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Friday, September 20, 2013

Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan

If I had ten bucks for every time my Netflix movies were delayed, I'd be a bilionaire by now. Luckily, there are so many ridiculously obscure horror flicks on the internet, I always have a back-up plan. This week's "back-up plan" is also a nod to the folks who've asked me to do one of these for a SyFy(I feel dumber just typin g it that way....) "original". So, get ready to sit there in stunned silence as we watch Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan. If a SPOILER falls in the forest, does it make a sound?

Anyway, the story starts out with a small group of hunters returning to a farm. A helpful subtitle lets us know that we're seeing Minnesota, circa 1894. Oh, these guys aren't hunters, they're lumberjacks. Well yeah, Paul Bunyan, makes sense. I guess the axes they've got hoisted over their shoulders was a big hint as well. Hey, cut me a break! Been a long week.

Where were we? Oh yeah, lumberjacks returning home. One of the younger ones suggests that it might be wise to slow down, to give the trees time to replenish. His boss, played by Dan Haggerty himself(Grizzly!!), tells him that the house-building industry is booming, and that they need to cut down 20 acres the next day, just to meet the demand.

Grizzly asks the cook when dinner will be ready, and he proudly displays a huge animal that he's been roasting for them. The boss tastes it, seems pleased, then runs off to take a dump in the woods. The cook has the young guy gather the other lumberjacks for dinner.

The boss returns, and finds all of his people slaughtered. Heads removed, limbs torn off, bodies of the men and their wives strewn about...Needless to say, he's shocked by the sight. Then a mutated guy dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt steps into view, and he looks pretty mad.

The boss runs away from the massacre, and manages to get to the saw mill. Sadly, so does the killer. Despite the lumberjack holding up his arms to surrender, the mutant pushes him into the gigantic buzzsaw, first destroying his arm, then splitting him right down the middle. Then the big, red, cartoony titles come up.

Grizzly Adams and a member of the Estevez family are the only recognizable names in this one, and one of them is already out of the film.. Beyond them, I have no idea who any of the other actors are. Yeah, THIS won't be torture to watch! They couldn't even get anyone from Stargate or Eureka for this one. Not a good sign...

Beyond those names, we just see trees. Lots and lots of trees. Man, I can never seem to escape the curse of the "tree movie", can I? Got a hanker for a hunk o' trees? Well, get your fill while it lasts, movie viewers. Wow, it took 3 guys to write the screenplay. Is that sad, or is it REALLY REALLY sad?

Phew, the credits are finally over. We see a man named Hoke tearing a bulletin about a redneck militia group off of the sign where he works. It's some kind of forest camp for troubled teens, like an Outward Bound-type of scenario. Great, bring on the stereotypes! Hey, didn't the Sleepaway Camp franchise cover this idea? It took 3 dudes to rip off another franchise?

Anyways, Hoke meets a shrink named Sammi, and they get along about as well as the Tea Party and Reality do. Then they both meet the small group of teens they'll be taking out to the woods. There are only 4 seen so far, so this might be mercifully short.

There's Marty, a black kid with an arrest for robbery; a brunette female named Trish, who assaulted a cop; a drug trafficker named Zach, who is a tall, lean white kid; and an Hispanic girl, Rosa, who was charged with contempt of court, and sentenced to the program as punishment. A car pulls up, and a man named Ray drops off his daughter Claire as well. She was found guilty of drunk driving.

Ray notices that Hoke is wearing a firearm, and questions the necessity of it, but "Sarge" Hoke brushes his concerns aside. While Ray and Sammi look on, Hoke makes the teens stand at formation, yells at them, then marches them onto a small bus. Ray looks pretty troubled, but Sammi assures him that she'll make sure that Claire is safe.

During the drive into the mountains, Hoke calls Sammi a "cube rat", then interrogates her about her experience outdoors. Despite her relaxed demeanor and smile, Hoke refuses to be polite, and he talks like a robot, clipping every word as if the conversation pains him. What a douche. If Paul Bunyan kills him early on, I'm awarding an automatic point this week.

The kids are also getting to know each other. They asks Marty what he stole, considering that he looks like Steve Urkel when he wears his glasses. They were right to peg him as a geek, because he hacked into a government computer system, then stole around 11 million dollars.

As they talk more, Hoke calls them "stumps", and robotically orders them to face forward. When Sammi asks him what a "stump" is, he replies that it stands for "Stupid Teenagers Under My Protection". Then he further pisses everyone off, when he presents and lights up a cigar. Please, movie, kill him soon.

