Running Time: 84 mins
Reviewed by: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
Ryan Lee Driscoll’s grim, horror drama focuses on the frayed relationship of a middle class family and how the dire state of the world economy brings their lives into total meltdown. Horror movies have always focussed on topical fears and Axed is no exception, as it tracks the mental breakdown of the main breadwinner as he loses his job due to large corporations trimming the fat to cope with the recession.
The story opens with Kurt Wendell (Jonathan Hansler) learning that he has lost his highly paid position as a project leader. Unable to break the news to his family, he takes them all on an unannounced holiday to a farmhouse in the back of beyond. Andrea Gordon plays Kurt’s long-suffering wife, Steph. She fears that her husband may be losing his mind when he hands out some truly twisted gifts to both teenage children, Megan (the very pretty Nicola Posener) and Jay (Christopher Rithen) and herself.
There are also some strange noises emanating from the attic relating to a shameful secret that Steph has been hiding from her husband. Kurt has decided that not only have his bosses let him down but his family have also failed in their designated roles. Things are going to be tough for the Wendell family and Kurt has some cuts to undertake to make things meet.
Axed has all the makings of another impressive shocker after last year’s triumphant entry to the British horror genre, Kill List. Driscoll does not waste any time in plunging the viewer into the action with the family arriving at the farmhouse within the first 15 minutes of the movie. Effective production values and a highly unnerving soundtrack only add to the tension and build up to Kurt revealing his master plan. Some of his comments are cruel and blackly amusing as he torments and ridicules each family member. Hansler does an admirable job as the demented father. He feels his horrendous actions are justifiable due to everyone letting him down. His performance does get under your skin with his quiet delivery being interrupted by the occasional short burst of venom and hatred. Perhaps the movie would have been enhanced had we witnessed what Kurt was like before his breakdown. It is hard to sympathize with his predicament when he reacts so sadistically and unhinged towards everyone. He does comment at one stage to the children that the old dad will be back soon but there is nothing to suggest that he ever had a loving bone in his body.
There are some suitably grisly and suspenseful scenes in the final third of the film when the cast list dwindles significantly. Yet there always is the niggling feeling that Axed could have been significantly more powerful should the characters had been developed that little bit more before the action finally arrives. Axed is an effective horror film but could have been so much more.