Monday, January 16, 2017
The Axe Murders Of Villisca (2017)
DIRECTOR: Tony E. Valenzuela
Tony E. Valenzuela
Caleb and Denny are best friends who take a tour of the infamous Villisca House. The Villisca House is notorious for being the site of an unsolved mass murder where eight people were hacked to death with an axe, six of them being children. When a college girl tags along for the ride, they are kicked off the tour when she enters a room she shouldn't have. So the three of them decide to break into the Villisca house when it closes, and they soon discover something far darker than they had anticipated.
Being that I'm a horror movie fanatic, I have always had a significant interest in the paranormal and otherworldly. I've always been drawn to this whole idea that there is something more out there, be it aliens or even ghosts or other forces that we cannot see. I have also visited some of the creepiest places on Earth and still get a thrill out of planning trips to visit the ones I haven't had a chance to see yet. I think being the horror movie fan that I am, it opens up my mind more to the possibility of more being out there than just us.
My first taste of the Villisca murder case was in an episode of Ghost Adventures. I'm a massive fan of the show even if the show has become increasingly more silly over the years. A recent example of this was when the show and crew visited a location where the owners were undoubtedly high on meth, and Zac Bagans didn't even notice, yet the entire audience could clearly see it. I'd have seen a lot of paranormal activity as well if I was tripping balls while high on ice. Not hard to know when the two owners are chewing their faces off.
I got wind of this movie when I heard the director Tony E. Valenzuela doing a recent podcast with Dread Central. I had seen the poster in the past but completely forgot about the film. After listening to the podcast, I was excited to see the movie due to the director saying he had stayed in the location and you could clearly hear the love in his voice and dedication to getting the project off the ground. The time it took him to get it released and how staying in the location affected him. I also felt like being a fan of the paranormal and weird, I might get something out of this based solely on how much I enjoyed the director's commentary on the project.
I'm going to start with the positives of this film. The three leads are all great in their respective roles. I felt like all three characters were fleshed out in the beginning and on their way to Villisca that I began to care for them before all the paranormal stuff started taking place. I also appreciated the two male lead characters relationship. I loved that the writers built a story around one straight, one gay character. I thought that it was a neat touch to have two guys being able to be mates without sexuality ever begin an issue for either. It was great to see a horror movie that didn't involve two annoying jocks in the lead looking to get laid.
I also really enjoyed the character of Jess who at the beginning feels like she is there for the sake of tension between the two guys but by the end of the film, I had really warmed up to her character. I also liked that the writers gave her this backstory that involved revenge porn, but she wasn't letting it destroy her. I thought that was a nice touch to see a woman owning her sexuality and not cowering in the corner due to her mistakes and mistrust. I think all three actors really did deliver for the most part. I can't really fault them.
I think a lot of people are going to go into this movie and will come out disappointed with what they witness just based on the expectations of the misleading title. This is called The Axe Murders Of Villisca, and the actual murders are only briefly shown. The movie isn't really about the crimes but more a supernatural story about three friends entering the house and being taken over by the dark forces of the house. I think folks going in expecting a ton of gruesome murders may be disappointed by the restraint of director Tony E. Valenzuela. Don't go into this expecting a whole lot of axe-related carnage and a slow descent into a dark location taking hold of people and you may appreciate this movie more.
Where the movie goes wrong for me is the whole demonic possession element of the story. I really thought that entire third act felt pretty poorly constructed. It's come to a place where black demonic eyes are no longer all that scary. It felt like I had seen this sort of thing many times before. We also have a weird subplot involving our main character and a robbery that really felt like it didn't add much to the story other than a chance for our gay character to prove his loyalty and friendship to the straight guy. I also think the love triangle thing that plays out sort of didn't go anywhere either. It just felt like a chance to give our main straight guy a love interest, and that was it.
Lastly, I think when it comes to the suspense and scares, The Axe Murders Of Villisca lacked in both areas. The movie isn't terrifying at all, nor does it contain any decent scares. As I said above, this is a movie that goes for the whole slow burn approach but sadly doesn't deliver on any real thrills or chills. The movie is also pretty light on the red stuff. If you're expecting a film that dishes out a lot of gore involving an axe, you'll be sorely disappointed. This is very restrained and more about the characters and the build-up towards the ghostly final.
DEATH TOLL: 6
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A person is hit with an axe while they sleep.
- A young woman is struck by an axe offscreen.
- Someone has their face slammed into a locker.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach.
- Two men are shot and killed in a robbery.
- People are possessed by demonic forces.
- Someone falls and smacks his head on a fireplace.
- Someone is stabbed in the shoulder.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach.
I went into The Axe Murders Of Villisca with some really high hopes. I had heard the director talk passionately about his trials and tribulations about getting this released and I went in hoping for something special. I think it has a few strong elements going for it and that's character development and the fact that I cared about these people. I also loved that the movie had a straight and gay character as best mates without ever really getting complicated. Sadly, this isn't without its problems. The movie builds to a somewhat lacklustre third half, the demonic stuff lacks real tension and scares, and a few of the plot devices in this film don't really work out. This feels pretty messy, but I've seen a lot worse.