They cross a bridge, then come to a stop at a gate. While Hoke unlatches the gate, a strange old man watches from a hiding place in the trees. He looks like the MadTV version of Kenny Rogers. If you've never seen that character, look it up on Youtube, it's hilarious. I'll wait.

*tune for Jeopardy plays*

Ready? It was funny, right? Good, then let's continue.

They finally get to a sprawling, one level house, and Hoke uses a stick to draw a line on the ground. He makes them stand at the line again, then tells them that his camp is their last option before going to jail. He promises to transform them from STUMPS into trees, then Sammi encourages them to enjoy camping out.

After ordering the kids to pitch tents in the designated area, Hoke pulls the doctor off to the side. She tells him that she won't be sharing a tent with him, and he responds that he'll be sleeping in his cabin, while she sleeps outside with the teenagers. You know, I'll bet that they keep this guy alive out of sheer spite.

A deer is seen grazing, and a brown bear wants it for dinner. As the bear prepares to make a move, Paul Bunyan sneaks in, then yanks the bear up by the neck. He snaps the creature's collar bone, then finishes it off with a large hunting knife. Bambi watches the encounter, then scampers away to play with Thumper.

Back outside the cabin(in the woods...Ha! The joke lives on!), the campers get a small fire going. Sitting around the fire, they discuss the various incidents that brought them together. Rosa gets the ball rolling, sharing that she was a witness to a shooting, but defied the court by refusing to testify in court. She has a young daughter, and was worried about retaliation.

Zack goes next, after insulting Rosa with lame pick-up lines. He admits that he was very skilled at acquiring and selling drugs, and seems more disturbed by his current loss of profits than anything else. Trish then tells the group that she was in a bar fight, and lashed out at a police officer afterwards, because she felt sexually harassed.

Claire goes next, with some encouragement from Sammi. She was arrested because she was in a collision with another drunk driver. It was the other driver's third offense, but her lawyer had advised her to plead guilty. The other teens express outrage over what happened to Claire, though Sammi reminds them that she still drove while drunk.

The crazy coot who witnessed the bear attack then pops up, ranting about trees. Sarge Hoke comes outside to investigate the ruckus, and identifies the old man as "Meeks", the local kooky hermit. Meeks rambles on some more, makes the kids jump, then runs back into the woods. Hoke announces that he's getting them up at 5, then orders them to bed.

True to his word, Hokes wake up the group early the next morning.  Before he does though, Trish wakes up Zack for some topless socializing. Sammi finds them, and lets them know that if it happens again, they'll both be forced to head back to court for a stiffer sentence. Heh, "stiffer".

Hoke shows up soon after, shouting everyone out of their slumber. He promises them a grueling off-road hike, then heads back into his home. Sammi follows him in, admires the furnishings, and requests that he leave the gun behind. Somebody might want to remind her what movie she's in, because Paul Bunyan doesn't look like a prime candidate for a counseling session.

The Sarge lines everyone up, then gets them to march in place. He berates everyone except for Rosa, and tells her that her attitude might be a benefit. Then he starts them up with a drill song, and off they go!

The march soon turns into a run, and it's mostly uphill. They navigate over rocks and around tree trunks, with Hoke yelling most of the way. He even threatens to abandon any stragglers. Hey, wasn't there a killer Paul Bunyan monster somewhere in this movie? Did he go home?

Meeks did. He's seen hiking around the rough terrain, giggling and gibbering all the way to his house. Yup, gibbering. The closed captions even agreed with me, so nyah nyah nyah! Oh, and apparently Meeks plays with himself, as we see him hovering over aq chessboard on his front porch. Wait, what did you think I meant?

After crossing a "river"(really just a stream, by the look of it), Hoke finally lets them all take a break for lunch. While he eats his sandwich with Sammi, the teens moan and gripe about the exercise. Zack decides that he's going to attempt to walk back to civilization, and urges the others to go along. After he leaves, Marty follows to try to coax him back.

Zack gets to a clearing, then quickly realizes how big the mountain is, when he sees the hillside covered in trees. Marty catches up, and they both discover a pile of large bones. It's the site where those loggers cooked and ate Babe, Paul Bunyan's big blue ox. Zack finds the skull of the beast, and he impulsively decides to remove and take one of the horns as a souvenir.

