Starring Barton Faulks, Christina Marie Lane, Page Moseley, Fred Holliday
Directed by Jose Ramon Larraz
Distributed by Arrow Video
By the time 1988 rolled around the glory days of the slasher film had long since waned, but foreign filmmakers had a tendency to jump on American trends a bit late – enter Spain’s Jose Ramon Larraz, who set his sights on Southern California for an axe-wielding adventure in the woods, Edge of the Axe (1988). There isn’t any particular quality about Larraz’s film that makes it unique among a sea of similar pictures… until you get to the kills… and then the Big Reveal. But really, the axe murders are what take this film up a notch because they’re extremely brutal; and it isn’t so much the blood as it is the hits. The murderer has a swing like a pro baseball player and the impact is pretty visceral. One thing you can always count on when it comes to foreign horror: it’s gonna be bloody. Well, maybe two things because sex and nudity are also ubiquitous. But for Larraz the axe is the only thing doing any penetrating and his “sex scenes” are painful, never-over-quick murders.
A couple of 20something pals – tech geek Gerald (Barton Faulks) and exterminator Richard (Page Moseley) – head out together to look into an awful smell coming from the local bar and wind up finding the body of a missing employee, Mary West. Soon after that unexpected occurrence Gerald meets Lillian (Christina Marie Lane), a nice local girl who shares the same interests. They quickly hit it off. Meanwhile, the murders around this quiet Northern California town are beginning to increase in frequency. As one man puts it in the film, “It’s ma-cab-er!” At least the kills come with their own soundtrack, as the movie features a meta country tune after yet another woman is hacked to pieces. I got a great legit laugh out of it. The sheriff, who is a real dick, doesn’t want to believe any of the investigating Gerald and Lillian have been doing on their own time – even when they find a possible link between the victims. Is he hiding something? Somebody is. That’s usually how these things work.
The killer is like a Spanish Michael Myers, sporting an all-white mask that, unlike Michael, has a closed mouth and is more formed to the face. It’s creepy. I dig it. And yea, like I mentioned before the people meeting the titular edge of the axe are in for a painful final few moments. I’m so used to seeing slasher films that have been gutted by the MPAA that it was a bit shocking to see such savagery where most other films would have had to cut away. You can really “feel” the hits.
Slasher films set in the woods feel right, but knowing this was shot in Big Bear, CA made it even cooler because I’ve been going to that town for winter fun and snowboarding for over 25 years. I could tell it was Big Bear before I found the information online and it was a nice surprise that a Spanish production chose to shoot way up there, on top of the mountain, to simulate a Northern California town.
There are a few minor characters among the cast but mostly everyone is just average or bad. Not like any of us are watching this for the acting. It isn’t until the ending when a nice bit of subversion comes into play, giving this film an actual edge over some of its similar siblings. No spoilers though I will say it plays out fairly novel for a film that doesn’t appear to be worth much more than the sum of its scenes of slaughter. I hope it doesn’t sound like I didn’t enjoy the film, though, because I had quite a bit of fun with it. Larraz only made one more picture in his career after this film, Deadly Manor (1990), which fittingly also just received a remastered release from Arrow Video…
…and if that picture looks half as good as the 1.85:1 1080p image here fans are gonna salivate because this thing looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous. How many superlatives can I throw out here? It’s clean, clear, pristine, finely detailed, vibrantly saturated – even the nighttime scenes look stellar. I can’t find much fault here, if any. Slasher films don’t normally look this good on home video but leave it to the fine folks at Arrow Video to exceed all expectations as usual.
Audio is determined via a “Choose Version” selection screen, giving viewers the choice of either the English or Spanish versions of the film, both with an LPCM 1.0 mono track. Since most of the actors are clearly speaking English, and it’s dubbed anyway, I went with the English track and found no fault. Except for whomever they got to dub Trevor’s voice because it is laughably bad. Otherwise it’s another exceptional effort across the board.
- Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
- English and Spanish language versions of the feature
- Original uncompressed mono audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
- Newly translated English subtitles for the Spanish soundtrack
- Brand new audio commentary with actor Barton Faulks
- Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
- Newly-filmed interview with actor Barton Faulks
- The Pain in Spain – a newly-filmed interview with special effects and make-up artist Colin Arthur
- Image Gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
- First pressing only: Collector s booklet featuring new writing by Amanda Reyes
This film might not reinvent the slasher wheel but it does take plenty of hard whacks in an effort to smash it. Arrow Video has done such an excellent job breathing new life into this forgotten film that I have to recommend it to fans of the genre for both its brutality and the beauty of its picture.