EDGE OF THE AXE is a 1988 slasher movie that looks and feels a few years earlier to me. It’s got a masked killer and a whodunit and most of what you need besides some imagination.
It starts pretty legit with a nurse getting her car washed, enjoying a cigarette inside when suddenly a dude in a featureless white mask appears and axes her through the windshield. Blood drips down the inside of the passenger side window while suds drip down the outside.
This same masked man (or at least a guy in the same outfit) starts chopping up people in a small town nearby, and the cops and citizens try to figure out who it is.
Gerald (Barton Faulks, FUTURE-KILL) is a young man who rides a motorcycle, so he’s a rugged individualist, but he wears a helmet, so he’s unusually safety conscious for a movie character of the time. He just bought a new computer and he’s excited about it, so he’s also a genius or a nerd or something. He works as an exterminator with his buddy Richard Simmons (Page Mosely, GIRLS NITE OUT) who is not the famous aerobics instructor, but a tail-chasing jock dude who wears bodybuilding shirts and plays darts.
When Gerald meets Lillian (Christina Marie Lane) they flirt about who’s better at an arcade game called Alien, and he feeds her some KING OF KONG style nerd shit about the rhythm of the game and then says “but you wouldn’t understand.” They hit it off anyway, as if this were written by a man, and a surprisingly long portion of the movie is about them getting to know each other and using his computer.
Also they enjoy Coca-Cola together.
“You want a Coke?”
“Is it cold Coke?
Crisp dialogue like that. Later, Gerald suddenly gets upset and leaves a diner, causing Lillian to ask, “Don’t you want to finish our Cokes?” And also Richard is seen drinking a can of Coca-Cola Classic.
1988 seems a little late for this, but this is one of those movies where the computers are kind of magical. You can type a question in and it might answer it. Also not possible at that time: anything written on the screen is said out loud. At times I wondered if it was a narrator, that the characters couldn’t hear it, but the flatness of the voice seems to be mimicking a robot.
I guess the reason for the computer in the movie is that Gerald is trying to look up police files, and when Lillian discovers he has a list of the murder victims she starts to get suspicious. Gerald is new in town and has a mysterious past and bad relationship with his parents that he doesn’t like to talk about. It spends so much time making it look like he’s the guy that you start to think if it’s not it’s gonna be disappointing.
Actually, when it gets toward unmasking time it’s more exciting because there’s a pretty original twist (SPOILER): Gerald accuses Lillian of having a split personality that’s actually committing the murders, and he acts crazier and crazier as he confronts her about it. They struggle and it seems like one of them is pulling a Norman Bates but they both think it’s the other one!
I noticed some posters in Gerald’s pad: PLATOON, THE COLOR OF MONEY, Max Headroom. I gotta be honest, I have a hard time picturing a serial killer with a Max Headroom poster. So if it’s one of these two I’m gonna go with the one that is clearly physically smaller and shaped differently than the stuntman playing the killer.
Whether or not he likes Max Headrom, this killer obviously hates women. But the other characters display a higher level of misogyny than usual. After a woman named Rita (Alicia Moro, SLUGS) is murdered near some train tracks, the sheriff feels it’s okay to tell some guy from the train company (wearing a civil war hat instead of an engineer hat?) the victim’s life story, including that she sometimes turned tricks for $100.
“Wasn’t cheap, was she?”
“No, but she was worth it,” the sheriff says.
“Jesus, you had some!” says the engineer, and the sheriff explains that no, he can’t afford that on his salary. But he smiles warmly thinking about how much he would’ve liked to pay for sex from this woman whose horribly mutilated remains they’ve been examining.
When the sheriff goes to question a local married man who slept with Rita once, the guy has no problem saying “Shit, that dumb bitch loved to cause problems.”
And there’s a woman who loses all her money in a subplot. Confiding “I’ve lost everything” to a male friend his advice is, “Don’t be depressed. You’re still a very beautiful woman.”
Wikipedia says this is a made-for-TV movie, but maybe that means cable, because it’s pretty gorey: on-camera ax-hits, blood splashing across a wall, even a dog found with its throat slit. Richard has a speedboating date ruined when they find a rotting severed head floating in the lake.
This script and these characters are not good enough, and the computer business makes it harder to take seriously. But it looks good and the murder scenes are well done. I like the mask even though it’s basically a knockoff of Michael Myers minus hair. In fact, I’ve been curious about this movie since the old days, because the picture on the oversized VHS box seemed like too blatant of a HALLOWEEN rip-off to be allowed. Now that I gave it I shot I have to say it’s more watchable than I thought it would be all those years.
A funny touch at the end: the scary music abruptly cuts to an upbeat country song that sort of describes the plot.
Although filmed in the U.S. in English, this is a Spanish co-production from director Jose Ramon Larraz (VAMPYRES, REST IN PIECES).
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.