Zack hoists the horn over his shoulders and they return to the group, unaware that Paul Bunyan had put a cross at the site, in tribute to his pet's death. Gee, I sure hope he doesn't mind a little grave desecration...I'm sure it'll be fine. Gigantic mutant lumberjacks with a taste for blood don't tend to hold grudges.

Zack shows off his find, and the girls all suggest that he leave it behind. Then Hoke sees it, and tells him that he can't keep it. As Hoke leaves them to clean up their lunch mess, Zack hides the horn in his backpack, and it doesn't fit, but he takes it anyway. Yes, because no one could possibly notice a large, sharp horn poking out of the top of your backpack.

At a place called Mel's Lumberjack Saloon, Ray stops in to visit the bartender, an old man named Budd. Budd tries to sell him a drink, but Budd's daughter shuts him up. Ray asks her about Hoke, because her daughter went through his program, and Budd tells them that Hoke killed a teen the previous year. Say WHAAAAT?

Not intentionally, of course: a teen had an unreported heart condition, and died because Hoke pushed him too hard. The waitress sends her father to wait on some customers, then clarifies that the teen only got heatstroke, and also survived. She flirts with Ray as he leaves, but he's clueless. Her reaction to his putdown is cringeworthy. Oscar-caliber acting? Nowhere in sight.

Back to the hapless hikers. Sammi runs past Hoke, mockingly suggesting that she might abandon him if he can't keep up. Ha! Hoke waits for the entire group to pass him, and brings up the rear.

Uh-oh. Paul Bunyan is at the site where he buried his pet ox, Babe. He stomps around the bones for a bit, then comes to the spot where the skull was dropped. When he sees that one of the horns was torn off, he bellows out several angry roars.

Our intrepid hikers hear the roar and guess that it's a mountain lion, but Hoke doesn't care one way or the other. Meeks hears the sound too, and hurries out of his shack with his trusty shotgun. He looks around his property, but Paul Bunyan's not around.

During the hike, Marty grabs the massive horn out of Zack's bag, then runs ahead of him. Zack chases him, but none of the others even seem to notice. Hell, they don't even bother showing Hoke getting pissed off that someone defied him.

While Paul Bunyan scans the forest for his prey, the hikers stop for another quick rest. Trish whips out a cell phone, and sees that her friends have left her several messages. The electronic noises draw the attention of Paul Bunyan, and they hear the sound of him stomping in their direction.

All of the hikers turn to stare at Trish, who's unaware that Paul Bunyan is now standing directly behind her. He raises his mighty weapon, cleaving Trish in half, right down the middle. The others spread out into the forest, while he examines the amount of blood on his axe.

The campers split up into 2 main groups, and Paul Bunyan goes after Rosa first, knocking her to the ground with a flying tree branch that he hit with his axe. She's still alive though, so don't worry. Paul Bunyan would rather chase the others through the forest, than go after easy prey.

Zack and Marty circle back around, then lift the heavy branch off of Rosa. She's slightly injured, so they each grab an arm, and resume running away. The rest have been making their way back to Hoke's cabin, with him yelling at them the whole way. Paul Bunyan blocks the path, and separates Hoke's top and bottom halves in front of the others. Yippee!

Paul Bunyan gets his blade jammed into a tree, and that buys the group some time. Hoke is somehow still alive, and he urges Sammi to get the kids to his cabin. As they rush off, he distracts the monster by yelling insults at him, and Paul Bunyan proceeds to flatten him with a massive foot-stomping.

Both groups of escapees meet up, and they finally arrive at the cabin and tents. Hoke had locked the door, but they manage to break in. Rosa has a large gash on one side, so they set her down on a couch as gently as possible, then scurry through the house, trying to come up with a plan of some sort.

Sammi tries to take charge, but it's actually Claire that has an idea first: she spots the van that they all arrived in, and realizes that they could drive to the nearest town, or at least a main road, to get assistance. There's only a slight glitch...Hoke has the keys.

Marty claims that he can hotwire the vehicle, so the plan suddenly seems viable again. Sammi has Claire look for weapons, then remembers where she saw Hoke put his gun. She grabs it, then leads Marty outside, taking care to be as quiet as possible. Oh, and Marty's weapon is a rake. Great choice.

Marty gets in the van, but has trouble distinguishing one wire from another underneath the steering column. They hear twigs and branches snapping nearby, so they probably don't have much time before Paul Bunyan reappears.

Marty finally gets his act together, and the engine almost roars to life. Sadly, so does Paul Bunyan. He steps out of the woods, and Sammi urges Marty to move faster. She finally drags him back out of the vehicle, and they rush back to the house.

