Overview: A group of friends go somewhere and are killed by someone somehow. I'd tell you more, but that would spoil the boredom.
Directed By: Michael "Mfumay" Mfume, 2002.
The Case For: There is actual music from time to time, although given the film's budget of roughly twelve dollars and change, I tend to doubt that the original artists gave their consent to have their works featured on the dazzling "Ax 'Em" soundtrack.
The Case Against: Look at the title screen to the left. That's the single greatest technical achievement of the movie. What do you think the case against is?
How do you review a movie so unfit for public viewing that you can't even figure out any of the characters' names? I don't know, but I'm sure as hell going to try because, dammit, that's my job. I'll tell you, though, it doesn't get much tougher than "Ax 'Em." There is so much wrong with this movie that the mere fact that it is available on DVD strikes me as an insult. If this can make it to DVD, then the crappy fake shoe commercial I shot for my TV production class a couple years ago should have a two-disc special edition. Writer, director, and star Michael "Mfumay" Mfume, who must have graduated from the Polonia school of filmmaking, leads a hastily assembled cast and crew of his friends and people who owed him money through a muddled waste of tape that is about as good as you'd expect from a man whose nickname is a pronunciation guide to his last name. This movie is a seventy-five minute compilation of dialogue that is either loud and annoying, or completely inaudible, and my feelings toward it can be best described as abject hatred and overwhelming boredom, respectively. My only hope as I set out to write this review is that once I'm done, you will despise "Ax 'Em" as much as I do.
If by some chance you had the urge to try to make the worst movie of all time, but you couldn't think of how to start it, you might want to take a lesson from "Ax 'Em." It opens with white text over a black background. I've received flame mails with fewer flagrant spelling and grammatical errors. When the first frame of a movie is a crime against the English language, it's fairly safe to assume that things are not about to take a turn for the better. In three comically written screens, the text explains that a "mean and cruel Towns man" killed his family and himself with a shotgun, but that the body of his mentally ill son was never found. There is a legend that the son will "return in 13 years to revenge his family deaths." Okay, that would technically mean that he's going to kill his father, since he was the one who killed the family. His father's already dead, of course, so now the son probably just has to kill anyone he can find. Now that's what I call a plot! As weak of an excuse for a killing spree as this is, without this stupid little intro, nothing in the movie would make even the slightest bit of sense. Now, almost nothing in the movie makes even the slightest bit of sense. See the improvement?
A crowd of black people are at a party in someone's house for some reason. Things like justifiable cause and backstory are not really among Mfume's top strengths as a writer. It's evident from the first few seconds of the scene that we're dealing with a pathetically underfunded production, here. For starters, "Ax 'Em" was filmed in 2002, but the film quality wouldn't have been acceptable in the Seventies. Because Mfume's cinematographer is working with a $4.99 Kmart video camera with a unidirectional microphone, unless the "actors" are speaking directly toward the camera, the dialogue is completely inaudible. A good deal of the scenes in this film consist of one person talking for thirty seconds in silence, then a burst of sound as everyone else laughs and hoots and hollers. Hooting and hollering are the two favorite activities of all of the main characters. Also because of the remarkable low budget, there are no in-scene edits. That's right, every single scene consists of one long shot. Feel that chill running down your spine right now? That's your body telling you you still have standards. How lovely for you.
While we're on the subject of massive technical flaws, I should explain why it is that I have no idea what any of the characters' names are. In fact, I'm not even sure how many characters there are. Most of the shots are too dark or blurry to make out any defining facial characteristics, so I have to go by what clothes people are wearing. Unfortunately, they change their clothes every five minutes until the last bit of the film, so that's really no help. I don't want to sound racist and say that all black people look alike, but it so happens that everyone in this movie (with two exceptions that we'll get to later) is black, and due to the piss poor production, I can't tell them apart. There are some names tossed around throughout the movie, but in any scene where a name is directed at a particular person, it's too dark to tell who it is. Most of the characters, as far as I can tell, are simply never addressed by name. I'll do my best to find ways of referring to the different characters, but if you feel confused as to who says or does what or how many people are in a scene, don't worry. That's exactly how I felt while watching the movie.
