Total terror - you'll be scared to breathe..!
Year of Release: 1974
Also Known As: Lisa, Lisa; California Axe Massacre
Running Time: 68 minutes (1:08)
Director: Frederick R. Friedel
Leslie Lee ... Lisa
Jack Canon ... Steele
Ray Green ... Lomax
Frederick R. Friedel ... Billy
Douglas Powers ... Grandfather
After terrorizing a convenience store salesgirl with tomatoes, three lowlifes on a crime spree hide out at an isolated farmhouse occupied only by teenage Lisa and her pathetically paralyzed grandpa. Bad move, guys, for while Lisa looks innocent enough, she's actually a ticking-time-bomb-of-psychotic-aggression who spends her days killing chickens, feeding raw eggs to her granddad, staring blankly into space, and hallucinating blood on a mirror. So when the three numbskulls add Lisa to their list of people to abuse, she promptly puts an end to their antisocial activities with the help of her two best friends, a straight-edge razor and her handy Axe.
Axe, reminding us that if you're gonna hang around convenience stores peltin' clerks with produce, you might wanna concern yourself about just when karma's gonna drop by an rearrange your face. Karma's all over these guys like cheerleaders on a guy wearin' the titular body spray, but even though the movie's essentially just a rehash of Last House on the Left, it's still 100x as clever/entertaining as any Axe ads you may have seen. Axe is the poor man's Last House on the Left, and Axe ads are the poor man's Old Spice ad. It's also at least marginally less rapey than an Axe commercial. I hope we're straight on that now, cause this movie's got an imposin' run time of 68 minutes an I don't think I can spare any room explainin' it again on account of how much space I'm gonna need for the plot. Any idea who hates this one? I mean, besides the guys that took their girls to see it at the Drive-In an were only able to get to second base by the time the lights came up? Maybe it's the name, Axe just seems to PREVENT the successful acquisition of woman goodies no matter what embodiment it takes. Anyway, advocates of the honor system hate it, and I think once you read this next part you'll understand why, cause Axe completely undermines the idea that honesty is the best policy. So we've got these three derelicts roamin' around, usin' guys faces for ashtrays an playin' William Tell with convenience store clerks who take refuge in an old farm house. But the cops show up, and rather than stop to think that maybe if the car they've been lookin' for is parked out front the hoodlums could be inside, they take the girl at her word when she tells 'em she ain't seen any goodfellas 'round here. The fact that they can see the murder-mobile coupled with the fact that the girl's either scared shitless or a graduate of the Kristen Stewart academy for emotionally drained actresses means nothing, because they *trust* her. It's that way of thinkin' that costs these poor criminals their pulses, cause she hasn't done anything to directly suggest the guys're inside, so the cops just drop it. That's where the honor system gets you. Late to the party an a mountain of paperwork. Golden Rule's a buncha bull too, just for the record. The "two wrongs make a right" folks though, they've got things figured out.
Anyway, what this one lacks in originality it makes up for with a gangster that looks just like Bob Ross, so make sure you read and understand these important bits of wisdom. First, takin' a razor blade to the back of somebody's neck is just as effective as usin' it on the two major arteries in the front. So if you're afraid your old tennis elbow injury's gonna flare up on you, don't bother reachin' the extra distance, it'll be fine. Second, always lift with your legs when carryin' your associate's corpse upstairs in a trunk. You could strain your lower lumbar area an be unable to make it to your next tapin' of The Joy of Painting. An third, the second floor is the ideal place to keep not only your fireplace, but also your comatose, wheelchair bound grandfather. Lets face it, ridin' down those stairs at 50mph is probably the only fun the guy ever has. But the thing that's got me pullin' out hair about this one is the average person's complete an utter inability to deduce the obvious. Stumblin' haplessly through life with fate as your co-pilot, not unlike Boris Yeltsin leavin' the pivnaya, is no way to go through life. Like I was sayin' earlier with the cops not bein' able to put together that if the criminals' car is sittin' outside in broad daylight, maybe they're nearby, these cops make Barney Fife look like Matlock. Seriously, Stevie Wonder can see what's goin' on here, what's wrong with these guys? It's this inability to piece together the simplest bits of information that makes scammin' such a lucrative career for people that can actually deduce useful information from the available data. Goin' back further into the movie though, you've got these same rebels without a script beatin' the tar outta some guy an then askin' 'im if the cigar smoke bothers 'im. Now, whaddya suppose the guy that asked the question is leadin' up to if you were to say yes to that question? Best case scenario he blows a cloud of tar an lung exhaust into your face causin' permanent emphysema. Worst case, he snuff's it out on your cornea. What positive outcome could anybody possibly see in a situation like this, wherein somebody that just finished leavin' "Jefferson High Class of '62" imprints all over your face suddenly decides to treat you with courtesy? Is that part of these people's brains just missin'? Did they just shut it off cause havin' it run in the background was slowin' everything else down like tryin' to run Spybot an play Diablo II with a Pentium Celeron processor? Does it just turn 'em on to know that they're so mentally inept that they could be taken advantage of at any moment? I guess some things man is simply not meant to know.
