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Que-sera, Que-sera

Released in 1977, Axe is the story of 3 criminals on the run after killing a man, looking for a place to lay low for a few days. They come across a secluded farmhouse that seems like the perfect place to hide out. The house is occupied by Lisa, a young orphan girl left alone to tend to the care of her invalid grandfather. The goons take to tormenting and abusing the young girl until she reveals herself as more than they had assumed her to be.

Axe was directed by Frederick R Friedel (Kidnapped Coed) & was produced by FX artist J.G. Patterson (Doctor Gore, Moonshine Mountain). Patterson was also a one-time “spookshow” magician. His biggest trick, arguably, was time that he made 67 minutes of my life disappear.

Fun Fact: The film was released under a few different titles, including “The Virgin Slaughter”. It was also released as “Lisa, Lisa”, but that version of the film took a different career path and would later join with Cult Jam.

The opening credits roll. Even at a paltry 67 minutes, there are already signs of “padding” as each cast members’ name is displayed for approximately 12 seconds. At least there is a funky jazz beat to help soften the wait time. It’s no Chuck Mangione, but it’s pretty dope.

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The story begins with 3 men walking through the lobby of a hotel and entering the elevator. 2 of them are dressed in suits, their revolvers sticking out of their waistlines. That in itself is quite an achievement for one of these gentlemen, Lomax, as he does not appear to be missing many meals. And the fact that he is seen eating multiple times throughout the course of the film just serves to verify this. The other suited man, Steele, is the “boss” of this operation. For some reason, he reminded me quite a bit of Michael Pare.

The third man in this group is “Billy”, played by director Friedel. We’ll go a little more into detail on “Billy” a little later in this review as he is a pivotal character to the plot. For now, I am obligated to comment on his resemblance to painter Bob Ross. Like Ross, he has a full beard and mustache to accompany his massive “white guy fro”.

This undated image released by Copyright Bob Ross Inc./The Joy of Painting, shows the late Bob Ross, host of the PBS series "The Joy of Painting." PBS said Thursday it's posted a video remix with clips from "The Joy of Painting" instructional series, featuring the late Bob Ross. The "Happy Painter" remix is from John Boswell, who created the "Garden of Your Mind" video tribute to Fred Rogers. That mashup of clips from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" has been viewed nearly 6 million times on YouTube. "The Joy of Painting," still seen in repeats, aired on PBS from 1983 to 1994 with its bushy-haired, mellow-voiced host. Ross died in 1995. (AP Photo/Copyright Bob Ross Inc. ® The Joy of Painting)

 

The 3 men enter an apartment. Judging from their composure, it’s apparent that this residence does not belong to any of them. They get comfortable as they wait for their “target” to show up. They sit on his furniture. Lomax smokes in his house. They even dig through a closet and find a blonde wig, panties, and a red blouse. Based on their reaction, the person they are waiting for is NOT female, nor is it likely that one has been around anytime recently. Lomax occupies himself by making burn holes in the blouse with the cigar, while Billy keeps watch out the window.

The target arrives. There’s an extended wait for him to get from his car to his apartment. As he approaches, the men can hear another voice with him. The man enters the apartment, another man in tow. The “target”, Aubrey, has quite the head of hair himself. He’s combed it over to the side, so that it appears as if he has a “hair tumor” protruding from his skull. The man is dressed in what is quite possibly the ugliest shirt I’ve ever seen. His “friend” is in a sweater vest. It’s fairly apparent that the 2 men are homosexual.

Fun Fact: the majority of gay men that I’ve met in my lifetime would never be caught dead in these outfits.

Aubrey seemingly knows the men, and assuredly knows why they are here. However, he still feels the need to ask them. Ya know, at least try to convey innocence. Steele bitch slaps Aubrey, slicing his cheek with his  pimp ring in the process. Steele rips off part of Aubrey’s shirt and wipes his blood with it. It’s actually more of a “smear” across the man’s face. As this is happening, the smoke from Lomax’s cigar is steadily blowing into their faces. Steele tells him that it stinks. He asks Aubrey if he agrees. Steele remarks, “Here, let me put that out for you.” He proceeds to do just that by shoving the lit cigar into Aubrey’s mouth.

Steele and Lomax beat the holy hell out of Aubrey as his “bottom bitch” watches on, the actor unable to shake his head in dismay with any conviction. Billy also watches on, not taking part. The look on his face tells you that he did not sign up for this part of the job. What did Billy think went on at these types of things? Billy finally grows a pair and steps in to stop the beating, but only when Steele produces a straight edge to use to cut Aubrey’s nose off. However, by this point, Aubrey is dead from his injuries.

Lomax asks what needs be done about Aubrey’s “boy toy”. Steele walks towards him, still brandishing the razor. The man takes off running, but not for the apartment door. Instead, he jumps from the window, falling 9 stories to his death below. Even Steele feels compelled to ask why he would do that. It also worth noting that this is either a ghost town or a place so crime-infested that the police have abandoned it, as the men are able to walk out of the apartment without anyone questioning the body splattered on the sidewalk outside.