Once everyone is safely together again, they watch Paul Bunyan lift the van and drag it away. So much for a quick escape. Paul Bunyan heads back to his cave, and examines the amount of blood on his axe again. He wipes some off with a finger, then gives it a taste. Mmmm mmmm, good, that sure is some tasty blood! Then he finds a rag to clean off the blade.

Claire sees Zack closing a fist around the blade of a knife, and looks at the self-inflicted wound. She wraps a piece of cloth around it, and they share a nice moment together. Awwww...

Paul Bunyan apparently forgot what he was doing, because now he's after Meeks. He knocks at the door where the other survivors decide to allow him in. He accuses them of riling up Paul Bunyan in some way, and they show him the horn that they took.

As night falls, Sammi asks Meeks to explain the real story of Paul Bunyan. He dismisses the popular folktales as nonsense, then tells them the truth: a man named Larch Bunyan was a local land baron in the late 1800's. Larch met and married a woman named Helga, and she gave birth to Paul. A doctor told the couple that Paul had a rare hormonal disease, one that made him grow 2-3 times as large as a normal man, and he would age slower, living 3 times longer than a normal person.

There was a drawback, though: Paul was developmentally disabled. He was big enough to hold an axe by the age of 5, so he worked with the loggers in the area. It motivated them to increase their output, and soon both the trees and the forest animals grew scarce.

That brings us to events in the opening scene. Bill, the lumberjack foreman gathered a group of his employees to hunt down a wounded animal that had left tracks in the snow. The animal had been Babe, Paul Bunyan's pet, and it had injured itself stepping into a bear trap.

Bill decided that they should kill the ox and eat it, then try to conceal the truth from Paul Bunyan. He shot Babe right between the eyes, and they all dragged the carcass back to their camp. Paul Bunyan goes in search of his pet, and you know the rest of the story.

After he killed the lumberjacks, Paul Bunyan tried to hide in the forest, but an angry mob found him. They chained him up, then dragged him back to town, where even more people were waiting to heckle him. His breaking point came when a local women he had a crush on, Maybelle, turned her back on him. The townsfolk eventually decided to drag him into an abandoned mineshaft, where they used dynamite to seal him in.

Of course, since he was a mutant with incredible physical strength, Paul Bunyan was able to get himself. He took what was left of his  pet, then lived by himself high up in the mountains, content to avoid anyone else until our teens came along and desecrated Babe and the gravesite.

Meeks urges them to bring the horn back to where they found it. Zack picks it up, then runs outside. He begs Paul Bunyan to take back the horn, then flings it into the trees. For a second or two, nothing happens.

Then as Zack turns to head back inside, the horn flies through the air, impaling him. Then the monster shows up, grabs the dying teen by the leg, and drags him into the woods. Sammi shoots at Paul Bunyan, but the bullets seem to have little or no effect.

They all rush back inside, where Meeks is raiding the fridge and cooking himself a meal. He advises Sammi to wait until morning, then attempt another escape. Their hope is that, since he has the horn again, maybe Paul Bunyan will leave them alone again.

They spend most of the night panicking, and Rosa asks the others to make sure that her daughter is okay if she doesn't survive. Then Claire gives gun safety tips, and tells Sammi that she regrets not treating her father better. At his cave, Paul Bunyan's been polishing his axe(not a metaphor), and making it razor-sharp. Guess he hasn't calmed down.

Morning comes, and Ray decides to drive up to the camp. At Hoke's cabin, Meeks and Claire are the first ones to wake up. Meeks tells her that she's identical to Maybelle, the woman who broke Paul Bunyan's heart. Oh, and Maybelle just happens to be Meeks' great-aunt....So, wait, would that mean that he and Claire are somehow related? He also seems to think that Claire might be a reincarnated version of Maybelle, but who knows? Seriously now, what...the...fuck???

Meeks leaves to find the truck, and he urges the others to remain at the house. He claims that being alone will actually make him safer. Before he leaves, he gives Claire a photo of Maybelle, and she marvels at their similarities.

We're checking back in with Ray, for some reason. Armed with a high-powered rifle, he finds the big red splotch that used to be Hoke, along with a comically oversized footprint. He attempts to use his radio to calll for reinforcements, but all he gets is static.

Ray arrives at a fire tower and climbs it, and the radio signal improves somewhat. His message is received at the saloon, but Budd doesn't hear it. The people in this movie are having a whopping streak of bad luck!

