Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Axed (2012): Half-thoughts on the economy

Axed (2012)
dir: Ryan Lee Driscoll

One of the dangers of shoehorning social commentary into your movie is that you might get tired of the commentary, or lose your way and finish your movie with a bunch of cliches. It's happened to directors good and bad, on all types of budget. You think you're going in for something entertaining, then you get asked to think about something, and then the movie never finishes its thought.

This is the problem with Axed, a British horror movie which seems like its going to attempt to be about the economic landscape and ends up being a slasher horror movie. By the end of Axed, it loses its way.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The central figure of Axed is Kurt Wendell, a married father of 2 who is fired in the opening scene before throwing a temper tantrum of despair in the parking garage. After being fired, he takes his family to the countryside in order to kill them.

This sounds promising. A man who could possibly be at the end of his financial ropes decides that it would be easier to kill his family than to try getting another job. It's happened in real life. It's a devastating reality that focuses on the everyday stress of regular working stiffs. The disappearing middle class.

But, Ryan Lee Driscoll tacks on a lot of extra baggage. Kurt Wendell is an overbearing abusive tyrant of a father and husband. He mocks his son for being bullied and beaten at school. He yells at his daughter for wearing a semi-revealing dress. He admonishes his wife for not teaching the children how to behave. And, that's all at the breakfast table. Kurt is an abusive man to begin with, and the whole family's behavior acknowledges this.

When Kurt unexpectedly takes the family on a countryside vacation that day, the day after he is fired, his family goes along with it to not make him mad, and they constantly walk on eggshells to try not to upset him. By the time we get to the country house, we can tell that Kurt was an asshole well before he got fired, and that he should have been ditched long ago.

Driscoll then adds on a lot of games to the movie. Kurt has already kidnapped and tied up his former boss, whom has been sleeping with Kurt's wife. He then plays cutesy abusive games with the family foretelling that the home life isn't so peachy keen after all. The financial burden of losing his job is just a final straw, and is barely mentioned outside of a couple conversations. The rest is just on a Funny Games esque scenario.

The biggest problem with Axed is namely follow-through. Driscoll has a dynamite concept about everyday finance that he abandons for family game playing that he abandons for slasher movie tropes that we've seen a million times. Even the small details of Axed lack follow-through. For example, Kurt collects everybody's cell phone, but the daughter has a spare for some reason, and uses it to call her boyfriend, but not the police. This lack of follow-through with a concept is just plain silly at best.

Another big problem is that the acting is pumped up to 11, though with the dialogue and scenario there's not much more that you can do to make it believable. Jonathon Hansler's Kurt Wendell is like a psychotic John Cleese, crying and falling apart constantly while storming around full of self-righteous anger. It's kind of fun watching him do it, but there is no ramp up. It starts at 11 and he has nowhere to go, really. Pretty much everybody stays on the same volume for the whole movie, and it's really just that nobody has much of an arc.

I do hope somebody remakes Axed. It's a concept that deserves far better treatment than this. It's not scary, it's been done before, and it isn't as fun as it thinks it is.

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