A group of shallow, unlikable 20 somethings get together to rekindle their college friendships at an abandoned cabin in the woods. The cabin left empty for twenty years because of the serial murders that took place around Cutter’s Creek (Hence the original title Axeman at Cutter’s Creek, which actually is an evocative title and ripe for building a legend around.) Sound familiar? If not you probably should go back to watching your Twilight movies because it’s the same fucking plot for about two hundred other movies made since 1980. Probably two hundred of which are better than your favorite flick. Sorry…Twilight rage off…trying to control zombie film rage…never mind this is a slasher.
Hobbled by the fact that director/actor Joston Theney (who happens to play the token black guy Darren) tries really hard to pay homage to the slasher flicks of the heyday Axeman relies on the similar tropes with a few modern twists. Twist one there is a lesbian couple. Sadly one of which has a rockin’ body but is hit in the face ugly. Twist two…uhm…never mind there is only one twist and it’s a small one. Well, I guess there are two. In a daring casting move Axeman must have sent out a cattle call for actual cattle. As a matter of fact, rarely has P.D. seen so many homely and unlikable characters gathered in one flick. Instead of being worried about them I was hoping The Axeman would show up and finish them off…preferably with an axe but for some reason he rarely fucking uses one! He should be The Sharp Pointy Thing Guy, or The Camera Stomping Guy instead of The Axeman. Most of the time he’s attacking the camera and CGI blood flies everywhere.
The Axeman (former NBA pro Scot Pollard who’s almost seven feet tall) is pretty much ineffective as he smiles when he kills and generally begins the kill off screen and is standing posed as the camera pans to him…happened at least three times and gives him a very static and unmoving feel. He wears a rain coat and ball cap that says “Titties” I shit you not. He is the gooniest and most boring serial killer imaginable, the dude even shows his fucking I.D. to the Sheriff (Brinke Stevens in a blink if you miss her role) after he tells her his name is Bill (?!) and there is no explanation or motivation for why he does it. This ain’t Michael Myers, it’s some goober who doesn’t even use the weapon he’s named after for fuck’s sake.
The dialog comes across a decade too young for the characters speaking it making the principals that much more unbearable. Some choice lines, “You want to put your Twinkie in my Suzi Q.” and “My name is Paul and that’s between y’all.” Who the fuck says shit like that? I’ve heard and read good things about Axeman but I think it’s about a different film called Axeman. Though the direction is decent (I will definitely check out Joston Theney’s next effort) the story is boring, the characters are one dimensional, the eye candy is ugly and the killer is laughable. Seriously this is one major ensemble of ugly.
To call the pacing uneven would be kind, this flick is all over the place. Tiffany Shepis buys it within the first five minutes along with some other kills then it slows to a crawl after stampeding out of the starting gate. Oh…spoiler alert. It takes an hour for any boobs to show up and when they do it’s in a “We need to talk…” scene as Tammy and Liz try to build up some slightly more than superficial back story but it’s definitely too little too late. This is pretty amazing considering all the characters seem to do is prattle on and on yet there is no depth to any of them. It’s also been a good chunk of time since the second person in the group bought it so it was like watching paint dry. Gimmick casting fouls up the works as Brinke Stevens is wasted in a small role and Tiffany Shepis shows up to sneer some as one of the comically disfigured or face tattooed bad guys in the opening scene. She happens to be the one with the tattoo.
The CG blood is ridiculous which is a shame because the practical effects, when used, are quite good. When in doubt sling some grue. Seems to have worked for a lot of folks. Not only is there too much CG the setting…the cabin or bungalow or whatever it is in the woods…gets real frigging boring real quick. Midnight Releasing’s DVD of Axeman includes trailers, extended scenes and bloopers. This one falls somewhere between not horrible and okay. If you like slashers check it out. If that sub genre does not appeal to you avoid it.
Once in a while a movie shows up that really plays like an 80’s slasher flick. I’m not talking about an homage like HATCHET, which is fun in its own right for its own reasons, but a movie that would not be at all out of place with a VHS copy sitting on a shelf next to MADMAN or THE FOREST. Eamon Hardimon’s PORKCHOP succeeded as such in 2010 and I am happy to say Cameron McCasland’s THE LASHMAN succeeds this year.
The story follows the tried and true arc of the slasher genre. The film grabs the viewers attention with a busty blonde (Alea Jordan) displaying her goods before the titular legend shows up and makes mincemeat of her and her beau (Joe Downing). Billy (David Vaughn) is finishing up his last day at work before the weekend trip he is taking with his girlfriend and friends. Stacy (Stacey Dixon), her brother Bobby (Shawn C. Phillips), and Dan (Jeremy Jones) with his girlfriend Jan (Kaylee Williams) round out the group. Dan is not thrilled that Bobby is tagging along and to tell the truth, when I saw who was playing Bobby, neither was I. They stop off at the last gas station before there destination where they encounter crazy
Ralph Eustice (Larry Underwood) ranting, raving and gleefully cackling about how the Lashman will get them.
The young folks arrive at the cabin and start to set things up as Billy gets an eyeful from Jan. Dan’s later pass at Stacy helps crank up the tension between the group’s young lovers while Bobby is mostly unsure of the relationships going on around him and is just happy to have been invited along. The gang has their last big bash-including drinking, campfire tales and sex-at the cabin in the woods before The Lashman of legend shows up like hell on wheels.
Billy explains the legend of The Lashman that Eustice had previously mentioned. A renowned leathersmith moved to an insular town where he was not welcome. Eventually the townspeople get together and torture him to death and a witch of sorts ensures he will be able to get vengeance. For some reason he exacts his vengeance on young men, nubile girls, and bumbling sheriff’s deputies. Murky plot point aside, The Lashman is an original idea for a supernatural killer. He sports a duster, hat and bandanna and is played to menacing perfection by Lee Vervoort. The secondary plot lines bide the time between Lashman’s violent attacks and the final slaughter and pursuit is fast paced and well staged when the killing starts in earnest.
The young cast perform yeoman’s work as each does a good job bringing the slasher archetypes to life. The most surprising performance comes from none other than Shawn C. Phillips of whom I have been critical in the past. I will admit I was a tad put off when I noticed his name in the credits but he did a dandy of a job as Bobby. I found myself enjoying him in this role and hope to see him continue taking roles beyond comedy relief. In THE LASHMAN he has shown himself more capable than that.
Besides a couple of awkward shots the film is well done visually. It is vexed by sound issues as many independent productions can be. The sound is uneven and sometimes washed out and though distracting it shouldn’t prevent anyone who likes slashers from enjoying this film. THE LASHMAN premiered at the 2014 Full Moon Tattoo and Horror Festival and if a screening makes its way to your neck of the woods check it out.