The fine folks at Arrow Video have done a great on of providing interesting genre titles for years. As is often the case with the genre, the results are hit and miss. But there is no arguing the variety. From giallo to teen sex comedies, the company has an impressive library. One of Arrow’s latest releases showcases their interesting catalog.
Edge of the Axe is a 1988 slasher film. What separates it from similar movies of the era is it is a co production between Spain and the United States. The plot centers on a masked killer who is murdering people in rural North California. As the police try to figure out what is happening, innocent people continue to die. When a young couple becomes involved, things seem to take a turn for the worse.
The story sounds all too familiar. A secluded town is rocked to its core by a mysterious killer. Along the way a computer nerd becomes romantically involved with a pretty girl who is home from college. She also shockingly shares his love for technology which gives the two something to bond over. After falling in love, the two work to stop the killer.
Edge of the Axe is filled with horror tropes that work, for the most part. The small town setting does add charm to the movie. The killer’s mask is a smooth white mask that’s lack of features is more frightening than more outrageous costumes. Even the standard goofy exchanges between computer geek Gerald and his new love Lilian are bearable.
The opening also shows off the creativity of director Jose Ramon Larraz. Since computers play such a huge part in the story, the credits are “typed” onto the screen. The font is something straight from an Apple IIe. It is not new, but it is still a nice added touch. Throughout the Edge of the Axe, the soundtrack has a quirky computerized tone. It almost makes the movie fun.
This also demonstrates the biggest issue with Edge of the Axe. The movie’s tone is all over the place. The brutal opening leads to a happy go lucky song. The score may be suited to the theme of the film, but it can also be very confusing. It is hard to get caught up in the scarier moments of the story when the music is more 1980’s sitcom than 80’s horror.
The odd pacing leads to the film lacking tension at times. The killings may be brutal and the story can be engaging, but a lot is lost due to Edge of the Axe constantly oscillating between terror and fun. Since the movie is not a comedy horror, it makes the whole endeavor confusing. It almost seems like the writing does not want its audience to get too involved.
One of horror’s strengths is it does not have to change up its tried and true format too much. Unfortunately, Edge of the Axe also tends to become too much of a typical slasher film. The mystery that is built up so well is eventually dispensed with. If the movie had been released earlier, it probably would have been remembered by more.
Edge of the Axe does a lot of things right. Like most slashers, it ends on a twist. Unlike other scary movies, it actually works. Larraz does a great job of keeping the mystery going. The reveal leads to one of the most satisfying endings found in the slasher genre. The characters are also very engaging. It makes the entire story and ending that much better.
The 1980s were a golden era for slasher flicks. This trend spread across the world leading to movies like Edge of the Axe. The film has a tendency to be too formulaic at times, but it also does a lot right. The story can be unique and engaging has a pair of interesting leads. It is unfortunate it was not released earlier in the decade where it would have received more recognition.