The movie begins with Bob Ross (havin' recently joined a criminal syndicate) waitin' around with his two associates in an apartment checkin' to see if any of the lingerie in the closet accentuates their curves. Soundtrack by 5 year old with a new drum set an beatniks in an opium den playin' bongos. Eventually, the guys they've been waitin' for come home, an when they step inside the room Lomax the Lummox grabs ahold of the one they're lookin' for an the boss (Steele) turns his face into ground chuck an asks 'im if he finds Lummox's cigar smoke offensive. Up to that point, the guy thought that was just part of Lummox's natural blend of B.O. an naturally occurin' cheese from under his jowls but eventually acknowledges that Lummox does in fact reek like an outdoor flea market in Louisiana. So Steele takes the cigar an butts it out right on the guy's tongue an the guy starts screamin' like a vegetarian that found a chunk of bacon in their tofu sammich. Then Lummox an Steele beat the tar outta the cameraman til the victim dies from sympathy pains, an once they start discussin' what to do about the other guy he Supermans out the window. It's only 9 floors down so he should be able to get up an shake it off before too long, but yeesh, some people're so sensitive about smoke, what a pansy. Once everything's overwith, Bob's just kinda standin' around feelin' sorry for himself like he was misled about what the life of a small time criminal entails, cause all he ever wanted to do was paint landscapes an make people question his heterosexuality. You can hardly blame 'im for bein' taken in though, those criminal recruitment pamphlets really glamorize the lifestyle an downplay the nasty stuff, like beatin' guys to death with a pool cue when they don't pay up. Once they leave the apartment they stop in at a convenience store so they can huck fruit at the cashier til they get bored of that an make her remove her blouse so they can see her produce. Then they put an apple on her head an play William Tell only she won't quit blubberin' an the apple keeps fallin' off so Steele has to shoot a ketchup bottle an leave tomato bukakke all over her face an pour a bottle of Coke onto her jugs so she has to spend the rest of the night tryin' to pry 'em apart after they stick together. Coke: "Look for the Real Things." So anyway, they get back in the car an Bob is thoroughly appalled an startin' to regret droppin' outta art school. Meanwhile, at a farm house out in the wild green yonder, a girl (Lisa) wanders out into the chicken house, grabs one, caresses it lovingly, then sets it down on her splittin' log an takes its head off with a hatchet while hummin' "I feel like Chicken Tonight." Then she takes her comatose grandfather a bowl of raw eggs an holds it up to his mouth so he can start trainin' for his big fight with Apollo Creed.
