Studio: Midnight Releasing
Director: Joston Theney
Writer: Joston Theney
Producer: Joston Theney
Stars: Tiffany Shepis, Brinke Stevens, Elissa Dowling, Arielle Brachfeld, Scot Pollard, Erin Marie Hogan
Nine college friends vacationing in a secluded cabin discover that the legend of the Axeman at Cutter’s Creek may be real.
Horror movie fans can be quick on the trigger when it comes to overstating opinions on perceived subgenre saturation. Torch and pitchfork bearers have been clamoring for the death of “found footage” almost since “The Blair Witch Project” made its debut in 1999. Others have asked for nails to be put in the coffin of vampire flicks with even less politeness, which is motivated by so many redundant movies clogging the supply chain.
I would not normally think of myself as someone who might call for a moratorium on any particular subset of filmdom simply because decades of lazy filmmaking may have exploited an idea past its apex of novelty. Yet with that said, you have to wonder why anyone should even bother making, much less watching, a cabin in the woods slasher that is just an uninspired rehash of so many movies the rest of us grew tired of back in the 1980’s. “Axeman” makes a strong case for suggesting that the “Friday the 13th” homage/ripoff would be better off cooling its jets in the freezer indefinitely until someone figures out a fresher angle to make it interesting again.
Brian and eight former college friends set up shop at a secluded cabin in Big Bear where a series of gruesome ax murders are rumored to have taken place. The beers are barely cracked open and the coupling up is not yet fully underway when blades meet bodies and friends start mysteriously dropping one at a time. What sets “Axeman” apart from the innumerable other horror movies that can reuse that same two sentence description? Not much, really.
Setting the derivative storyline aside, the script falters even further with dialogue that either doesn’t try hard enough to serve a purpose besides moving characters to another location, or tries so hard to be colorful that it never rings as even remotely genuine. Background chatter includes one character muttering, “what is that over there? Is that a tree?” Well yes, of course it is. Probably more than one in fact, seeing as how you are in the middle of a forest. Meanwhile, another character cannot let anyone leave a room without first asking where s/he is going, and someone else refers to Brian as “Mr. Corbin, sir” even though she appears to be several years older than him.
The worst banter of all is any of the borderline hateful speech so focused on derogatory sexual slams that it is a mystery how these nine people ever became friends in the first place. Terms like “tuna trawlers,” “blouse bunnies on the lick me twins,” and “stick your Twinkie in my Suzie-Q” try to inject humor and personality, but just come off as mostly insulting and painfully forced.
Speaking of personality, the titular slasher has none, and that is a colossal problem when the most important character of all also happens to be the least interesting. Not only does he have no justified motivation for killing anyone, but he also does not have an iconic look. The axeman is simply a shaggy-looking mountain man in a long raincoat and a mesh trucker’s cap that says “Titties” in some lame attempt to be sly.
“Axeman” has too many characters and too much relationship drama smashed into its plotline. Kudos for trying to flesh in some depth to the cast of knife fodder, but the group is so dull and so cruel to each other that caring about anyone’s backstory is an insurmountable challenge. The excessive meandering into their uninteresting romantic sideplots also puts the brakes on any tension by putting too much distance between the kills.
“Axeman” gives up on its own details by the story’s end, too. Digital blood, flies flitting about the frame, inconsistent audio, and a police car with Virginia plates for a story set in California are only minor distractions compared to the rubber blades wiggling like Jell-O whether they are protruding from a mouth, chest, neck, or temple.
When a victim’s head hit a doormat on the porch and my only thought was, “I bought that same mat from Target,” my interest level had long since waned to zero. In a nutshell, that is a succinct summation of “Axeman,” a movie with too little personal style to register a memorable reaction beyond mild ennui and a half-stifled yawn.
NOTE: "Axeman" was previously titled “Axeman at Cutter’s Creek.”
Review Score: 35