Edge Of The Axe
1988, Dir. José Ramón Larraz
Reviewed By David Sodergren
It might seem odd to say this about a director who has been dead for seven years, but 2019 was a big year for José Larraz. Spanish-born Larraz has long been best-known for his stunning erotic vampire epic Vampyres, though regrettably, the rest of his extensive filmography has been difficult, if not impossible to track down.
Last year, Arrow Video released Blood Hunger, a box set of three of Larraz’s best-known movies — the aforementioned Vampyres, the sinister thriller Whirlpool and the erotic drama Coming Of Sin. The box set made the number two spot on my list of Best Blu-rays of 2019, and Arrow are wasting no time in releasing even more Larraz. Deadly Manor will be out soon, but before then, here comes Edge of the Axe, a late 80s entry in the slasher cycle.
By the late 80s, the slasher movie was pretty much dead. The golden era had finished sometime around 1984, and the ensuing years had seen the sub-genre become increasingly low budget, lacking in imagination and special effects. So it’s nice to see a really well-made, handsomely mounted production this late in the game, though it should be no surprise with the talented Larraz at the helm.
He opens the film with arguably its best scene, a killing in — wait for it — a car wash. What should be silly is actually rather intense, thanks to a pounding, synth-drum heavy soundtrack, a really creepy mask for the killer, and the utter brutality with which he swings that axe.
The murders continue in this vein, oddly disconnected from the rest of the film, as we meet the enormous cast of characters, enough to fill several soap operas, and each with their own petty dramas.
Be warned, this is no fast-paced Friday the 13th sequel. Large portions of the film feel almost like a hang-out movie, with characters just sitting around, shootin’ the shit and listening to country and western music. That might bother you, but not me, no sir. I love my slashers with a side-order of small-town nonsense, particularly if they’re punctuated with ridiculous amounts of proto-chatroom email bullshit between our lovestruck leads, and guess what? This film is the goldmine.
As I said before, the killer is the film’s not-so-secret weapon. Just look at that mask…how cool is that? It’s the lack of mouth that makes it more than just a Michael Myers knock-off, I think. Probably because this is a Spanish production (with Madrid standing in for America!), the film is framed as a murder mystery in the classic Giallo-style, which is why there are so many fucking characters bumbling about through the film, some of whom are clearly reading from cue cards.
There are problems. Occasionally, the pacing can be a little too glacial, even for my tastes, and it’s lacking Larraz’s usual eroticism and eye for the weird. To make up for this though, there’s a small role for Spanish horror icon Jack Taylor, star of many Jess Franco movies and, of course, the legendary Pieces.
Arrow’s transfer is — of course — immaculate. The film looks like it was shot yesterday, with rich colours and incredible detail. Long available only on crappy VHS, check out the difference between the two versions…
Amazing! As usual, the disc is loaded with extras, including two commentary tracks, one featuring lead actor Barton Faulks (who also crops up in a filmed interview) and the other with everyone’s favourite slasher podcast hosts, the gang from The Hysteria Lives. There’s also an interview with FX man Colin Arthur.
While nowhere near Larraz’s best work, Edge of the Axe is a good starting point for those new to the director who don’t want to splash out the big bucks on the Blood Hunger set (though I recommend you do). It’s a pretty oddball take on the slasher genre, while still feeling American enough for those new to Euro-horror.
Now, if someone could just release his more obscure 70s work like Deviation and Scream and Die!
Edge Of The Axe
From cult Spanish filmmaker José Ramón Larraz (Vampyres, Symptoms) comes this long-neglected late 80s slasher classic, finally unleashed on Blu-ray for the first time ever!
The rural community of Paddock County is being rocked by the crazed exploits of an axe-wielding psychopath, who stalks the night in a black trenchcoat and mask. As the victims pile up, the authorities attempt to keep a lid on the situation, whilst computer whizz-kid Gerald and girlfriend Lillian seek to unmask the killer before the town population reaches zero.
Nominally set in Northern California but shot primarily in Madrid, giving the film an off-kilter, American/European atmosphere akin to the likes of Pieces, Edge of the Axe is a late entry hack-and-slash masterpiece from one of the titans of Spanish terror.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
- English and Spanish language versions of the feature
- Original uncompressed mono audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
- Newly translated English subtitles for the Spanish soundtrack
- Brand new audio commentary with actor Barton Faulks
- Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
- Newly-filmed interview with actor Barton Faulks
- The Pain in Spain – a newly-filmed interview with special effects and make-up artist Colin Arthur
- Image Gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Amanda Reyes
David Sodergren lives in Scotland with his wife Heather and his best friend, Boris the Pug. Growing up, he was the kind of kid who collected rubber skeletons and lived for horror movies.
Not much has changed since then.
His first novel, The Forgotten Island, was published on October 1st 2018 to critical acclaim. Up next is Night Shoot, a brutal throwback to the early 80s slasher movie cycle has just recently been released.
He has several more books in various stages of development.
You can follow David on Twitter @paperbacksnpugs
To find out more about David please visit his official website www.paperbacksandpugs.wordpress.com
Find David on Instagram here
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