Lizzie Borden Took an Ax (Film) Review


Happy Sunday/Monday Bad Movie Fun Day! Welcome to the next installment in Jillian & Christa’s Great Blog Collab 2015. I think this might be our seventh outing and I’m enjoying doing them more and more each time.

This week was my pick and it was a hard decision to make. I had a short list of three very different movies and had started to get worried that the films we’ve been reviewing have been too good. Well, with this in mind, and without wanting to give too much away yet, I think this week’s choice may have solved that particular quandary.

So to this week’s straight to TV movie (bypassing even DVD, ouch), starring 90’s pixie Christina Ricci.

The Film: 

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax (2014)

Where to Watch:

US Netflix

The Premise:

The true story of Lizzie Borden, a young woman tried and acquitted in the 1892 murders of her father and stepmother. (via IMDB)

The Trailer:

Viewable here.

The Uncondensed Version: 

Christina Ricci AKA Lizzie B is eating fruit by a window in her nightie. My first thought is how tiny she is. Some maids are pottering about doing chores when Lizzie moves downstairs, enters the parlour on the ground floor, only to discover a man with a mashed up face lying on the couch. Lizzie lets out a blood curdling scream and we’re away!

We then flashback a while, to before the events of the day Lizzie finds the man (her father).

It’s the Bordens! Coming out of church! A passing man compliments Mr Andrew Borden on his pretty daughters, to which he grumpily quips that if that were the case, he’d have grandchildren by now. Lizzie and her elder sister, Emma exchange a look. Mrs Borden, Lizzie and Emma’s stepmother doesn’t have much to say. The family have a dry conversation about mutton on the way home. Things don’t seem that rosy on the home front, but who am I to judge?

“What? I only Ax’d you what was for dinner…”

Later, at dinner Lizzie asks her father if she can be excused from the table. He says no but she goes anyway. She is told off even later on for humming to herself while he is trying to relax in the parlour. Basically, Mr Borden is kind of a dick.

Mr B, it turns out, is also not very popular with some of the townsfolk, failing to pay up on jobs that have been done for him, being a douche about it in general. Lizzie witnesses him having a talk to a couple of heavies in the yard while feeding the pigeons. What’s a girl to do though, when confronted with something of this nature? Go shopping, of course.

“I Ax’d you not to post this picture of me on your blog. GAWD.”

Turns out little Lizzie has sticky fingers and pinches some coin from her stepmother’s purse. Then she hot foots it to (presumably), the only boutique in town. Where she finds out that her line of credit has been taken away (thanks stepmum, you bitch). It doesn’t even matter though as Liz has the cash and purchases a little summin-summin for a party later that night. While there, Lizzie tells the shop girl that she’s worried about something terrible happening to her father (!) as he has so many enemies (ooof clever!).

She also tells her that she’s always dreamt of doing more with her life and having freedom. Then she steals a pretty silver mirror for good measure, because she’s a bad ass. Sadly, she gets shopped to Pops by the shop girl and he later comes up to bollock her.

“Let me Ax you something: how hot am I?”

Each of the scenes with Lizzie and Mr B are a little creepy with incestuous undertones, I hope it’s not just me who thinks it. The gist of these moments is that Lizzie is a master manipulator and hey, fair play. If Wednesday Addams looked at me with those Puss in Boots eyes, I’d do anything she asked of me, any time.

But back to the movie. I Wikipedia‘d Lizzie Borden and there was a theory about sexual abuse between father and daughter, though these tête à têtes are the only nod we see towards that now. Thankfully.

Mr B tells Lizzie she can’t go to the party unaccompanied but she persuades him she’ll be okay as she’s no longer a little girl. She goes to the party. A girl looks at her bitchily when she agrees to a drink and asks her “Aren’t you a Sunday school teacher?”. Lizzie quips, “Only on Sundays”. I like Lizzie. She’s got gumption.

Lizzie goes home and there’s a kerfuffle in the night, I think I went into the kitchen to make some tea when this was happening. There was some flapping and maybe some squawks so I imagine something happened to the pigeons?

In the morning Lizzie is woken by the news that there’s been a burglary. Some of Mrs Borden’s jewellery and cash has gone missing. Since they all know Lizzie has kleptomania, she’s the natural suspect. Of course she denies it and makes some digs about her stepmother’s family who are better off than them, and Mr B ain’t happy about her ingratitude. There’s some more weird flirting between them and then she tells him she doesn’t think she wants to get married.

Emma, Lizzie’s dowdy and quite boring sister (I don’t really rate the actress who plays her) conveniently goes to see a friend for a few days, leaving Lizzie at home with her parents. I ate three crumpets at this point so wasn’t really focused but Lizzie seemed pretty enthusiastic about this turn of events. Curiouser and curiouser.

So off Emma pops and while she does that, Lizzie fannies about a bit. The maids are also occupied, so occupied that they are absolutely nowhere to be seen as Wednesday slaughters both her parents in a violent and not very subtle way. Naked. Oh but wait, we don’t know she was naked yet, we’ll see that in a flashback later. My bad.