All grandpa ever does is sit around an watch TV, an really he's not even gettin' the genuine experience outta that cause Lisa's too god damn useless to crawl out onto the roof an fiddle with the antenna so the picture'll quit flippin' like circus midgets. Granted, I dunno that it's all that important to really SEE what happens on The Newlywed Game; still, fuggin' kid's a waste of oxygen. Anyway, once he's had his eggs, she starts givin' 'im a sponge bath til Bob'n the bandits show up an Steele sends Lummox around to the back door to absorb the first wave of pitchforkin' should it come to that. But about that time he spots Lisa in the upstairs window an enters through the front. As you can probably tell, we're dealin' with some bad asses here, gotta pincer attack a brain dead country bumpkin. So they meet up inside an once they spot Lisa they tell her their buddy's stomach's churnin' like butter in Amish country an they need a place to crash so he'll quit pukin' all over the upholstery an pretty much invite themselves over for a slumber party. Then they go check out Gramps to make sure he ain't just fakin' the whole comatose thing to get outta choppin' firewood, only the cops show up an they have to send Lisa out an tell 'em to ignore that suspicious lookin' car in the driveway an to stay offa her dirt farm. Once the cops're gone they make her cook 'em up some KFC original recipe while Lummox pitches a tent an spits chicken shrapnel all over Steele. Bob don't like the way Lummox's lookin' at Lisa, or the way you're never quite sure what he's doin' with his other hand, an takes off after her when she leaves. Lummox an Steele give chase but they're easily winded from all the smokin' an give up pretty quickly. Then Bob goes to see Lisa an interrupts her while she's tryin' to draw a map from her wrist to her elbow with a razor an apologizes for his rude and uncouth friends. He's sure she'll really like 'em once she gets to know 'em. Next thing, everybody's in Gramps' room where Lummox is puttin' a baseball cap on 'im an bendin' the bill up so he looks like Gomer Pyle til Bob leaves in disgust again. Steele an Lummox just don't get what his problem is lately, he USED to be cool, afterall. Later that night, Lummox can't sleep on account of the obnoxious tambourine soundtrack an goes to introduce his trouser snake to Lisa while she's sleepin', only he don't get too far cause by the time he can finally get his girdle unhitched an plop onto her like a horse turd on a city street, she gets ahold of the straight razor she hid in the night stand an slices so deep into the back of his neck that she severs his brain from his spinal column. If you've ever tried to cut fat off a pork chop before you know how hard this is, but she doesn't have any trouble at all, an pretty quick Lummox's vacant expression becomes permanent. That's what you'd call leavin' the men wantin' less.
Then she goes into the bathroom to see if even an experience as traumatic as attempted rape can put a little emotion on her face, but there's still nothin', so she scrubs the Lummox offa her an drags 'im into the bathroom an spends most of the night choppin' 'im up into haggis an rinsin' 'im outta the tub. In the mornin', she's up bright an early for the usual farm chores; egg gatherin', cow milkin', draggin' Lummox towards the attic after stuffin' 'im into a trunk, ya know, the usual. Only she's pretty tuckered out after draggin' his bloated hind end into the bathtub an swingin' for the fence all night like Reggie Jackson so Bob does the buddy thing an offers to help. One step at a time, Bob hefts the trunk upstairs into the attic, sweatin' like Jerry Sandusky in the communal prison shower an gettin' a double hernia, til he finally reaches the top an collapses onto the chest. Only when he looks down he realizes his hands're bloodier than the dispense button on a tampon vending machine an opens up the trunk to find Lummox inside with that same stupid look on his face. It's almost like he's still alive. Bob's confused. Bob's damn confused. So he asks Lisa what happened an she tells 'im Steele did it. So Bob drags her off into the woods where they can talk an along the way she conveniently pretends to trip right where she ditched her murder weapons the night before an once they stop, Bob starts ramblin' somethin' about happy little trees while Lisa opens up her straight razor an moves it towards Bob's jugular region. Bob's a little naive, an he thinks she's just passin' it to 'im so he can use it on Steele, so after he pockets it he tells her to go back to the house an act like she dunno anything. Fortunately, that's one of her specialties. But once she makes it back to Cheateau Stillo, Steele's waitin' for her an he wants to know what the heck's goin' on, where his cronies are, an why his continental breakfast is late. So she fixes 'im a sammich an while he's eatin' it he starts hittin' on her til she gets this look on her face like the one she's had for the entire movie an tells 'im she needs to go upstairs an make sure Gramps ain't doin' anything weird like breakdancin' on his head. That's how he ended up like this in the first place an he knows better. Then Steele gets real mad an drags her upstairs so he can defile her right in front of Gramps, but she's really had it with these guys not respectin' the sanctity of her chastity belt an after she wrestles with 'im for awhile she gets ahold of her conveniently placed axe an starts diggin' for gold inside Steele's chest cavity. By the time Bob gets back she's hidden Steele's carcass an prepared a nice lunch for him an Gramps, but by this point even the dimwitted Bob is startin' to think it's a little odd that the hardened criminals are disappearin' an the two comatose residents seem to continuously escape unscathed. Will cut here so you can discover for yourselves how Bob reacts when he's finally able to do the math.
