Axed DVD Review
Written and directed by Ryan Lee Driscoll
2012, Region 2 (PAL), 84 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 30th July 2012
Jonathan Hansler as Kurt Wendell
Andrea Gordon as Steph Wendell
Nicola Posener as Megan Wendell
Christopher Rithin as Jay Wendell
Henry Douthwaite as Zack Peterson
Brandon Francis as Sam Weeks
“The world is in the grip of a major financial meltdown. Major companies are being forced to make severe cuts. Many will lose jobs, some will lose everything.” You don't have to tell us that, Axed, we're living it too. As its unsubtle pre-credits message suggests, Axed is a horror movie for the recession.
When an uptight dad is made redundant from his top city job, he decides to take the family out (literally) for a day in the countryside. It's not quite National Lampoon though – this is one vacation from which the family most likely won't return. Just ask the man he's keeping bound and gagged in the attic. Angry Dad's wife and teenage kids are in for some awkward family bonding time (also literally – the sort that involves ropes and gags) as he takes out his frustrations on them in the most vicious ways possible.
Despite a truly awful trailer that left me dreading the film, Axed is a creepy and entertaining psycho thriller which cannily plays on fears of loved ones turning bad and trying to kill you. The obvious point of reference is The Shining, although Angry Dad is never as scary as Jack Torrance. Jonathan Hansler, while giving it his best shot, is no Jack Nicholson. There's only one Jack Nicholson. Everyone else just suffers by comparison. Jonathan Hansler is more of a Steven Weber kind of psycho papa. It's more like Falling Down, taken to the extreme, if Michael Douglas had decided to stay at home and torture his family instead of acting like a bastard towards shop workers and gang bangers.
It's a breakdown, the film would have us believe, that could happen to anyone. I've been made redundant once – being unemployed can be a demeaning, insulting experience, especially in this day and age when the job centres and government have a tendency to blame the jobless rather than actually helping anyone. But Axed isn't interested in toying with the bigger picture. Angry Dad loses his job and immediately turns into an axe murderer. There's no subtext, and he already looked pretty dangerous to begin with. Axed is Office Space remade with a man's poor family being punished instead of a pinched printer. The best scene in the film sees Angry Dad giving out presents to his beloved family – revealing lingerie for his (supposedly) sexually precocious daughter, a gay porno mag for his 'sensitive' son and condoms for his unfaithful wife. And there was I thinking that my Gran giving me a Beano (“because he likes comics, doesn't he”) for Christmas was the worst present ever.
Angry Dad is ably supported by Posener, Gordon and Rithin, who manage to keep the action from feeling too silly. Christopher Rithin is particularly good as the shy, weak son. He's frequently undermined and bullied by Angry Dad, easily becoming the film's most sympathetic character. His arc is predictable but satisfying, quietly bubbling away in the background while Angry Dad and his sister provide the louder, gorier and more explosive drama.
Axed is an unsubtle, overly serious psycho thriller that thinks it's a lot cleverer than it is. However, it's well acted (even if it is on the melodramatic side), brief and occasionally quite tense, with an interesting if unoriginal story. You could do worse than spending your jobseekers' allowance on this little gem – although it might be worth waiting until it comes down to a more recession friendly price, first.
Video and Audio:
It looks and sounds low-budget, but that's entirely appropriate given the subject matter. There is a recession on, you know.
A behind the scenes featurette runs for half an hour, but gives little insight into the minds behind Axed, aside from the mechanics of making a movie.