Artist’s impression of murder victim

Mrs B gets the chop first though she isn’t discovered for hours, poor lamb, then Mr B comes home and has a nap on the couch. He never wakes up.

Lizzie discovers his body and it all kicks off. About seven different investigators turn up and question Lizzie, they all look the same and I keep getting them mixed up.

DNA profiling proves that it’s moved on somewhat since the 1800’s as the rigorous checks Lizzie is subjected to include; having her palms checked for blood, having the inspector walk around her and accept the excuse that the bright red stain on her blue dress is stew from earlier. Lizzie tells him that she was in the barn looking for fishing tackle (a likely story!) where she also ate three pears.

NB: This film was a lot more talky than I wanted it to be, with quite a bit of court room shenanigans. Therefore, there’s not much to describe. I’ll keep it brief from here.

Lizzie is questioned a lot about her feelings for her father and particularly, her step-mother. She admits that Mr B was a complicated man but that she loved him. Emma keeps asking her too if she has anything to share. Basically, everyone suspects her. She gets a lawyer with a jaunty mustache.

“I Ax you this. Do you like my jaunty mustache?”

The cops are determined to bring Lizzie down, though a couple of them remain unconvinced that a woman could commit such a blood thirsty act. The main dude, I didn’t learn any of their names, quite rightly reminds them that the asylums are full of mad women. Just as the girls are about to bury their parents, they’re handed a document saying that the bodies are to be exhumed.

There’s some courtroom action, where Liz is cross-examined. The court asks her to hand over the blue dress as it turns out it did have blood on it after all. SLOW CLAP for not taking it in for evidence on the day of the murder, guys. Lizzie is next seen burning the dress. Who honestly knew?

More courtroom, Liz starts to unravel, forgetting what she’s said to the room before. At one point she screams “SHE WASN’T MY MOTHER!” about Mrs Borden which looks hella suspicious. They interview the maid and Emma, who both cover for her. She thanks Bridget the Maid by sacking her bluntly. Then she’s acquitted.

There was something about poison in the story somewhere, again I wasn’t really listening that hard. Lizzie leaves the courthouse with the smuggest face in courtroom history.

“I’ll Ax you again: does my bum look big in this dress?” Answer: Definitely NO

The sisters slowly get back to reality but before this (?) we’re treated to the flash back of what really happened. Basically, Lizzie took great relish in killing her stepmother (why oh why does the poor stepmother always get such a bad rap? Dammit), then moving on to Pa, whom she murders whilst COMPLETELY NUDE. His last vision on Earth is of his wily daughter IN THE BUFF, perhaps another little sprinkling of symbolism?


So Lizzie is free and loving life. Going to church in big hats and throwing parties. Basically living the life of Riley. Again with the subtlety, but there’s a little throwaway clue to Lizzie’s sexual preference at the Borden Sister’s NYE party, where she gets close to a pretty friend, telling her that she’s missed her. I recognise this girl from one of the trials, but can’t remember anything about her.

Wiki (again) suggests that there were rumours about a lesbian relationship between Lizzie and the maid (though this chick ain’t the maid). I sort of wish they’d played this part up a bit, not least just to make it more interesting, FFS. And who doesn’t love a lesbian?

Emma gets peeved that Lizzie is having so much fun and the morning after their big party, confronts her, telling her that all her new friends don’t like her for her, only for the notoriety (I’ve been friends with people for less). In return, lovely Lizzie whispers the truth into Emma’s boring ear.

“Since you keep Ax’ing me. I totes did it. Lol.”

Emma leaves in shock and the Epilogue tells us that the sisters never saw each other again. Which is fair I think. Nobody was ever convicted of the Borden murders, and Lizzie lived for the rest of her days in the same town. Which must have been awkward.


The Critique:

Blows raspberry. It was pants, TBH. It did pretty much everything you’d expect it to, as a TV movie, but I was expecting a bit more suspense, a little more something.

I guess I expected more of Ms Ricci, who has been the star of some amazing films in her time (Buffalo ’66, The Opposite of Sex). What is she doing? I guess it could’ve ended up being a little cult gem, but it’s not good enough for that.

I’ve always been really attracted to the unsolved mystery of what happened to the Bordens, in real life, and this is not the best way to honour the legend. Excuse me for expecting more.

Other sticking points: not much of a back story (therefore a flimsy motive). Sure, Mr Borden was an arse but is that really enough to want to hack his face off? Since there are so many theories I feel like they could’ve been a bit more creative with the ‘truth’.

And the music! It’s always a bit jarring when you pair a contemporary (ish) soundtrack with a costume piece, but this one was something else. It’s hard to describe but it was a sort of, and I’m quoting myself here: “weird, country pop soundtrack.” Later, “Cue crap Nickelback track”. Awful.

Clea DuVall wasn’t really given much to work with (but I don’t really like her so, meh) and there’s not much to say about the rest of the cast. Snooze.


Wednesday would not approve.

The Rating:


2 bloody axes out of 5

Head over to Jillian‘s shortly to find out what she thought!

All images via Google.
Ax jokes all mine.