Getting back to matter at hand, the bits and pieces of dialogue that are picked up by the microphone seem to suggest that Guy In Mickey Mouse Jacket is inviting a bunch of his friends up to his grandfather's old house in the woods for the weekend. Normally I'd make some comment about how it's always bad news when a bunch of friends get together in a remote location to party, but at one minute, sixteen seconds into this movie, I already don't care whether any of them live or die. The friends excitedly shout over one another, thus eliminating any chance that any of them can be understood. When they finally start to talk one at a time, we are treated to exciting discourse about where they will depart from, who will drive, whether they will leave at one or two in the afternoon, and other such titillating dialogue that sucks the audience into the film like a supercharged zombie vacuum. Ironically, a supercharged zombie vacuum would make for a much more interesting movie.
We see a rickety old house. The camera is at a titled angle, so we know we're looking through the eyes of a madman. A large man in flannel lumbers onto the screen, holding an axe. This isn't a big, menacing axe one might use to split logs in twain. This is more of a little sissy handaxe that one might use to lop the little plastic things off the ends of one's shoelaces, were one so inclined. Inside the house, an old man mutters some crap that even proper subtitles couldn't interpret. He apparently sees the Flannel Guy off camera, and rushes (read: slowly limps) to the closet to get his gun.
A couple minutes later, he finally finishes loading a few bullets into it, but by then, the Flannel Guy has traversed the three feet between them and knocks the old man into the closet. Presumably, he kills him with the axe. It's worth mentioning that the old man is the only person to actually be killed with an axe, so the title "Ax 'Em" is technically a misnomer, or at least an improper use of pluralization. It really should be "Ax 'Im," but then, I have a feeling that the title is less related to the killings and more a comment on how stereotypical black people talk. Mfume seems very concerned with making it perfectly clear that he's as black as black can be. After all, "Ax 'Em" is a Nubian Prince presentation of a 2 Smooth Film production. It is somewhat puzzling, though, why every single character is written as a braindead black stereotype. Maybe all of the intelligent dialogue is in the chunk that can't be heard. Hey, it's possible. It's also possible that this movie sucks really, really hard.
We transition, by which I mean fade to black, as that is the only transition in Mfume's arsenal, to completely inexplicable footage of the Morgan State University Step Show. I wish I was kidding, but no, we actually do see a men's team, a women's team, and a kids' team do their respective thangs. They're not bad, to tell the truth. They're also not really part of the movie, in the sense that they have nothing to do with it whatsoever and they're on a different film stock. In fact, I think Mfume really just needed some sort of footage to go underneath the opening credits. After the dancing, an emcee trades a full five minutes of "yo momma" jokes and MC Hammer references (I swear to God) with a rowdy crowd. As the mic gets passed around, every other person is completely inaudible. Yep, it has no bearing on the plot and it's poorly done! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner for the biggest waste of my time! The film stock reverts to the blurry grade-F stock and we see a guy talking with two girls about the weekend. At least, I assume they're talking about the weekend. There's no way to be sure. I'd give some point of reference as to who they are, but it really doesn't matter in this case. Another guy, who looks and acts like he's trying to do an impersonation of Chris Rock trying to do an impersonation of Malcolm X, attempts to mack it with a third girl and fails.
The groups of ten (at least, ten was the most accurate count I got) friends arrives at the house in the woods at night. Lo and behold, it's the very same house where the Flannel Killer knocked the old man into the closet! One of the girls, who will for now be referred to as "Hungry Hungry Hippo" proclaims "I hun-gry!" six or seven times before one of the guys steals her wig. We fade to black. Two drunk guys stumble out of the woods in the daylight, babbling about some big man that they saw and fighting over a bottle of beer. Othello this ain't. We fade to black again and go to Guy In Mickey Mouse Jacket walking with one of the women through the woods. Another girl catches up with them and chats with the first girl about another guy, but since you can't hear the name, if they in fact say a name, it's totally irrelevant. Later, the whole gang eats a dinner of chicken while engaging in their favorite topics of conversation - insults, getting laid, and long-winded jokes that are really just lame excuses to say the word "fuck" while everyone is listening. Needless to say, most of the conversation is lost to all the hooting and hollering. Wouldn't be a dinner with black people if they didn't have hooting and hollering! As they clean up the dishes, two of the girls find a gun in a drawer in the kitchen. Apparently, the old man liked to keep guns all over the house, since it took him ten minutes to get from one room to another.