The men leave and apparently decide to take a leisurely drive through the county. Billy sits in the back of the car, looking out the window like a teenager brooding about being on a family trip. Billy is quite bothered by what he’s just become involved in. He didn’t agree to be part of someone’s death, let alone the death of 2 people. He’s going to have to paint some exceptionally happy little clouds to be able to deal with this. Maybe a fluffy little bush sitting quietly next to a gentle running stream. Steele decides that they will need to hide out and lay low for a while. At least, until the heat has died down.

The film cuts to an old man, “Gramps”, sitting and staring at the small screen of his portable, black & white TV, the detuned channel scrolling from bottom to top. Confined to his wheelchair and mind gone, he is essentially a vegetable. Lisa appears from behind him. She leans down and gently kisses his cheek. Despite her believable defeated appearance, the actress is quite pretty.

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We jump back to our fugitives as they stop at a small grocery. As they enter the store, Steele asks the cashier if they have any fresh fruit. She points to the shelf, and Steele walks over. He picks up an apple and takes a bite. His face shows disgust and he spits the apple out. He says to her, “You call this fresh fruit?”. She replies that they received it just the day before. He then retorts, “Well, then you eat it!”, and throws the apple at her.

Fun fact: the actress, committed to the scene, ducks when the apple is thrown at her…… even though it was a horrible throw. The apple sails safely over her head by at least 5 feet.

Trying to avoid any more trouble, the cashier tells him to take another apple free of charge. He chuckles, and says to his partner, “You hear that, Lomax? We can have more of her DAMN poison fruit!”. He starts flinging apples all over the store. He then has Lomax start tossing apples as he tries to shot them out of the air.

After running out of apples, Steele picks up a grapefruit and takes it to the counter. He says to Lomax, “She’s got some nice melons. I wonder if she has some other nice melons.” I would inform him that a grapefruit is actually a citrus fruit and not a melon, but he has a gun, so he can call it whatever the hell he wants. He turns the gun on her and orders her to disrobe.

They walk her in front of the dairy cooler and order her to kneel. When she does, Steele places an apple on her head. Yup, he’s going William Tell here. And I’m going to jump ahead here. I’ll leave the rest of this scene for you to watch on your own. It does get quite demeaning, but it’s extremely effective in making you dislike the antagonists, and it just screams “exploitation”.

Consumer Alert: While the woman is kneeling in front of the cooler, we get a look at one of the store’s shelves behind her. On that shelf is a dog chew toy, a jar of mayonnaise, and a bottle of Mr. Clean. These are 3 things that should never be stored together. And that’s one to grow on.

Back at the house, Lisa is at the hen-house gathering eggs. She grabs a hen and takes it to the chopping block where she beheads it. She takes it back to the house, where she sets it on the kitchen counter, head still bleeding out. I’m thinking this was actually a real chicken. It looks pretty realistic. She then casually sits down for a glass of milk and some cookies.

There is an extended scene of Lisa giving her grandfather a sponge bath. This is coupled with scenes of the 3 men driving around, Billy still staring out the windows. He hates what he’s become.  He regrets that he has allowed himself to become an accomplice. Take those regrets and paint them into birds, Billy. There are no mistakes. Just happy little accidents.

These scenes do help set a mood for the film, and also help connect the viewer a little more to Lisa. However, as it’s all pretty much inconsequential, it’s just wasted time. And in a 67 minute long, that’s another 1/10 of the movie gone with nothing of importance happening.

The men eventually choose to stop at Lisa’s house. Steele has Lomax knock on the door, an attempt to gauge the “availability” of its use as a safe house. Lisa is upstairs and does not hear his knock. When there is no answer, Lomax walks around to the back and enters though an unlocked door there. Steele follows him in.

It is then that Lisa finally walks downstairs, finding the 2 men in her house. They use an excuse that they have a hurt friend in their car. Lisa freely gives up that it’s just her and her grandfather in the house. This is enough for them to then take up occupancy.

Lisa is forced to make them dinner, finally cleaning and cooking the headless chicken that’s been bleeding out in her kitchen this whole time. Now, I’ve never cleaned a chicken, and I don’t think I ever will, but I find it very odd that she did so in a sink full of water. There is blood, feathers, and (I would assume) other chicken parts floating in it. Wouldn’t you want to keep that out of your drains? Just guessing.

Things start to escalate as Lomax starts making sexual comments and advances towards Lisa. He finally assaults her while she is sleeping. Lisa “flips a switch” and becomes the aggressor herself. The short time remaining consists of Lisa turning the tables on the men, one at a time.

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The film ends some with seriously questionable oversights in law enforcement. There is some attempt at trying to explain a “double-cross”, but there’s no way that I will be to accept this excuse as is. That kind of shit just doesn’t happen so nonchalantly.

Axe has it’s fair share of respectable moments. It does an excellent job of establishing its tone early. It excels in making you detest the 3 men while making you sympathize with Lisa. Not too much sympathy though, because that might get you killed. A better director and/or screenwriter could make this into a very effective “revenge shocker” without much need for gore or effects, but as is, it’s 35 minutes of material stretched to 67.

SPOILER ALERT: Trailer pretty much gives away entire movie.