An entertaining b-movie, from Midnight Releasing, entitled Axe to Grind, filled with campy humor and quirky dialogue, and highlighting the exquisite talents of the legendary horror actress and more, Debbie Rochon, whose talents extend past 190 horror acting credits, and most recently noted for her role in Bart Mastronardi’s Tales of Poe (2014). Herein the story may not be new, but the style brings all the success and a title serving a dual measuring stick in the acting field, especially concerning actresses, director Matt Zettell handles the tasks with ease, and screenwriters J.P. Linde and Scott C. Sanford provide enough content for the cast and audience.
Debbie Rochon who portrays Debbie Wilkins learns that her long-term lover and producer Peter (Matthew James Gulbranson) has replaced her with a much younger protégé, Delilah (Paula Labaredas), which doesn’t sit well with Debbie. Through a bit home intervention, and pardons Tawny (Tawny Amber Young) his latest girlfriend, Debbie’s ability to convey her actions shows her skills of performing with cunning psychotic tendencies. She takes matters into her own hands, controlling her fate, and arrives on the set at Linda Vista Hospital (a real life legendary location of paranormal investigations and set for many horror films over the countless years), informing the cast, that she has a part in the new film. Her arrival becomes a complete surprise to the cast and personnel on set, for the filming of Bayou Butcher, but blindly acceptance of Debbie as she quotes Peter’s orders. The opening credits poke fun at the low budget horror genre and to comically status of the rising starlets with some interesting fake movie titles, for Nikki and Cheryl, played by Dani Thompson and Michelle Tomlinson, respectively. One must not forget the contributions of the caretaker and janitor called Norman (Adrian Quihuis), and a creepy hobby of collecting axes that idolizes Debbie in many ways. The crew, incredibly small for even a low budget film, with the director Eddie (Guy Torry) who feels the deep split between Debbie and Peter, and knowing where his paychecks come from the choosing of sides become the easy choice. The film really seems to translate the industry quite well, with a sense of truism rather fantasies, especially concerning the older actresses finding themselves pushed out for the younger ones, a sad fact in the industry overall. If one does not possess the skills or clout, such as an Elvira to Debbie (herself) to Meryl Streep, the producers look for the replacements at lower costs versus the fan base or box office / award potential returns. Axe to Grind shows that double-crossing one can provide dire situations, and that the industry needs to understand the double-standard completely unfair, for male actors don’t have any age restrictions for the roles.
Zettell provides Debbie, with ample room to express her rage, and many humorous moments that fans of the genre will find enjoyable, and the banter of the dialogue, including the classic structure of filming a horror movie. This structure reflects on such films as Return to Horror High (1987) and Cut (2000) and does it with gusto for horror fans without chills, but contains thrills, gore and a delightful amount of T&A qualities as the cast shows the committed the production. A significant and unwanted element lies in the stereotypical aspect often identified with independent filmmakers, such that they are lazy and everyone is a prima-dona, unless the impact was to show Debbie’s dedication to the lacking of newcomers, sadly that point never comes across clearly. Many critics pointed the negative aspect of drinking after a shoot, first this is not real life, rather a fiction horror movie, though, and consuming alcohol not unheard of after a long day, films such as Caddyshack (1980) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) had many parties, a common aspect on many projects. Although, the flick hits it marks, and the pacing runs on an even course, no major lighting or sound issues, and crisp colors with brief hints of a sluggish manner, in the flashback sequences, where young Debbie appears as Kelsey Zukowski exquisite form to comparison for the future Debbie Wilkins.
This film contains everything the average b-movie horror fan desires, oddball characters, with a twist ending involving Rachael Robbins adding to the standardized slasher flick, with a capable woman, at the helm, named Debbie Rochon. Debbie truly steals the show, for this film, and yet her acting talents bring everyone else to raise their game to equal her long time legendary skillful performance. True horror fans will enjoy this slashing, splitting and slaughtering spraying across the screen with delight as flashes brilliance echoes, with humor and insanity run amok setting the stage for a much encouraged sequel.