Looking to cash in on the low-budget grindhouse aesthetic that Rob Zombie and Eli Roth perfected, Anthony Leone’s 2020 indie horror, Hacksaw, hits VOD platforms this week. To his credit, first-time director Leone is almost a one-man show, taking on writing, producing, and cinematography credits. Though Leone demonstrates ambition, Hacksaw follows a familiar blueprint. Based on its synopsis and promotional material, the roadtrip horror patterns itself after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the indie, gorefest bravura Terrifier. Don’t expect to see any familiar faces. Aside from a couple of indie horror scream queens – Cortney Palm (Zombeavers) and Sadie Katz (Party Bus to Hell, Wrong Turn 6) – Hacksaw is an entirely freshman effort.
After a surprise engagement, Ashley and Tommy, opt for a roadtrip to visit family. But the couple inexplicably take a detour to check out a local legend. Somewhere off a lonely stretch of highway in a small town, Ashley and Tommy visit an abandoned hospital scheduled to be torn down. In this same derelict building, local legend Ed ‘Hacksaw’ Crowe murdered dozens of people. But Crowe died a long time ago. Or did he? Some legends refuse to die.
Hacksaw Wastes Decent Practical Effects on an Inept Movie
Arguably, Hacksaw’s closest comparison will be Damien Leone’s Terrifer. Both movies boast nasty, disturbing practical gore effects. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end. By and large, Hacksaw is a borderline incompetent movie. Take any aspect of filmmaking and Hacksaw fails miserably. Whether it’s atmosphere, pacing, editing, or storytelling, Anthony Leone undershoots even the most modest of expectations. Picking a worst offender is a challenge. First and foremost, Hacksaw drags with pacing problems that absolutely shouldn’t exist for a 68-minute movie. Following a brutal opening montage, audiences will sit and wait for a good 40 minutes for anything to happen. And that 40 minutes of filler alternates between pointless chatter and completely unnecessary and grating talkshow segments. There’s barely enough story here to qualify as derivative.
First and foremost, Hacksaw drags with pacing problems that absolutely shouldn’t exist for a 68-minute movie.
Additionally, Leone struggles to capture and edit any of the action put onscreen. Does Hacksaw boast a few grotesque practical gore effect scenes? Yes, Leone includes a few gut-churning moments. Maybe he’ll impress some gorehounds. Still other horror fans may point to the unnecessary nastiness of these bits. Too bad Leone also demonstrates no ability to film these scenes. For starters, Hacksaw’s editing is jarringly bad. You’ll struggle to follow what’s happening. Don’t expect any cohesion to the action. Perhaps the best illustration of Leone’s ineptitude is a nonsensical cut to an awkwardly long shot of a building just as something actually happens. And just when you thought the movie couldn’t get any worse, Leone somehow manages to incorporate all the worst aspects of found-footage with jerky camera shots. As for the story itself, it’s a ‘barely present’ rehash of much better movies.
The Max Hart Show is Cancelled Until Further Notice
If I had to say something good to say about this indie horror it’s that it was nice to hear Sadie Katz’s voice. Sadly, Hacksaw limits Katz’s role to an all-too brief voice cameo. Like the rest of the movie, no one else in Hacksaw washes off the stink of this waste. However, to be fair, leads Amy Cay and Brian Patrick Butler deliver some convincingly natural banter. Keep in mind, Leone gives them nothing with which to work. In what amounts to a pointless role, George Jac is bad. Really bad. In fact, The Max Hart Show segments actually drag the movie further down. In fact, one will struggle to understand why Jac’s character is in the movie. Outside of providing context for what little happens, Jac’s presence is the very definition of unnecessary.
Moreover, Crowe barely makes an impact in his own movie – he’s an afterthought.
What’s worse is that Hacksaw lacks a convincing villain. Why is the movie called Hacksaw? Apparently, the killer likes to use a hacksaw – it makes an appearance. Once. To say that Hacksaw’s villain, Ed Crowe, is dull would be an understatement. Leone could have pulled his killer’s profile from any Wikipedia description of a generic serial killer. Moreover, Crowe barely makes an impact in his own movie – he’s an afterthought. And what Leone puts on the screen is pretty underwhelming. Consider for just a moment how little Crowe has in common with any decent horror movie villain. That is, Crowe offers nothing distinct. What you’re left with is an unremarkable killer sporting a ‘Dad bod’ and rambling, nondescript soliloquy.
Hacksaw Scrapes the Bottom of the Barrell
Yes, Hacksaw is a bad movie. And no, it’s not bad in a ‘so bad, it’s good’ way. You won’t find any low budget, indie horror movie charm here. There’s no cult following in this movie’s future. Rather this is a straight-up bad movie. Aimless, derivative, plodding … those are just a few of the adjectives that capture this movie’s problems. To give you some idea of the low quality of Hacksaw, at just over 68 minutes, the movie feels long. After a genuinely grotesque and disturbing montage over the opening credits, you’ll wait nearly 40 minutes something to happen. Furthermore, Leone confuses mean-spirited violence for fear and tension Yet Hacksaw will even disappoint Grindhouse fans. Specifically, Hacksaw offers too little of this violence, if that’s your thing. Bottom-line, Leone’s feature debut offers little for most horror audiences.