Back at the cabin, things get quiet. Too quiet.(Heh, I always wanted to say something dramatic like that. My bucket list is shrinking!) Then Paul Bunyan's axe crashes through the ceiling. Is it just me, or does his size seem to change in every scene?

Everyone gets knocked to the floor, so he raises the axe to try and finish them off. But this time he avoids the roof, opting to smash the windows instead. Followed by more roof damage, and the same footage, over and over again, of Paul Bunyan growling and raising his weapon. This is so Stucking Fupid!

Paul Bunyan reaches into the house to snatch up Claire, but Marty stabs at his hand with the rake. Paul Bunyan howls in pain, knocks Marty over, then picks up Rosa and holds her by one leg to get a good look. Her screams make him decide that she's not worth the trouble, so he kills her by hurling her at a tree.

Sammi then fires a bullet into his eye, which sends him reeling. While he's distracted by the pain, Sammi and Claire run outside. Marty grabs a large tree branch and goes after Paul Bunyan, out of his mind with grief over Rosa's death. He flings the large stick at the monster, attracting his attention.

Sammi puts herself between Paul Bunyan and the teens, prepared to die in order to protect them. Luckily, Ray shows up at that point, and shoots the giant 3 more times. Paul Bunyan stumbles backwards, then lands on top of what's left of the house.

Oh, those weren't actual bullets, they were tranquilizer darts. Ray tells the others that fun fact, then urges everyone to keep moving before he wakes up again. As they head back to a m,ore populated area, Meeks blocks their way with his shotgun.

He starts to ramble on about how Paul Bunyan is just an innocent boy, and that he can't let them leave. Marty tries to grab his weapon, so Meeks shoots him in the gut. Marty dies in less than a minute, and Meeks tries to force the last few survivors to go with him at gunpoint.

That's when Paul Bunyan wakes up. He sees that "Maybelle" is in danger, and tosses his axe in a bid to save her. He's got good aim...his axe decapitates Meeks. The final 3 survivors run away, and the chase resumes.

They arrive at Roy's truck, and he grabs more ammunition. Then he hands the keys to his daughter, and asks her to drive, while he climbs into the truckbed to get a better aim at Paul Bunyan. The truck races down the road as Roy loads his gun, then Paul Bunyan is seen racing after them. Roys fires several shots at the giant, but he never goes down. Claire swerves to avoid Paul Bunyan's axe, and Roy loses the gun.

As Roy struggles not to fall out of the truck, Paul seems to vanish. Nope, he inexplicably managed to get in front of the truck, without them ever noticing what he was doing. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. He nearly decapitates Roy, but only manages to remove the police lights on the roof.

The impact causes the truck to go careening into a tree, and Roy flies out of the back, where he rolls several feet. Sammi and Claire run over to help him, and he seems just fine. They decide to continue on foot.

The trio get to the bridge, and no one else is in sight. Then Paul Bunyan finds them, and corners the group on the bridge. There's a door at the other end, but it's locked, and the giant is still approaching. Roy fires several shots at the door, but it won't give.

Several vehicles drive up to the bridge, and an armada of rednecks spill out of them. Paul Bunyan finally notices them, and gnashes his teeth as they all take aim at him. After being hit by numerous rounds, Paul Bunyan drops his axe.

The rednecks stop firing, and Paul Bunyan turns to look at Claire/Maybelle one last time. He says the name "Maybelle", begins to cry, then falls off of the bridge. The crowd watch him as he sinks into the water below, then the rednecks begin to cheer and holler. When Ray asks how they knew what was happening, it's revealed that Budd did hear the police scanner,and called his daughter to round up an angry mob. Yee-haw!

The rednecks argue over what they just killed, and Budd convinces the group to carry the massive axe back to the bar. Our 3 heroes stare into the water, then join the others. THE END

Well, there you go. A SyFy movie and a slasher flick, all in one. At least there was plenty of the red stuff. On the other hand, the movie. But it was slightly better than 2-Headed Shark Attack or Mansquito, so....yeah. Hooray? 3 out of 5, with that full point included for making sure that Hoke died.

And what did I learn from Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan?

-Lumberjacks are dangerous psychopaths, and much more so when you eat their pets.

-Some guys can't even generate sympathy when you see them cut in half.

-Giants just want to get laid, like we all do.

Next week, I'll do either The Wraith or Miner's Massacre, depending on which one arrives first. Have a fun week!