Edge of the Axe (1988) Arrow Video Jan 28th 2020
Directed By:Jose Ramon Larraz
Starring: Barton Faulks, Patty Shepard, Page Mosely, Jack Taylor
Jose Ramon Larraz died in 2013 at the ripe old age of 84 and was known within the horror community but sadly not as well as he should have been. That seems to be changing however as Arrow has been crushing it with re-releasing his films. In 2019 we got a nice Larraz boxset of three previously unleashed HD films from his back catalog. And we are kicking off 2020 with the much hyped late '80's Larraz film Edge of the Axe. I for one find Jose's films to be highly interesting and so its always great when more films are slowly coming out onto Blu Ray. Its also worth noting that Mondo Macabre also released Jose's Symptoms (1974) which is very much worth seeking out.
Maybe it was the high hopes but I gotta say this one was a bit of a let down. By the late '80's the slasher genre devolved into more comedy than scares with films like Doom Asylum and April Fools Day being prime examples of the tonal shift to a more light fare. With Edge of the Axe I had hoped that Larraz would bring his unique bland of international flare to breath some new life into the sub genre. And the film starts out on a rather high note with a brutal killing within the first few minutes and then lays out some nice tension filled moments. Early on we also get a nice shock moment with a pigs severed head and I thought we might see some more nice surreal imagery but nope, we do not. The film plays with this idea of two tech geeks using computers to solve the murders which is a novel idea to update the slasher genre but it feels like Larraz doesn't understand how to work this into the plot in a satisfying way. The result is kind of Meh. I might have been able to gloss over this had the film not been incredible dull at times. This for me is a unforgivable sin in film. What adds to the lull in the action is the tacking on of a romantic subplot which as you might expect is clunky, awkward and only adds to stop the plot dead in its tracks. I'm not a huge fan of these sub plots in a lot of movies, especially slashers as I feel like it slows down the film whilst trying to pander to a more mainstream audience.
Despite a great looking killer and some decent gore moments I was left with a pretty routine film which is a shame as it had the makings of something truly interesting within the slasher sub genre. The cyber aspect could have been really cool but it feels almost like an after thought rather than a nice addition. And if I am being totally honestly dont feel like it wasnt that memorable. Even something like Nail Gun Massacre (1985) while incredibly bad is at least so bad-its enjoyable. Part of why a film like that, as well as a film like Pieces (1982) is they are clearly in on their own joke and they walk a fine line between earnest horror and semi-parody, all wrapped up in an over-the-top almost cartoon level of outrageousness. This is why I find both of those films so endearing and have no problem giving them a re-watch from time-to-time. This film is the polar opposite however and takes itself far too serious and sadly doesn't really have any stand out moments, even if its just for being so weird or outrageous. Overall I had a hard time getting fully invested in this film and I had wished it would have pushed the boundary but also had a bit of fun with the genre. I'm still a huge fan of Jose Ramon Larraz who as I said above seems to be left out of the conversation when it comes to European horror directors. If you are new to his work I suggest taking a deep dive with films like Black Candles, Symptoms and Vampyres probably his most notable horror film.
If are you a fan of this film Arrow has you covered with an incredible release!
Arrow has pulled out all the stops in giving us a release that looks stunning. The picture is scanned in 2k and I compared this to a VHS and obviously the difference is night and day. Speaking of night scenes probably benefit the most from this new transfer as details are finally visible. This release also features a nice clear 2.0 Mono track. Extras are also on point and we get not one but two full length commentaries: The first being Barton Faulks and Matt Rosenblatt two stars of the film and the second with the Hysteria Continues crew. Both are wildly entertaining and it was worth the multiple watches as each commentary brings something refreshing and fun to the table. The other features includes new interviews with Barton Faulks and Page Mosley and a new interview with special effects artist Colin Aruther. The features rounded out with a gallery and trailer. Justin Osbourn does a wonderful new cover and of course features reversible sleeve. A nice booklet is included with info on the cast and crew as well as a new essay by Amanda Reyes which is very much worth reading.
I know I was harsh on this film but the release is really something special. It looks amazing and its choked full of extras that in a way helped me like the film a little bit more after multiple viewings. If you are a slasher fan this is worth putting into your collection.
Arrow will also be releasing one of Larraz's last film Deadly Manor (1990) next month and I couldn't be more excited!