Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Axe to Grind
The story of Axe to Grind is a bit meta in it's approach. The movie is about an aging B-movie scream queen named Debbie (played by low budget horror legend Debbie Rochon) who has found out that she has been cut out of her latest horror movie to make room for a trio of new, young, fresh faces. To make matters worse, the producer of the movie is Debbie's former husband and he is now sleeping with a much younger new scream queen. Debbie doesn't take all of this very well and like the film title states, she has an axe to grind.
The movie within the movie that is being filmed is called Bayou Butcher yet it is being filmed in a hospital. When one of the actresses asks, "won't the audience wonder where the bayou is?" the director tells her that, "if the audience is wondering that, then you're not doing your job working those ta ta's." The cocky director is also very proud of the minor recognition he has received, proudly announcing at one point his "Best Director, Scream Fest 2012" award. This is the world the film creates for itself, an extremely self aware and mocking view of the low budget horror movie business. The film knows the stereotypical production aesthetics behind the genre and plays them up. For example, one scene is a pre-filming party full of drinking and a lack of respect for the material whereas another scene is used to introduce the three new young stars of the film in a playful and fan friendly way. This scene shows each actress individually and it freeze frames on them and displays the films they are known for thus far with such fun titles as "Blood Orgy", "Exorcist Nymphs", and my personal favorite, "I Deficate on Your Grave". It's a fun moment for sure, and a moment that all horror fans will enjoy and relate to.
The production value of Axe to Grind is a bit of a mixed bag. While this is to be expected with low budget horror, it didn't always feel consistent here. The film has a nice glossy, sharp look to it but the lighting seemed to wash out some of the scenes and color the actors with a harsh appearance. This lighting happens more so in the beginning third of the movie. Also, there is some CGI blood splatter used whereas other scenes use practical effects and real blood. The practical effects here are very well done, (lots of axe killings going on) and that just serves to make the CGI splatter more noticeable. But this is more of an observation than a complaint.
But I want to get to the real reason why this movie works: Debbie Rochon. This is her show and her performance is full of vengeful energy and crazy fun. She is horror legend for a reason and this movie demonstrates why. Rochon always has a bit of crazy in her eyes, a mad spark that can spread to flames in the time it takes for her to lower a knowing smile. This role is close to Debbie Rochon herself, a low budget horror icon who has been around for decades at this point and has earned respect through the work she has done and career she has built. With horror being filled with one twenty-something after another, the faces begin to blur together. Not many females age with the genre and stay relevant, they fall victim to the exact thing that Axe to Grind presents: fresh young faces. The character Debbie may have to resort to the bloody violence she has only portrayed on screen in order to get a sense of redemption and hold onto the spotlight. But Debbie Rochon need only continue to be who she is to stay relevant: a serious actress giving fearless performances.
After all, when her character is introduced in the movie, the freeze frame flashes "The Meryl Streep of Horror". That's not for her character, that's for Debbie Rochon.
Check out Axe to Grind for a meta, bloody good time.