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PICKAXE (2019)

Directed by Jeremy Sumrall
Written by Jeremy Sumrall
Starring Tiffany Shepis, A. Michael Baldwin, Cory W. Ahre, Keefer Barlow, Kerry Beyer, Drew Brown, Kelly Byrns, Lyndsey Case, Logan Dees, Sal Governale, Joe Grisaffi, Shawn Hernandez, Danielle Jones, Michelle Ellen Jones, Amber McKenzie, Kile Moore, Will Morgan, Nick W. Nicholson, Troy Parker, Elizabeth Redpath, Chad Thackston, Gage Tijerina, Ben Warner, Ashley-Marie Zgabay, Jayson Champion, Perry Batson

From the director/writer of THE PICK-AXE MURDERS PART III: THE FINAL CHAPTER (with which there were no parts I and II), comes the sequel few outside of the Sumrall family and immediate friends demanded, PICKAXE. The film is set to be a throwback to 80’s slashers but glorifies the worst aspects of it instead of what makes that era of horror filmmaking special.

When a magic medallion is found in the woods, mass murderer Alex Black is resurrected to swing his pickaxe into tender not-so-young flesh once again. Having survived their last encounter Adrienne (Tiffany Shepis) and Sheriff Matthews (PHANTASM’s A. Michael Baldwin) must once again conquer their personal demons and come together to vanquish the man-monster. This time, Alex aims his pickaxe at a group of late twenty-somethings/early thirty-somethings posing as teenagers for target practice.

The slasher movie got a bad rap in the eighties. Those criticizing them often said they were all about gratuitous nudity and gore, missing the point that often times there were sophisticated themes at play utilizing everything from themes of feminism to the prominence of religion and authoritarianism in the era. While it feels like the filmmaker may be wanting to pay homage to those horror films of the 80’s and reveres them greatly, Jeremy Sumrall simply proves the critics point by substituting any substance with boobs and blood. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bad horror can have its charm, but my main problem with PICKAXE is that somewhere in there might lay a decent little slasher had Sumrall wished to have it.

The film goes the HALLOWEEN 2019 route and picks up years after a camping massacre and focusing on Tiffany Shepis’ Adrienne character. Adrienne is now an alcoholic and on a self-destructive streak—her life ruined by her encounter with a serial killer. Had the film focused on that story, I think it could have dealt with some sophisticated themes. This is especially so because Shepis is an amazingly talented actress. She’s given nothing here but slurred one-liners, but the girl can act, she can do physical action, and she’s one of the most beautiful women in the horror genre. Unfortunately, she shows up in films like this that choose splash and gash over any kind of artistry, never really challenging her to shine. I sincerely hope one of these days Shepis is given a chance to show her acting prowess in a worthy film. She is just leaps and bounds above this film.

There are a few things worth while in PICKAXE. I like the way A. Michael Baldwin keeps calling Pickaxe a maggot fucker. The more he repeated it, the funnier it got. I also thought that the fact they didn’t even try to make the teenagers look like kids was amusing. The gore, as usual in slashers such as this, is practical and quite messy. And there are tons of boobs to be seen of all shapes and sizes. Always a fan of that.

Still, with the potential of the story and the capability of Shepis, PICKAXE could have been something more than lowest tier schlock. Sumrall could have utilized the remedial story and damning editing gaffs to his advantage had there been some kind of effort put into anything past casting another actress who will drop her top. When I think slashers, I think top crop stuff like FRIDAY THE 13TH, HALLOWEEN, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, TERROR TRAIN, and the like. Those films were about fights, mood, atmosphere, and adult themes. I wish more people who emulated those films would try to make films as smart as those classics. Instead, these “fans” paying homage to the subgenre are only solidifying the criticism by playing into the stereotype. If you’re a fan of bad horror, PICKAXE is it.