Young adults at a first-time offenders’ boot camp discover the legend of the giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan is real, but is much more horrifying than they could have imagined.
There are many films in the horror genre that attempt to parody themselves. I don’t mean in a lazy Scary Movie way but by being so over the top as to make the audience chuckle as well as cringe, but this is an extremely difficult balance to get right. Axe Giant: The Wrath Of Paul Bunyan is one such film from writer, producer and director Gary Jones.
The set up is a familiar and potentially over-used one. Several troubled teens are being taken on an outward bound course by their idealistic teacher Ms. K (Kristina Kopf) as an alternative to doing some hard jail time. The course is run by Sgt. Hoke (Thomas Downey), an aggressive, unsympathetic law enforcement office who’s style of rehabilitation is tough and uncompromising, although it does come with a packed lunch. Among the group of reprobates we have the cool guy Zack, IT nerd Marty, trailer trash Trish, single mum Rosa and CB, the one who really shouldn’t be there. All that said it really doesn’t matter who they are as they offer little in the way of character at all.
While out on one of Hoke’s hikes the group come across the remains of an ox and take one of it’s horns as a souvenir, unaware of the trouble they are unleashing upon themselves. The remains are none other than those of Babe The Blue Ox, the only friend of Paul Bunyan, a legendary lumberjack who lives high in the mountains. Suffice to say Bunyan is a little upset as this desecration and begins to exact his revenge. Given that he also suffers from a rare, and little explained, genetic condition which has caused him to grow to great size this becomes a little one sided and only local sheriff Tanner (Tim Lovelace) can save them.
I am genuinely sorry to say that there are just too many problems with this film for it to be an enjoyable experience. As I said earlier it is difficult to successfully parody yourself while still trying to make a good film and Axe Giant is too silly for this to work.
There is nothing wrong with stereotypical characters, pretty much everyone we see portrayed on screen has been seen before, but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be some basic depth to them. Not one of the motley crew of campers is remotely likeable or endearing and this caused me to lose interest in whether they lived or died extremely early on. The performances are static at best with only Joe Estevez, who pops up as the slightly mad but knowledgeable Meeks, seemingly having any fun. The direction is fine if unremarkable but this leads me to the biggest problem that Axe Giant suffers from. Some scenes just don’t work.
These days it is too easy to simply throw in some CGI effects instead of crafting a scene to make it as believable as possible. Physical effects, even cheap ones, will still look better on screen than cheap CGI effects and Axe Giant is full of the latter. This is where a director should have looked at the footage and realised it doesn’t work, lessens the intended impact and gone another way. As this hasn’t happened we are left with some sections that are so preposterously unrealistic as to ruin any sliver of good will the film may have generated. One scene shows a flashback of the blue ox running which is horrendous and another shows Bunyan picking up a woman by her ankles which left me with my head in my hands. Even the gory bits are comical as opposed to frightening and bring nothing to the film.
There is also a slightly bad feeling running through the background of Axe Giant, almost like a “not sure what it is so we best just kill it” message. This manifests itself finally in the uncomfortable showdown which in my opinion is ill judged at best but I won’t spoil the ending.
This could, and should, have been a much better film. If it had remained light hearted and fun then it would have been a throwaway popcorn horror but unfortunately nothing here quite works and I wouldn’t recommend it at all.
Axe Giant: The Wrath Of Paul Bunyan (2013)