Cult Movie: 1980s slasher flick Edge of The Axe back on the screen in 2KHD

Originally unleashed in 1988, Edge of The Axe is now available again through Arrow DVD
Ralph McLean

Edge Of The Axe

STIFLED by the oppression of his native Spain in the Franco era Jose Ramon Larraz made England his creative base in the early 70s. In four short years between 1970 and 1974, the director helmed a selection of oddly twisted little psycho thrillers like Whirlpool (1970), Deviation (1971) and The House That Vanished (1973).

Best of all, though, were two films he delivered towards the end of his stay; Symptoms, a claustrophobic horror flick that starred Donald Pleasance's daughter Angela as a deranged house sitter in an old tumbledown rural mansion with an unconventional attitude to the welfare of visiting guests, and Vampyres, one of the finest bloodsucking-meets-softcore porn epics ever committed to trashy celluloid on this side of the Atlantic – two low-rent classics of their kind.

By 1974, when both films finally crept quietly onto cinema screens, Larraz was restless and keen to return to his homeland to see what he could get away with in a post-Franco culture. The films that he was to make in Spain from that point on were a sleazy combination of mundane thrillers, basic sex comedies and the occasional art house offering.

Edge Of The Axe, originally unleashed in 1988 and now available again through Arrow DVD, is a clear attempt to claim a little bit of the slasher action that still generated cash in the aftermath of John Carpenter's game-changing Halloween. As such, it does nothing particularly original, but boasting as it does the director's trademark dark sensibilities and psychotic obsessions, it's still worth spending a little bit of quality time with all the same.

A deranged killer is stalking the streets of Paddock County wearing a distinctive kabuki face mask and lopping the heads off attractive young girls with his well swung axe. A nerdy computer expert by the name of Gerard Martin (Barton Faulks) tries to identify and stop the axe-wielding psychopath while also attempting to get into the good books of the sultry Lillian Nebbs (Christina Marie Lane) at the same time.

The inevitable axe murder sequences are handled with enough gory panache to please the most dedicated of gorehounds and Larraz plays with the predictable formula just enough to keep you guessing about the killer's identity for most of the running time. As with all of the director's films, there's a slightly woozy and faintly unhinged quality at play beneath the clichés which suggests this is much more than a mere slash-and-grab pot boiler.

It's not a patch on either Symptoms or the strangely sensual Vampyres, but it's still worth making the effort for – providing you've a strong stomach for the kind of "leave little to the imagination" approach of horror films in that most cost-conscious of eras.

Arrow have given the film a neat little 2K tidy up and there are a couple of revealing commentary tracks plus an impressive selection of entertaining extras such as trailers and featurettes to fill in a little of the bloody background as well.

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