Directed by Ford Austin
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one
The Curse of Lizzie Borden is a film I probably wouldn’t have bothered with if not for stumbling across the trailer online about two months ago. I know it was meant to be a horror movie that didn’t take itself totally seriously, but the trailer still left me howling with laughter for reasons I doubt were entirely what the filmmakers had in mind. I decided to give The Curse of Lizzie Borden a chance in hopes that, if nothing else, it at least made for some high camp. Well, sadly, aside from a few fleeting moments along the way and the uproariously laughable last five minutes, The Curse of Lizzie Borden is a crushing bore of a film; so boring that I just wanted to start screaming in anguish. The last five minutes are indeed laugh out loud funny – not sure the filmmakers intended it to be so much so – but getting to those last five minutes is a long, arduous task that requires you to sit through the nothingness that is the other 95% of the film.
For those living under a rock and are not familiar with the tale of Lizzie Borden, she was a young Massachusetts woman that allegedly murdered her parents in 1892. Lizzie was acquitted of the charges, and the murders remain one of the greatest unsolved crimes in American history. Everyone to this day still assumes she did it. Her infamy lives on thanks in large part to the famous nursery rhyme I opened this review with.
If you would like to learn more about the legend of Lizzie Borden, then you’ll enjoy the first act of The Curse of Lizzie Borden; pretty much nothing whatsoever happens other than a discussion of the facts and the legend surrounding Lizzie Borden. As for me, I swear if I never hear any factoids about Lizzie Borden ever again, it will be too soon.
The movie opens with a flashback recreation of Lizzie Borden axe-murdering her parents. If you miss this reenactment – don’t worry; the movie will repeat this flashback recreation almost a half dozen more times before it’s over.
Repetition is a major problem with this movie. Facts about Lizzie Borden are repeated ad nauseum. Entire lines of dialogue from previous conversations get repeated. Sometimes characters reiterate things repeatedly within the same scene. The real curse of Lizzie Borden is a really bad movie that’s so tedious it’s enough to drive a person to commit an axe murder.
Now it’s off to a college class where a professor is teaching his half dozen students about (what else?) the legend of Lizzie Borden. Young blonde student Cassy already begins having Lizzie Borden related hallucinations (the first repeat of the murder reenactment that we had just seen mere minutes earlier) just from hearing the professor talking about the Lizzie Borden story. The professor announces that tomorrow the class would be meeting at the home of Josiah Moody, the eccentric proprietor of a local Lizzie Borden museum. I guess “eccentric” was just a simpler way to describe a guy that looks like an older, chubbier Divine in a Burt Reynolds toupee who doesn’t know how not to overact badly.
But first Cassy and her boyfriend will engage in a slow-moving two-minute sex scene that consists of nothing more than kissing and nudity-free heavy petting.
The class gathers the next day at the home of Lizzie Borden enthusiast Josiah Moody. Even his home is a recreation of the Borden’s ancestral estate. We’re now 25 minutes into this thing when Josiah says, “I’d like to tell you all a story.” I wish someone would because there’s yet to be an actual story to this thing other than a college class going to a Lizzie Borden museum. Thirty seconds later – Josiah: “I won’t bore you…” Too frickin’ late!
Lizzie Borden died an old spinster in 1927. As legend tells, she did not rest in peace. Her spirit is said to haunt the home she supposedly murdered her parents in. Her ghost is said to appear before people holding an axe, imploring that person to “Kill! Kill! Kill!” Since her home is way up in Massachusetts, the filmmakers had to find another way to get Lizzie Borden’s spirit to wherever the film is set. Guess what? It turns out that Lizzie’s personal artifacts are also said to be possessed by Lizzie’s vengeful spirit. Case in point, a broach she had been given just a month before the murders. Do I even need to tell you that Cassy ends up with this broach and that the spirit of Lizzie Borden will take possession of her with murderous intent?
Cassy takes a live-in job at Mr. Moody’s Lizzie Borden-themed Halloween haunted house attraction playing you-know-who much to the dismay of her best friend and her boyfriend. You almost have to admire the boldness of a film in which everyone’s acting sounds like high school students auditioning for a play that dares to include a scene in which various characters chide another for being a bad actress. That takes cajones.
We’re now over halfway through this thoroughly boring flick. Finally, the obvious happens. Cassy, dressed like Lizzie Borden and wielding an axe, begins to do what Lizzie does best. Unfortunately, she only does it twice before the film’s last five minutes. Prior to that axe-swinging climax we’re treated to the slowest stalking scene in history of slasher filmdom (I mean slowest in terms of speed at which the characters are physically moving) and one of the most ludicrously staged backyard axe murders you’ll ever see.
As a matter of fact, that’s what this movie should have been called instead: Backyard Axe Murder Massacre. Look, I realize this is an ultra low budget production, but the sheer number of scenes that are set in the walled-up backyard at Moody’s house grows increasingly preposterous. I’d reckon that 50% of the movie takes place in this one backyard. There’s a fruit tree in this backyard that gets so much screen time I don’t understand why it didn’t get listed in the closing credits. That fruit tree was my favorite character.
I also couldn’t help but notice that despite seemingly gallons of blood flying in every direction whenever Cassy/Lizzie axe murdered someone, not a drop of that blood ever seemed to end up on her dress. I guess the dress was a rental and the film’s lack of budget meant dry cleaning was out of the question?
The rest of the film’s second half has Cassy’s friends wondering why Cassy is acting so strange while possessed Cassy chastises people for using vulgarity (Lizzie’s a prude) and prattles on about how she (Lizzie) sold her soul to Satan in order to one day go on a killing spree in order to get revenge against the townspeople that wrongfully accused her of her parents’ murders. Yeah, that’ll prove you innocence. I can’t wait for future generations to recycle this plot when they make The Curse of OJ Simpson.
The script even tries to throw us a curveball late in with the revelation that Cassy was mentally unstable to begin with. By this point I didn’t give a damn if Cassy was possessed by the spirit of an axe murderess or simply batshit insane just so long as people started getting axe murdered and the end of the movie drew closer.
I can’t even begin to describe what goes on in the utterly goofy last five minutes. It’s a small reward for the irredeemable awfulness that preceded it. I’ll just tell you that it’s set in that backyard and features Cassy/Lizzie swinging wildly with her axe, her boyfriend swinging wildly with his fists, people getting chopped to death, and a whole lot of hammy acting. If the rest of The Curse of Lizzie Borden were anywhere near as lively and fun as this finale, then this would have been a camp classic. But it’s not. And it’s not worth bothering with the film just to see this finale either.
I wouldn’t mind giving The Curse of Lizzie Borden 40 whacks with an axe, but instead I’ll just settle for one with a knife.
1 out of 5
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