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Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan

2013 | R | 1.85:1

Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan


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Theatrical release date

 31 May, 2013

Country of origin

 United States



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Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, May 30, 2013

I suppose if one must see a movie about a rampaging, mutant version of a popular lumberjack from the depths of American folklore, “Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan” is the best bet. A no-budget take on woodsy horror and semi-comedic survival, the picture only manages to raise a slight commotion with graphic violence and bizarre happenings, failing to reach full hysteria even with its bizarre premise and dedication to outrageous displays of gore. It’s an entertaining slice of schlock, good for a few giggles and some handsome creature feature craftsmanship. However, considering the possibility of a murderous Paul Bunyan prowling Minnesota northland on the hunt for blood, “Axe Giant” isn’t the runaway mine cart viewing experience the title promises.

In the heart of Minnesota, hardass Sgt. Hoke (Thomas Downey) of the Department of Corrections is preparing to take a special group, members of the First Offenders Program, on trip into the woods for boot camp rehabilitation, with Ms. K (Kristina Kopf) along to introduce a therapeutic tone to the harsh excursion. Faced with a week of hard labor, Zack (Jesse Kove), Rosa (Victoria Ramos), Marty (Clifton Williams), Trish (Jill Evyn), and C.B. (Amber Connor) aren’t thrilled with the promise of pain, turning to sex and troublemaking to have some fun during this time of atonement. Zack, spying the immense skeleton of an ox nearby, decides to desecrate the makeshift grave, collecting one horn as a prize. Unfortunately, this careless act results in the arrival of Paul Bunyan (Chris Hahn), a monster of the man who enthusiastically slaughters anyone who offends him. Fearing for their lives, the gang frantically holes up inside a nearby cabin, waiting for a chance to escape, with their only hope arriving in the form of local loon Meeks (Joe Estevez), a scattered man who knows exactly what Bunyan is hunting for.

Although receiving something of a theatrical release, “Axe Giant” actually feels like a SyFy Channel offering, boasting a silly premise with a stinger of a title, while the production itself appears funded with hopes and dreams instead of actual money, giving off a distinct backyard moviemaking vibe, complete with copious amounts of iffy CGI. It’s a cheapy presentation of bottom-shelf horror, though “Axe Giant” does have an unusual figure of doom in Paul Bunyan, an iconic tall tale hero often portrayed as friendly and lovably enormous, with his loyal companion Babe the Blue Ox always by his side. Amiability is not on the menu in the screenplay by Jeffrey Miller, Gary Jones (who also directs), and Jason Ancona, who rework the giant into a fearsome creature swinging a giant ax, eternally mourning the loss of Babe at the hands of wicked Minnesota pioneers (the prologue takes place in 1894, featuring “Grizzly Adams” star Dan Haggerty as Bunyan’s nemesis), out to butcher those who disturb his solitude, seen taking refuge in his cave prison. He’s misunderstood but no less fearsome, slicing the hapless teens in two as they engage in a “Friday the 13th” formula of woodland mischief before they’re picked off one at a time.

“Axe Giant” wins points for originality and for the creature design of its hulking star, viewed here as an overgrown mutant, lacking the smiling face of a flannelled lumberjack. The make-up work is excellent for a B-movie production, offering a gruesome Bunyan to successfully launch his reign of terror, though his human features are available to articulate the softer side of the monster when the story attempts to introduce sympathy for the character, nicely articulated by a well-padded Hahn. Performances in general are rather forgettable, though Downey is sharp and humorous as Sgt. Hoke, stealing the film with his gruff take on the no-nonsense leader of the boot camp, consistently annoyed with his charges, a group he brands “S.T.U.M.Ps” (Stupid Teenagers Under My Protection). Estevez also charms with his wily spin on cabin fever, though it’s a showy role that’s overly indulged by Jones, offering a little more Meeks than necessary.

The trouble with “Axe Giant” is that it doesn’t go far enough with its insanity. True to this type of entertainment, the screenplay is padded with inane banter and extensive introductions, taking 40 minutes of screen time before Bunyan arrives to kill the teens. It’s this sense of delay that bogs the effort down, rendering it too slack for camp value, watching opportunities for jokes and action pass by Jones, who keeps much of the movie in neutral. “Axe Giant” has appeal for schlock fanatics, and it’s fun to watch the titular character stomp around the frame, yet expectations for a sustained, vicious romp aren’t met in the end, keeping such enticing chaos frustratingly scarce.

Starring: Joe Estevez, Thomas Downey, Kristina Kopf
Director: Gary Jones

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