Edge of the Axe

Color, 2010, 98 mins. 11 secs.
Directed by Joshua Grannell
Starring Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Dekker, Cassandra Peterson, Noah Segan, Jack Donner, Mink Stole, Julie Caitlin Brown
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Musketier (Blu-ray & DVD) (Germany R0 HD/PAL) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

The relationship between All About Evilcamp and horror has long been a strange but happy one, going back to the days All About Evilof What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Curtis Harrington, and '50s monster movies. Since then the gay filmmaking scene has directly embraced horror with low-budget salutes aplenty, perhaps most famously with Charles Busch's kitschy Psycho Beach Party and Die, Mommie, Die! (not to mention John Waters outdoing them all with Serial Mom and Cecil B. Demented). Very much in that company is All About Evil, the brainchild of Joshua Grannell, better known by his San Francisco celebrity drag alter ego, Peaches Christ, the horror-loving emcee of the Midnight Mass interactive cult movie extravaganzas. Using his short film Grindhouse as a narrative springboard, it's a much gorier and more extreme pastiche than many of its peers with a go-for-broke performance from Natasha Lyonne (long before her massive resurgence with Russian Doll) selling the hell out of her role as a theater owner whose creative promotional streak has a body count.

At the Victoria Theater in San Francisco, little Deborah is encouraged for stardom by her theater owner dad who trots her out to entertain the crowd before the kiddie movie matinee. Unfortunately Debbie's stage fright causes her to wet the floor and electrocute herself, much to the amusement of her evil stepmother, Tammy (Brown). All About EvilYears later, the grown Deborah (Lyonne) is working as a librarian and trying to find a way to keep her dad's flailing theater open after his passing. When Tammy pushes her too far, Deborah bloodily stabs her to death at the concession stand and, in All About Evila hurry to start the movie for an impatient crowd, accidentally screens the multi-camera security video of the murder for an appreciative audience. The projectionist, Mr. Twigs (Donner), shows up late but is more than happy to not only help cover up the crime but help in any future ones to keep the crowds pouring in. High school horror buff Steven (Kaboom!'s Dekker) is a huge fan to the confusion of his loving mom (Peterson, a.k.a. Elvira), but he starts to think something could be amiss as Deborah's hit pre-show short film PSAs get more violent and involve a sketchy crowd including a pair of homicidal twins (Jade and Nikita Ramsey) and a brutal street robber, Adrian (Segan), who beats up old ladies. However, even Steven couldn't predict what Deborah ultimately has in store for the biggest night of her life.

Playing her role like a homicidal Mae West by way of Doris Wishman, Lyonne and her entourage bring real gusto to the Grand Guignol-style short films that all have a literary bent with titles like The Maiming of the Shrew (inflicted on Mink Stole, no less). Though there are occasional nods to some deeper thought put into the proceedings (like mentions of horror female filmmakers), it's mostly a winking fan film right from the cleverly executed main titles incorporating poster from films like A Bucket of Blood, The Brain Eaters, Carnival of Souls, and so on. In fact, the film casts its satirical net so wide (that All About Eve pun in the title All About Evilhas nothing to do with the film itself, for example) that you have to wonder how it would play with a few more All About Evilfocused rewrites and a more disciplined edit that could've tamed the 98-minute running time. The supporting cast is inconsistent but enthusiastic, with Dekker and the always welcome Peterson getting really nice moments together on and off during the running time. Then there's the Ramseys, who could've actually carried their own spin-off film in a different universe. In an odd move, Grannell turns up in character as Peaches Christ for a few scenes, something that feels shoehorned in early on but makes more sense during the frenetic climax with body parts flying all over the place.

For some reason, All About Evil got little play in the U.S. after its handful of theatrical screenings from Landmark Theaters (done with live stage appearances) but did turn up on Blu-ray and DVD in Germany with a ridiculous torture cover that makes it look like a Saw rip-off. The 2022 Severin Films Blu-ray fixes that oversight with a strong a/v presentation (as you'd expect given the slick, very digital look of the production itself), with good DTS-HD MA English 5.1 and 2.0 stereo options with optional English SDH subtitles. A very raucous commentary track with Grannell, Dekker, actress Ashley Fink, and the Ramseys clearly having a ball watching the film and swapping stories about their fellow actors, the film school crash course atmosphere on the set, the three different personas Grannell adopted over the course of directing, some other possible acting choices, and plenty more.

All About EvilThe featurette "Star Quality" (36m37s) features Grannell, producer Darren Stein (Jawbreaker), Dekker, Fink, All About EvilPeterson, Jade and Nikita Ramsey, Segan and Stole, starting with the history of the birth of Peaches Christ and Midnight Mass before going through the dark fates of single-screen theaters that birthed this film and the involvement of the talent who got to shoot in a very colorful area of Frisco. They're a bit vague at the end about exactly what sabotaged the film's fate once it got out the door, but it's here now so that's what counts. A round table discussion (28m49s) with the commentary participants is a more general account of the film's genesis, the housing for everyone involved, the acting role that made Dekker a logical choice, and other story swapping about memorable moments from the team effort. "Evil Live" (20m15s) smacks you in the face with the entire unleashed "Peaches Christ Experience" at the Castro Theatre in 2010, complete with red carpet arrival and a full-on floor show to get the crowd in the mood. Then you get that original 2003 Grindhouse short (13m36s), a "Children of the Popcorn" (8m20s) peek at what goes on to get ready for a Peaches Christ production, a vintage "Behind the Evil" (15m4s) featurette with lots of behind-the-scenes footage, and a trailer and teaser. The two-disc set also features a 47-track soundtrack CD clocking in at 70m45s.

Reviewed on June 9, 2022