THE PICK-AXE MURDERS 3
First off, I just want to say thank you to Jeremy Sumrall, director of the 80’s set, and inspired Slasher film “The Pick-Axe Murders 3: The Final Chapter”, for allowing me early access to an online screener. I’ve been truly overwhelmed by the amount of awesome films I’ve been able to watch over the last month, because of filmmakers like Jeremy. If my memory serves me correctly, this is the first of a planned trilogy, where the Director has chosen to make the final installment be the first one. I read somewhere that Jeremy feels like the last installment of most horror franchises end up sucking. His theory being, why not get that film and your lack of experience, out-of-the-way first and end with the good stuff (haha). I have to say that on some level I agree, because by the time you get to the end of your series everything’s been done to death. The Pick-Axe Murders 3 is about the legend of Alex Black. In the summer of 82, a group of campers were murdered in the quite town of Woodland Hills, but a young women named Adrienne was able to put a stop to Alex. A year later, more murders occurred at the psychiatric facility where Adrienne was residing. She had been committed, after struggling to deal with what she had been through. With the help of a young man named George Miner, Adrienne was able to stop Alex Black once more, or so she thought. All has been silent for 5 years, but now someone has found a way to bring him back to life one last time.
The film stars the lovely Tiffany Shepis, along with A. Michael Baldwin, Roxy Vandiver, Sal Governale, Ashley-Marie Zgabay, Elizabeth Redpath, Will Morgan, Ben Warner and Jayson Champion. I donated a little bit of money towards this film many months ago, so it’s great to see it come to fruition. I don’t know the actual budget, so I won’t say for sure but I’d imagine somewhere between $20,000- $40,000. I want to mention the film still has to be edited. There are some ADR corrections to make and some visual effects to add, so keep that in mind when reading this isn’t quite the finished product.
Let’s begin with the casting and the acting. It’s always a blast watching Tiffany Shepis, and I really respect that she see’s the merit in horror films. Her role of Adrienne was very different to the type of characters she normally plays. Sorry boys, you won’t see Tiffany getting naked in this one. Adrienne’s a much more Jamie Lee (Halloween) style character, with plenty of issues but a good background story to roll with. Most of the cast that make up the group of teens who are heading to a local gig, did a solid job. Elizabeth, who plays bitchy, semi goth music lover, Jamie, had moments of acting that were a little too forced. I got the fact she was supposed to be the bitch, and some scenes went further than they probably needed too. Will and Ben, along with the other male actors that make up the douche brigade (yes I just invented that haha), did their bit, but it wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before. A bunch of very one-dimensional characters on display, but I guess in this genre it’s what you’d expect. The shining light of the group is Ashley-Marie playing Heather. At first I didn’t think she was going to sell the final girl routine, but a couple of her emotional scenes discussing Alex Black and everything that she knew about him, were quite impressive. I was genuinely surprised to see this was her first time acting, well done girl!
The quality of the camera work and framing also surprised me. This being, just Jeremy’s second film (correct me if I’m wrong), he has quickly gained important knowledge of what shot choices work and what style suits the genre. The manner in which the film opens, sets the atmosphere of the whole legend of Alex Black. We got two funny and entertaining characters, some great use of smoke to represent the cold air, a well-lit campfire scene and some raunchy sex. The audio levels were perfect in that opening 7 or 8 minutes, and the score put me right in that 80’s zone. Giving audiences some early humor, a sex scene and the possibility of an early kill, gives a slasher the best chance of success. I was impressed with Jeremy’s ability to light a scene too. A lot of theses scenes take place at night, and with a minimal budget it can be difficult to pull that off, but for the most part he did it well. Everyone wants to know about the gore now don’t they?. There were a couple of really cool and messy kills (which I won’t spoil), and the consistency of the blood looked good. My complaint is nearly always the same with modern slashers, there’s never enough gore to satisfy me. You have super talented people and this is their craft please le them showcase what they can do. This is grounding itself in the 80’s, I know things were tamer back then so I can understand it somewhat, or maybe it’s just a budget restriction. I enjoy the campy nature of the 80’s and giving it that feel, but can we get that cheese factor, combined with a lot more blood and gore because that would be great.
Like in most slasher films, the secondary characters are just there to make up the numbers, and give the audience a higher body count. I didn’t buy the Sheriff Matthews character or his “chemistry” with Adrienne. Not to mention the age difference is 16 years, and we are meant to believe they had some sort of fling together, I don’t think so. His reactions to the whole situation was very flat and unresponsive. Then we have Sal. I don’t mind a bit of Sal here and there, but he’s only suited to very small parts. This is a bigger part, and the writing for his character was just so unappealing. I know that’s the point but I just couldn’t get into it or believe he was for real. I think the girls in this looked good at times, probably the bare-ass clothing that sold me on that (haha), especially Jamie and a couple of the other less important girls. However, I do think with this being a slasher it would have benefited from some more conventional eye candy.
On the nudity front, we do get a passable amount of topless scenes and given this is supposed to be the 80’s, I can deal (haha). A lot of the dialogue feels like filler though, I liked the stuff giving us more back story on Alex and the situation, but a lot of it is a painfully obvious overuse of profanity, scoring (getting lucky) comments, and partying until you vomit everywhere etc. To be fair, it is the 80’s but I’m 28 years old, I was never really into that and I’m definitely way past that stuff now, so I can’t really relate too it. The character of Alex Black (played by Jayson Champion), basically looks like a distant cousin of Victor Crowley from the “Hatchet” slasher series. Funny enough, Hatchet 3 came to mind a lot while I was watching this film, now I know why. Because the premise is a carbon copy of everything we have seen before (and there’s nothing wrong with that), if you can find some form of originality within your story, you can help somewhat separate yourself from the pack.
Unfortunately this dude was big and he carried a wicked Pick-axe, but I never felt like their was any suspense, or that he was anywhere near as imposing as he should have been. Example being that brutal deaths go hand in hand with how menacing you might find a killer, so even though in Hatchet, Crowley looks pretty silly, his nature tells you everything you need to know. The movie seems as though its foreshadowing what might happen with the kills, but it quickly abandons that train of thought. Alex has several opportunities to cause havoc and doesn’t. A decapitated head here, a slice in half there, but sadly it’s just a bunch of missed opportunities. The gore we do get is cool, but it just feels like it’s holding back. A huge “Collection” style massacre during the club scene, could have brought it back around but the deaths seemed oddly cut together, and not nearly as graphic as they should have been. I apologize if it’s a budget thing, but I just saw a lot of missed potential. The audio after the opening to the film is rather inconsistent, but like I said there’s still ADR to be edited, so I’m sure that will be rectified. The lighting during some of the scenes inside the teens cabin isn’t perfect either. The only other gimmick I hoped for was a cool slasher theme song, I didn’t get but that’s okay it’s not for everyone.
For me, there are three things crucial to the success of your slasher film, Comedy, Nudity and most importantly Blood and Gore. The Pick-Axe Murders 3, get’s two out of three right, and that’s better than a lot of these films. It’s a fast paced, technically well made film. The back story is detailed enough to make up for a rather conventional looking killer, and the gore we do get is a lot of fun. Some of the chemistry between characters and their acting wasn’t perfect, and a lot of things were hinted at that never came to be. My advice, up the blood and the gore because it’s what the fans want. I think with an end result like this, Jeremy should be pleased. After all, if the two prequels are coming and this one is the weakest, I’d be pretty satisfied. The only way is up right?? I look forward to future installments!
My rating for “The Pick-Axe Murders 3:The Final Chapter” is 6/10