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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Edge of the Axe

April 23, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Edge of the Axe

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #589: Edge of the Axe

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never wanted to hang a poster of Paul Newman’s movie The Color of Money on my wall, not because the movie is bad or I hate Paul Newman, I just don’t want to do it (I’d much rather hang a poster for a movie like Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives! or 2019: After the Fall of New York), The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and eighty-nine, I take a look at the Spanish-American slasher flick Edge of the Axe, which hit American screens in mid-September 1989.

Edge of the Axe


Edge of the Axe, directed by Jose Ramon Larraz, is a fascinating slasher mystery flick that features a bit of a twist ending, a twist ending that actually works. It drags a bit at times, but when the movie ramps up it ramps the hell up. The movie also features some of the most disturbing axe killings in horror history. Edge of the Axe is also one of the most misogynistic slasher movies I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been a big believer in the whole “slasher movies are intrinsically misogynistic,” but Edge of the Axe is the big hooha exception to that. I’m not sure that attitude was the movie’s intent but, man, Edge of the Axe really isn’t fond of women.

Edge of the Axe stars Barton Faulks as Gerald Martin, a young male computer nerd who moves to Paddock County, a small rural town in California to live (he lives in a cabin owned by some old guy), hang out with his best friend Richard Simmons (yes, that is his name, and he’s played by Page Mosely), and “just be himself.” One day, Gerald helps Richard out with his job (Richard is an exterminator by trade) and, while checking out a local restaurant experiencing a weird smell, they find a rotting dead human body in the basement. This discovery, naturally, brings the police to the scene, and Officer Frank McIntosh (Fred Holliday) begins investigating. Does this dead body have anything to do with recent murders in the area? Paddock County and the surrounding area aren’t known for being a high crime area. So what the heck is going on here?

So then some stuff happens, Gerald strikes up a relationship with Lillian Nebs (Christina Marie Lane), the young daughter of the owner of the restaurant that had the dead body in it. Richard also starts up a relationship with Lillian’s sister Susan (Joy Blackburn), something he really shouldn’t be doing since he’s married to Lura (Patty Shepard). Richard attempts to justify his cheating on Laura by complaining about their age difference (Laura is much older than Richard) and how they don’t have anything in common anymore. Richard also lets on that the only reason he’s still with Laura at all is that she has money. Richard also suspects that Laura is cheating on him with an older man, which is lame because, even if this is true, Richard doesn’t seem to be all that upset by it. It’s almost like Richard figures, hey, if Laura is messing around why can’t I also mess around?

And so Gerald and Lillian hit it off. They love the same things (he’s a computer nerd and she wants to be one) and they seem to have real chemistry when they’re together. Gerald gives Lillian her own computer so they can talk to one another (pre-internets computer communication). It’s a win-win for everyone. Well, sort of. Despite their chemistry, there’s something weird about Gerald and Lillian’s relationship. What is it, though?

Now, while all of that is going on, the bodies keep piling up and the police have no idea what to do. McIntosh, despite his investigative efforts, has no idea if the dead women are connected in any way, and there are times where it seems like he’s deliberately hindering the investigation and covering things up because he doesn’t want the media to make a big deal out of what’s actually happening. Paddock County is a quiet community. That would change if people started to believe that there was a serial killer roaming the streets, killing women at random. McIntosh doesn’t want that on his resume.

So who is the killer? The movie does, eventually, reveal who the killer is, but it’s a mystery as to who is actually, really is. We see the killer in action and it’s a man (or is it?) decked out in a sort of windbreaker cloak poncho type deal and a white mask that covers the entire head. The killer also wields an axe and is relentless when he (or she) spots his (or her) next victim. And the killer will do anything to get their prey, including killing dogs (a dog is killed off screen), walking into drive-in car washes while they’re operating, chasing people in bad parts of town, and even going into the woods. When the killer wants to kill someone, the killer will get who the killer wants to kill.

The big mystery at the heart of the plot is always involving, even when the story starts to bog down a bit. There are plenty of red herrings characters spread throughout the story, not to mention plot threads that only exist to throw the audience off on who the killer might be. There are two characters who I thought were the killer who end up very dead by the end of the movie and I was genuinely surprised by who the eventual killer is. It’s always fun to see a mystery slasher flick that actually keeps you guessing and delivers on its twist ending. Don’t trust your assumptions because they’re probably wrong.

The movie also has an overarching weirdness to it that’s likely due to the fact that it’s a European movie trying to be an American one. There are moments where the characters emphasize the presence of American products, like cans of Coca-Cola, and the movie posters that appear on random walls (like Paul Newman’s The Color of Money). It’s off putting and somehow seems absolutely wrong and totally right at the same time. The movie also has that soft haze that you can see in any number of Spanish or Italian genre flicks, which always gives me a major sense of unease because I know that there will be things that happen that probably shouldn’t. I keep saying weird but it’s the best adjective to describe the movie.