Alrighty, this one's saved almost entirely by its creepy, claustrophobic atmosphere. You've seen the story before, and with a few minor tweaks, Axe is pretty much what happens if Wes Craven had only a fifth of his already meager budget when he made Last House on the Left, and suffered an aneurism during filming. You can also just as easily make that same assertion with Peckinpah and Straw Dogs. Honestly, that's not quite fair, though. The movie's biggest problem is how slowly it plods along. Even at 1:08 it somehow manages to drag, although certainly not as badly as it would have if they'd padded it. Still, the movie was shot for about 75 cents, and seems to have been snipped down to almost nothing, specifically for its upcoming drive-in circuits. It's been theorized by one of the guys that worked on the movie (Richard Helms), that it may very well have been made so short so people wouldn't stay away from the concession stands for too long. I personally don't buy that, at least in the sense that that sort of approach would work, because people went to the concession stands anyway the moment the movie started to bog down. Which, if you were to tack 20 minutes onto this one, that'd provide more than ample opportunity for it to grind to a halt and encourage trips to the concessions. I think they made it this short because it was simply the best way to make their movie. It's already a little slow at 1:08. I can imagine Friedel and Patterson sitting in the editing room watching this thing, with 10, 15, or even 20 minutes more run time, and logic must've dictated to them at the time that all that extra footage was useless. It wasn't going to make the movie better, it was gonna make it worse. That's just my optimistic take on what may or may not have happened. For all I know Helms' assertion of why it's so short may be completely accurate, but my way's less depressing. But this is another instance where it's worth looking at the budget before passing judgement too harshly. I'd imagine the budget on this one is probably half that of The Corpse Grinders. The budget was so low that the crew had a single camera, and often only did one take in an attempt to preserve as much of their film as they could. That's pretty god damn low budget. And impressive. The movie, while probably just short of good, is better than it has any business being, under the circumstances. You've gotta respect what they were able to do, with what they had, and the methods they employed. They didn't try anything that they knew was beyond them, and in all honesty, they've got pretty decent production values for the money they had available. With that said, all movies must be judged with the same standards in mind, so it's moment of truth time.
Okay, lets Axe it up into tiny pieces an see how gangrene'd the meat is. The plot is, as previously mentioned, Straw Dogs meets Last House on the Left. But as long as people're stealing ideas that're worthwhile, it doesn't bother me. The plot, very honestly, is dull, but plot isn't critical to the success of a horror movie. A razor thin plot line can always be excused if the creators make up for it in other departments, though if you've got a good plot you're already way ahead of the game in this genre. So the plot's pretty inconsequential and serves only as a means to get characters we're supposed to loathe to where they've gotta be if they're gonna get hacked up into beef stroganoff. The acting, honestly isn't too bad. It's not "bad", I'll say, though it's a bit drab at times. Seriously though, with a budget like this, if you can say the movie doesn't have any legitimately bad acting, that's a huge victory. Leslie Lee gets a pass on the basis that her character is insane in the membrane, and so, her emotionless state works due to the way the character is written. Maybe she really didn't have any talent, I dunno, but that's not going to be held against her with a character like this one. The villains are alright, but they're lazily written. Meaning, they don't have the talent to convey genuine menace, so the writers make 'em would be rapists. It's lazy, but if nothing else, it does make us hate them.
Here's who matters an why, try not to blink or you may miss it; Jack Canon (Maximum Overdrive, Scanners), Jeff McKay (Midnight Offerings), David Hayman (Lord of Darkness), Don Cummins (Spawn of the Slithis). And of course, Smith Hart (Bret and Owen Hart's brother) as the inconsequential detective. You can see what a hit this movie was by how everyone's careers really took off afterwards. The special effects are decent, but there's nothing the least bit original, or particularly graphic. Some razor slices and a few axe wounds. The really graphic scene where Leslie Lee hacks up Ray Green is almost completely off screen. Why this was put on the Video Nasties list in Britain back in the day, I'll never understand. Anyway, what they've got is okay, but they haven't got much at all. Blood's too light in color, too. Shooting locations are alright, the farm house was just that, a vacated farm house. Not sure if it was vacated just for the movie or if it was abandoned, but I like it. Authenticity like this brings something that shooting on a set never could. Otherwise, not much of interest, an apartment, a convenience store, an that's about all. The soundtrack is not so much good or bad as it is strange. Mostly bongos an tambourines. Obviously there wasn't any budget for any scoring, but most of the music comes off as having been recorded at a pot party the crew had back in 1968. It really brings nothing to the movie but I can't say it hurts it all that much either. Bottom line, it's a good effort, but not a good movie. Check it out if you're looking for something a little more obscure, or if you're a big fan of Last House on the Left. But in reality, it only makes you wanna watch Last House on the Left.