Slaughter, California Axe Massacre, California Axe Murders, and The Axe Murders. All of these titles imply high body counts, but with a limited budget and only a total of like 8 people on screen, clearly we’re not in for much of a massacre.
AXE, as it’s released in the US, follows a group of three bad guys on the run for murder who, after humiliating and toying with a female store clerk, force themselves into Lisa’s farmhouse where she takes care of her paralyzed grandfather. By take care of, I mean kind of bathe him and also feed him raw eggs and stuff. Clocking in at a massive 67 minutes long, the audience briefly watches Lisa, a strange girl to say the least, take back her home with the help of an axe and a razor blade.
While there are only 5 real characters in the movie and a grand total of I guess 12 people if you add the sparse extras, five of them end up dead. So a moderate body count for what’s on screen, but handled mildly.
The film opens with a pretty awesome POV beating. Some guy gets beat to death after having a lit cigar stuffed in his mouth. Another guy jumps to his death from out of a window, a woman gets sexually humiliated, a guy’s neck is cut with a straight razor, someone is shot in the head, and another person is hacked to death with an axe. Though technically, I believe it was a hatchet, but that’s just splitting wood hairs. The hatchet death is pretty cool, you really on see the downward strikes without impact, but blood splatters and the sound is good. It’s kind of like the scene in Fight Club where Ed Norton pounds Jared Leto. Only two things are killed with an axe though, which is bullshit. One was a guy, the other a chicken.
Leslie Lee plays Lisa, and she is cute. There is an unattractive and overweight woman who is terrorized, forced down to her bra. Gross.
If you haven’t learned to stay away from isolated farm houses, especially when you’re on the run from the law, you deserve to be cut up by farm instruments.
The beginning was kind of interesting, once you got past the annoying bongo soundtrack. Some scenes were well shot and tense, but overall, the film was pretty boring, even with such a short run time. The "action" is paced out, but because there is so little, the inbetweens are very boring. And the kills are mostly crap. The blood looks like wax and you don’t really see much of it all.
The plot is simple and straight forward, borrowing a lot from earlier films like The Last House on the Left. There are some interesting aspects to Axe, mostly in the character of Lisa. If you think about it, this is kind of fucked up. There are little bits here and there that really make you wonder about this girl. She’s very withdrawn, down for violence, and kind of creepy. She just stares off at things. She feeds her father and another man blood, calling it soup. I’m giving the film a bit too much credit here though, as when you write it out, it sounds pretty creepy-cool. But watching the film was more of a chore. I’m sure some will enjoy it – it has a low budget, scratchy look to it and almost comes off as an artistic attempt at odd-horror, but falters and becomes boring with weak dialog and a crap ending.
No matter what you hear about it, Axe is one film that should be placed on the chopping block and ignored.