By 1988 the Slasher genre had certainly seen better days. Most of the best films of the genre had been made years ago with sequels and inferior rip offs being the order of the day. Even as a moneymaking venture, it was clear by then the genre was not the cash cow it had once been. Still, films were being made, including the Spanish offering Edge of the Axe. Now, Edge of the Axe is no classic by any stretch of the imagination, but it is an entertaining film never the less and is one of the better Slasher films of the second half of the 1980’s. Set up wise it’s all pretty familiar, a small sleepy town is terrorized by a maniac with an axe. The killer for the most part targets women and the local police are so incredibly incompetent, they don’t even recognize that a killer is on the lose until well into the movie, blaming the deaths on suicides and accidents. Oh and of course the killer has a mask, with the most not worthy part of this being that it looks like Michael Myers is Michael Myers had chemotherapy. Oh yeah, and instead of going for a straightforward film like Halloween, where the identity of the killer is known from the beginning, Edge of the Axe tries to go for the mystery rout, which means not to spoil anything, but the killer is a character we were previously introduced to, and while the surprise ending isn’t really poorly done per say, and certainly has some interesting ideas, if derivative of some other movies, it doesn’t really gel either.
The acting, directing, and writing are about what you’d expect for the lesser entries in this genre. The acting is extremely amateurish, and it’s no surprise the cast never went on to really do anything else. And of course the teenage/ college student characters look several years too old to be playing the characters they are. The direction is the best technical aspect of the film and at times even shows flashes of brilliance, but at the same time it’s also really clear that director José Ramón Larraz is no John Carpenter, even has he did direct one of my favorite Satanic Cult sleaze films, Black Candles earlier in the decade and also was the man behind Vampyres, one of the better entries in the Lesbian Vampire genre, and perhaps the best made by neither Hammer Studios or Jess Franco. And the script is extremely simplistic and has no real character development or even much of a cohesive structure throughout the first half of the film, electing instead to just kind of meander around various characters in between its kill scenes.
Despite all this though, I did like this movie and I think Slasher movie fans, particularly of the European stuff will find this one to be an enjoyable diversion. Deeply flawed as it is, it still offers some dumb fun and gore, and well those two things are why I keep on watching these movies long after I’ve seen all the “classics” of the genre. The kill scenes, though all done with an axe, are still gory enough to fit the shameless tone of the movie. I also think the violence in this and other Spanish Horror and Exploitation movies from the late 1970’s and 1980’s are interesting from a historical perspective because these movies were all coming out within a few years of the end of Francoist Spain. It is true, to be sure that in the years before his death in 1975, Francisco Franco’s regime did begin to loosen up a bit, this was still a country that banned Elvis movies. So yeah, it certainly is interesting to see a country go from banning Elvis movies to making movies like this, including some with a lot more violence and a great deal more sexually explicit content, in a period of less than fifteen years, is really quite interesting. But even beyond that yeah, this movie was entertaining and never overstays its welcome, so overall this is a win.
When it all comes down to it, the numerous flaws of Edge of the Axe as well as its inability to really say anything other than “hey guys, here’s another entry in the 1980’s Slasher cycle” renders it not a great film, or even a good film. But it is a fun film and in many ways the best sort of Slasher film it can be, in that it’s a film best watched with some friends and a case of beer. No classic film and certainly no life changing film, but it is worth hunting down. Check it out!