And then there’s the violence. Edge of the Axe isn’t the goriest slasher horror flick ever made, but when the gore does happen it’s nasty. On top of that, when the killer attacks someone with an axe we actually see the axe going into the victim’s body. The camera doesn’t cut away from the axe’s body blows and it’s truly unsettling to see the axe’s victims unable to defend themselves. Once the axe starts there’s no stopping it.

What’s the deal with the music? The movie’s opening title song doesn’t seem to belong in a horror movie. It sounds more like something you’d hear in a coming of age tale where the protagonist is moving to a new town for a fresh start. It’s a song that’s happy and positive and you get the sense that it shouldn’t be. So why is it in the movie? I’m guessing that it’s just another way for director Joe Ramon Larraz to unsettle the audience. I mean, really, how often do you see a horror movie with an upbeat, positive song in it?

Now, as I said at the beginning, the movie has a serious streak of misogyny running through it, and I’m not entirely sure that the movie intended to be anti-woman/anti-female. The male characters, for the most part, aren’t all that fond of the women in their lives. Gerald can’t stand it when Richard doesn’t hang out with him and, instead, is “stuck” with his wife or girlfriend. You even get the sense that when he’s with Lillian that Gerald would probably be happier hanging out with Richard doing “guy shit.” Officer McIntosh doesn’t treat the murder victims he’s investigating with any kind of respect or empathy (one murder victim is a suspected prostitute, and despite men frequently meeting with her, her death is treated as inevitable, not something to be mourned). And Laura, despite being cheated, is kind of an asshole and you can see why Richard doesn’t get along with her. And all but one of the victims in the movie is female, and the one dead man is killed off screen, so we don’t get to see the axe going into his forehead or back or whatever. Again, I don’t know if the movie intends to be misogynist, but the result is misogyny. I’m not condemning the movie for that attitude, but it’s something you should be aware of going in beforehand if that kind of thing upsets you.

The performances are generally good all around. Barton Faulks does a fine job as Gerald Martin. Gerald is kind of a douchebag, but he has an odd likeability to him that makes you forgive that trait in him. Gerald also has a darkness to him that makes you suspect him immediately because it sure as hell seems like he’s the kind of guy to go an axe killing spree.

Christina Marie Lane is fantastic as Lillian Nebbs Gerald’s love interest. You like her as soon as you meet her, and you become more and more interested in her the more you learn about her backstory. She’s more complicated than she appears to be.

Page Mosely is the ultimate douchebag as Richard Simmons. He hates his wife, he cheats on her, and he admits that he’s only interested in continuing his marriage because of the money involved. That honesty isn’t as refreshing as it would seem. You still kind of like him, though, even if he is a douchebag. That’s difficult to accomplish.

Patty Shepard is amazing as Laura Simmons, Richard’s older wife. Shepard manages to make Laura both unlikeable (you do see, in a way, why Richard doesn’t like her anymore) and still kind of likeable. She doesn’t rise to the douchebag level of her husband, which is why you root for her more than Richard, but at the same time you can’t totally support her because she is kind of an asshole. That’s always interesting to see.

And then there’s Fred Holliday as Officer Frank McIntosh, easily one of the worst cops in movie history. He’s just awful at his job and an awful person all around. He’s watchable, yes, but, really, he’s the last guy you want to be a cop in your town in the event actual crimes start happening. By the time McIntosh stops covering his own ass and making sure the town remains quiet, it will be too late for everyone. Why hasn’t he been fired? How can he be the best cop in Paddock County?

Edge of the Axe is a terrific mystery slasher flick. It’s weird and unsettling and features a twist ending that actually works. Some of the movie’s attitudes will be upsetting for some audiences, but, for horror fans, I think it’s a movie worth checking out at least once in your life. Edge of the Axe delivers on just about every level.

See Edge of the Axe. See it, see it, see it. As I write this, it’s available to stream on Shudder and Tubi, and the fine folks at Arrow Video have put out a no doubt fantastic Blu-ray of the movie that I should really look into getting.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 10

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: Almost.

Doobage: Car wash hooey, axe through the windshield, a medical red cross on the window, a weirdly upbeat song for the opening titles sequence of a slasher movie, motorcycle hooey, an old guy in a rocking chair, a pig pen, bloody footprints, a severed pig’s head, a bar restaurant, rats in the sewer, a rotting dead body in the basement, station wagon hooey, dudes talking about women, some very gorgeous thighs, video game hooey, talk about “the central terminal,” foot chase through an alley, a pretty brutal axe killing, deliberate police ineptitude, boat painting, steep stairs, farm hooey, a seriously loud thunderstorm, attempted match using, door breaking, axe to the leg, axe to the back, axe to the top of the head, computers that talk, a sort of date, a human head floating in the water, TV news hooey, a ceiling that drips blood, off screen dog killing, attempted gun using, finger chopping, total fish tank destruction, dock hooey, swing hooey, a flashback, a funeral with dirt throwing, drunk driving, a really lame “accident,” a chase through the woods, wood cutting, off screen axe to the face, cat and mouse hooey, a wicked tandem fall down the stairs, shotgun blast, and a surprise ending.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Car wash hooey, computer hooey, two dudes talking about women, video game playing, Sunkist orange soda, “Data Incomplete,” playful “asking a computer if Gerald is gay” moment, speed boat ride, sanding, a hat that says “New York” on it, “Icarus connected,” computers that talk for some reason, choir practice, Coca-Cola Classic, a Max Headroom poster on the wall, a Platoon poster on the wall, a picture of Ronald Reagan on the wall, The Color of Money poster on the wall, and a surprise ending.

