May 14, 2021 Axeman At Cutter’s Creek (Movie Review)
It’s a “vacation to dismember” for Elissa Dowling and Jamie Bernadette who star in Axeman At Cutter’s Creek, which arrived to major VOD platforms on Friday, May 7, 2021 thanks to #SinningWorks.
Featuring special appearances from Horror icons Tiffany Shepis (Victor Crowley 2017, Deathcember 2019) and Brinke Stevens (The Slumber Party Massacre 1982, Personal Demons 2018), the film was written and directed by Joston “El Rey” Theney (Axeman 2013, Axeman 2: Overkill 2017), who also portrays Darren. A love letter to ‘80s Horror, particularly that off-color brand of B-grade Horror, the story here is simple: a group of late twentysomething friends take a vacation at a cabin in the woods. The house, of course, is connected to the twenty-year-old urban legend of the Axeman of Cutter’s Creek, a local serial killer who slaughtered a family inside the home before disappearing into the night.
Unaware of the horrors attached to their staycation destination, two couples and three friends agree to visit Brian (Stephen Eith: Axeman 2013) and Stacy’s (Dowling: We Are Still Here 2015, Girl on the Third Floor 2019) new luxury cabin. Passionate Tammy (Bernadette: The 6th Friend 2016, I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu 2019) and Liz (Erin Marie Hogan: 2 Jennifer 2016, Dwelling 2016) are attached at the lips, while there’s a thick tension between Cassidy (Chantelle Albers: In Search of Fellini 2017, Reawakened 2020) and Doug (Dylan Hobbs: Joker Rising 2013, The Clown Prince 2019). And the single friends are equally lusty: Randy (Nihilist Gelo: Skunk Ape!? short 2003, Trouble Is My Business 2018) has googly-eyes and a video camera fixed on the lesbian couple, while Darren (Theney) only has time for redheaded spitfire Vivian (Eliza Kiss: Axeman 2013, The Encounter 2015).
Before long, their past discretions and secret crushes mean very little: each of the friends is about to become a piece of history. Despite the first of the gang falling prey to the Axeman (former NBA basketball star Scot Pollard: Jayhawkers 2014, The Profit 2017), business continues as usual back at the cabin—though the countdown to extinction has already begun.
Originally titled Axeman: Redux, Axeman At Cutter’s Creek is a reboot of the axe-wielding franchise that allows Theney to “course-correct” a ship that he felt had gone off path. But you don’t need to have a past relationship with the original, 2013’s Axeman, to pick up on this reincarnated tale of old friends, sharp objections, and gruesome deaths. A love letter to ‘80s slasher flicks, the film is simple and to the point, propelled by practical effects and a love of gore.
Its cast does a good job with the material, which generally amounts to being murdered in over-the-top fashion—heads are rolled, brains are squished. Scream Queen Bernadette is cast as the passionate and flirty Tammy, while co-star Hogan does a good job as her girlfriend Liz. Writer-Director Theney is the stand-out of the male actors, as he provides himself with enough material to give a fun performance as the twitterpated Darren. Meanwhile, as his dream girl, Kiss’ Vivian offers viewers a sense of old Hollywood glamour packaged in a character who belches and vomits her way into her man’s heart. But don’t think these two have a simple teddy bear and chocolate romance: they easily win the award for the World’s Nastiest On-Screen Kiss.
Admittedly, Dowling steals the show as the smart and demanding Stacy, who refuses to be trapped in a house with a bunch of hornballs without attaining her own orgasm. She pulls the punches in her relationship, letting her man know that if he can’t handle her, someone else will. Which is a big switch from ‘80s male-dominated and often male-centric Horror. It’s a simple thing, really, but it’s an attempt to shift the attitude away from pubescent ogling at girl-on-girl to something that dips its wick into feminism. Not exactly groundbreaking, but it’s a move that allows the ladies to helm the story; giving Dowling, Bernadette, Shepis, and their co-stars a level of control in their situations, rather than forcing their characters to be reduced to silent victims.
Of course, there are caveats to offering a slasher that is so steeped in the ‘80s as to utilize an ‘80s sense of humor, which does not necessarily translate in 2021. As we already know, what was funny when we were kids is generally not as amusing forty years later. Case in point, overtly sexual dialogue now comes across as rather crass and juvenile, definitely cringey. When characters joke about “scissor-fests,” “cunt punting,” or call one another “faggots,” those old-school trashy giggles are not likely to translate to younger generations. In essence, the slang and teen lingo of the ‘80s are something that is best left in the past. (Although more carefully-crafted lines such as “Stick your little Twinkie in my Susie Q” are entertaining.)
So is the film offensive? We don’t see it as such, as the intention wasn’t to offend but rather to recapture the glory days of B-grade, campy Horror. But it certainly does inspire a debate as to whether a retro vibe should mean that a film can return to the standards of that era, throwing out all of our carefully-constructed modern terminology. In the case of Axeman At Cutter’s Creek, oddly—and fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you see it—the ‘80s is abandoned when it comes to gratuitous depictions of naked women, despite the Axeman’s trucker hat proudly proclaiming “Titties.”
All of this said, Axeman At Cutter’s Creek is hardly meant for debate. It is meant to be simple, mindless fun that lacks an intricate storyline or provocative, underlying theme. At 77 minutes, the film is a respite from the complicated reality of our daily lives, one that takes us into the woods to watch as a group of mostly flat characters are picked off one by one. Then it ends abruptly, leaving the story very much open for a continuation—and Theney hopes that you will beg for the completion of his trilogy. We’re certainly intrigued by this throwback, which was crafted with a reverence for classic Horror, and for this Cryptic Rock gives Axeman At Cutter’s Creek 3.5 of 5 stars.