EDGE OF AXE: A SLASHER WITH A TOUCH OF SPANISH COLOUR
By Erika Tiburcio
AL FILO DEL HACHA (EDGE OF AXE) was a film directed by Jose Ramón Larraz (who appears as Joseph Braunstein in the opening credits) in 1988. This director is known by other works as SYMPTOMS (1974) or DEVIATION (1971) and the cast has popular actors such as Jack Taylor (Christopher Caplin), Patty Shepard (Laura Simmons), Page Mosely (Richard Simmons) or Christina Marie Lane (Lillian Nebbs). The plot is also really simple and appealing for the audience who enjoyed this kind of flicks: some young women start to be killed by a masked guy with an axe.
As we can guess, this film follows the slasher model, which was very popular in those years due to being very cheap movies and easy to shoot. Although it is considered that this subgenre was born after HALLOWEEN (John Carpenter, 1978), what is true, it was FRIDAY 13TH (Sam Cunnigham, 1980) the real responsible for the exploitation of these movies. The formula is quite simple: a masked murderer starts killing people and, at the end of the story, the monster is discovered. Obviously, this horror genre, with a realistic bloody style, wouldn’t have shown up, if it hadn’t been for the Italian giallo flicks. AL FILO DEL HACHA takes all the features found in both subgenres: a killer with recognizable costume and weapon, graphic violent murders, real settings and a human monster. Indeed, the fact that this movie is a Spanish and American co-production and the convential use of horror tools (jump scares, electronical grating soundtrack, chiaroscuro lightning for murder scenes) explain the interest of Larraz to make a movie that can be as popular as other slasher titles.
From a historical point of view, this film shows a feeling of insecurity that is found in all 80s slasher flicks, due to no place is safe. Indeed, all women are killed in outdoor places (a car-wash, a road, in the woods) but one, that is killed in her house. Further, all victims are young, work and they are independent, what is understood by many authors (Robin Wood, Linda Williams) as a misogynistic reaction to the new model of women, influenced by the feminism and its challenged to the established order. Regarding the murderer, who finally is Lillian, is described as a brutal killer who is crazy and unable to socialize in her society. Labelled as an insane person places her outside normalcy, what immediately turns her into the monster. Despite her crimes, he can go on with her life because she isn’t caught, whose messase reinforces the feeling of insecurity on the audience. It is important to take into account that, in the Cold War, many paranoid fears have been developed by the American society (to serial killers, disturbed children, satanism, etc.) because, during the Reagan Administration, there was a discourse based on understanding evil as a result of sins instead of being a consequence of the social and economical unequality. Finally, craziness is presented as an incurable illness that can trigger a murder spree.
To sum up, AL FILO DEL HACHA is a slasher movie which follows the American formula and offers the spectator what he is seeking. Despite its plot twist and its great introduction of the masked murderer at the beginning of the flick, it is not outstanding in comparison with other titles.
Erika Tiburcio (nancykrueger) lives in Madrid and works as a teacher. Currently she is doing her PhD thesis about the serial killer in American horror movies from Psycho to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. She loves horror movies, comic books, video games, etc. She has contributed to some Spanish websites and magazines like Phenomena Experience magazine and La Mansión del Terror and has written some articles for different international magazines like Serial Killer Calendar.