Best lines: “I want him captured!,” “So, where’s the smell coming from?,” “She was just too old,” “One of these days I’m going to fumigate her,” “A fox! She’s a real fox!,” “Call Jimmy! We’ve caught more than a dozen trout!,” “You want a Coke?,” “What shape was the body? Hamburger meat,” “Now this is what I call moving,” “Yo! Jimmy!,” “Well, Sam, it looks like we’ve got an ugly situation developing,” “Who do you like better, your mother or your father?,” “Kill some bugs for me,” “I think you should take back your computer,” “Gerald, how did you get this scar?,” “Lillian, what information were you looking for on the computer?,” and “I tell ya, this place stinks of death!”

Rating: 9.0/10.0




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Things to Watch Out For


Willy’s Wonderland: This is the latest batshit insane low budget movie from Nicolas Cage, and it apparently has Cage battling demonic animatronic robot things for some reason. Does the reason for the attack really matter? Probably not, as long as the movie delivers on its weird as hell premise. I haven’t seen it so I have no idea, but it’s definitely something I want to see. Cage is now a full on B-movie star, so I feel as though it’s my duty to make an effort to see as many of his weird ass movies as possible. I’m super behind on that, but then what’s one more life goal? Between Cage and Brice Willis, I have tons of movies I need to catch up on. So, has anyone out there seen Willy’s Wonderland yet? Is it as crazy as the premise suggests? Does it live up to the hype?


Shrunken Heads: I remember when this movie came out back in the mid-1990’s. The Full Moon machine made a big deal out of the movie being Full Moon’s first theatrical release (I have no idea if that even happened. The movie certainly didn’t play at any movie theater near me back in 1994) and that Danny Elfman created a theme for the movie (Danny’s brother Richard Elfman directed it). I first saw it on home video and thought it was pretty cool. It wasn’t as good as other Full Moon movies out at that time (the Trancers series is still Full Moon king for me), but it was still fun. And, to a degree, it looked like Charles Band and company did spend a little more money making it than a “typical” Full Moon movie. I would like to know, though, if Band and Elfman and everyone else really thought a movie about three murdered teenagers who become three revenge seeking shrunken heads because of a voodoo priest (a guy played by Julius Harris, who had just appeared in Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence). It doesn’t seem like something that would work that way. Still, a very cool Full Moon flick, and it’s now out on some sort of “remastered” Blu-ray. So that’s cool.


Driven by Craig Baxley: This is the autobiography of the great Craig R. Baxley, the badass stunt performer turned celebrated action movie director, and that fact makes this book an absolute must read. The book apparently goes through Baxley’s entire career, from when he started out as a stunt performer on TV (he worked on tons of shows back in the day and is probably best known for his work on The A-Team) to his eventual directing career, when he made such classic action flicks as Action Jackson, I Come in Peace/Dark Angel, and the immortal Stone Cold. Baxley also became a member of the Stephen King TV adaptation family, as he directed the Storm of the Century mini-series, all thirteen episode of King’s TV show Kingdom Hospital, and the mini-series Rose Red and the TV movie The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer. So you have to believe that he has tons of cool stories to tell about all of those things plus everything else he did in his career. And I’m pretty sure that the cover photo is from Baxley’s time working on the immortal Kenny Rogers stock car racing movie Six Pack (he was a stunt driver and stunt coordinator on that movie, according to imdb). Again, this is a definite must read for anyone who is a fan of Baxley’s work, action cinema, action TV shows, and, well, Hollywood stories.


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B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Edge of the Axe

Barton Faulks– Gerald Martin
Christina Marie Lane– Lillian Nebbs
Page Mosely– Richard Simmons
Fred Holliday– Frank McIntosh
Patty Shepard– Laura Simmons
Joy Blackburn– Susan Nebbs
Alicia Moro– Rita Miller

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Jose Ramon Larraz (credited as Joseph Braunstein)
Screenplay by Joaquin Amichatis, Javier Elorrieta, Jose Frade, and Pablo de Aldebaran

Distributed by Forum Home Video and Arrow Video

Not Rated
Runtime– 91 minutes

Buy it here