Pickaxe (2019)

Rating: D+

Dir: Jeremy Sumrall
Star: Tiffany Shepis, A. Michael Baldwin, Ashley-Marie Zgabay, Elizabeth Redpath
a.k.a. The Pick-Axe Murders Part III: The Final Chapter

Despite the alternate title – wisely excised when this was finally released five years after being made – this is not a sequel. It seems to be intended as something of a spoof of eighties slashers, though I didn’t find much in the way of parody, beyond the “already in progress” story. It resurrects serial killer Alex Black, who in the non-existent previous installments, murdered a bunch of campers, then attacked the asylum in which sole survivor Adrienne (Shepis) was confined She’s now out, back in town and a barely functioning alcoholic. When local sheriff Matthews (Baldwin) visits her in search of help finding two missing hikers, this kicks things off towards a final battle against Black.

If this had been what the film offered, it’d have been fine. Both Shepis and Baldwin are interesting and well-rounded creations: actual characters. The problem is the movie spends far too much time on a parade of obnoxious and repellent side personnel, from the local gas station owner to, in particular, a group of “teens” on their way to what appears to be the world’s shittiest rock concert. They outlast their welcome in a matter of seconds, and we became more firmly on #TeamAlexBlack, every time they opened their mouths. Death’s too good for them. Slow, agonizingly painful death is, in fact, too good for them, and it basically destroys the film as entertainment. I have no clue what writer/director Sumrall was thinking.

It’s a shame, since the little stuff around the edges is reasonable enough. The kills are reasonably well-staged and mostly practical effects; they just don’t happen soon enough, in the great majority of cases. [I do have to question, whether a single blow with a pickaxe can cleanly remove someone’s head] There’s no lack of female nudity either, though in terms of quality, it peaks early and some is almost bordering on the unwelcome. The film is a little back-loaded, with the mayhem mostly coming after the point where Alex shows up at the concert. The pain until then is mostly inflicted by the rancid dialogue, with lines like, “Pwinsess wants to have some fun before her pussy dries up and she’s in a nursing home.” Kill me. Now.

There has clearly been some thought put into the background and mythos here, which makes it all the more annoying we spend so much time with these annoying douchebags. Reduce them to the cameo cannon fodder they deserve to be, and give us Adrienne’s full arc, from happy camper through deranged inmate to shotgun-toting final girl instead. You’ve got one of the most talented scream queens in your film, and instead devote the bulk of the running-time to local no-name amateurs, spouting dire garbage such as, “Oh Lou, you’re always so much in my crotch”? No wonder you couldn’t find anybody willing to release this for half a decade.