Edge of the Axe
directed by Jose Ramon Larraz
starring Barton Faulks, Christina Marie Lane, Page Mosely
Eurocult legend Jose Ramon Larraz made his name with a string of sex fueled shockers in the 1970s. Films like Vampyres, Whirlpool, and The House That Vanished became classics and solidified his place in the hearts of fans of the macabre. Larraz’s work continued throughout the 1980s with varying results. 1988’s Edge of the Axe came at the end, not only of Larraz;’s directorial career, but also the end of the slasher cycle. The film isn’t a grand example of Larraz’s directorial prowess or represents the best of slasher films, but is still a worthwhile curiosity for fans of the Spanish director and slasher film completists.
Edge of the Axe has been rescued by Arrow Video with a new Blu-ray that gives the movie its first legitimate home video release since a predictably dire VHS in 1988. In addition to a tremendous transfer upgrade the disc has several fan friendly extras and two audio commentary tracks.
Jose Ramon Larraz opens his slasher with a moody giallo murder set piece set in a drive thru car wash. The claustrophobic sequence is reminiscent of the ferry boat attack in New York Ripper minus Lucio Fulci’s joyous excesses. All of the murders in Edge of the Axe are fun and well-staged, the issue with the film comes in the connective tissue, The plot tends to get in the way of the story and is just missing the Larraz kink that drove his earlier work, but is pretty much on par with the bulk of late ’80s horror content. There is some nascent internet tech on display in what is essentially a giallo in a small California lake town. The film’s plot and characters are perfunctory and forgettable, but Larraz delivers on the kills with several visceral axe attacks sure to please even jaded gore hounds.
Arrow Video has produced two audio commentary tracks for Edge of the Axe. The first trace features actor Barton Faulks and is moderated by First Blood podcast host Matt Rosenblatt, who was also a student of Faulks, who pursued a career teaching high school drama following the end of his film acting career about a year after Edge of the Axe. The track may be short of polish, but Faulks is upbeat with plenty of fun stories about making the film.
The hysteria continues with a second audio commentary track. Justin Kerswell, Joseph Henson, Erik Threlfall, and Nathan Johnson are on hand to essentially do their podcast while you watch the movie. They provided a comparable track on Arrow Video’s release of the Australian killer kids classic, Bloody Birthday, so if you saw that you know what they’re about. If you are uninitiated, it may take a few minutes to get into their wavelength, but once they all settle in the track gets lively and is a nice mix of an expert and fan tracks.
Pain in Spain features special effects artist Colin Arthur pulling back the curtain on his work going into great detail on how he makes his screen weapon, specifically the axes for Edge of the Axe so they look real and are not dangerous for the actors so the on screen attacks can be less choreographed adding an extra layer of realism. He also describes how he did some of the gore effects for the film, while bemoaning the bits that got cut out of the finished film. He also goes in depth on how the killer’s mask was created and it is far more involved than you would think a guy in a mask would be. This short feature is a must for FX gear heads.
Although the film’s release may be aimed mainly at Larraz and slasher completists it is still a lavish production of a disc that could easily have made fans happy with inclusion on a cheap multi disc pack. It is a credit to everyone involved that this bit of horror curiosity still gets the A-level treatment.