The Axe Murders of Villisca is a 2016 American horror feature film directed by Tony E. Valenzuela (creator of the genre YouTube channel BlackBoxTV), making his feature-length directorial debut. It was written by Owen Egerton (Blood Fest; Follow), based on a story by Kevin Abrams and Tony E. Valenzuela and produced by Seth Caplan.
On a June night in 1912, eight people—a mother, father, their four children, and two guests—were murdered by an axe-wielding killer in the sleepy town of Villisca, Iowa, a case that remains one of the most horrifying unsolved murders in the United States.
104 years later, Caleb (Robert Adamson) and Denny (Jarrett Sleeper), two friends who share an interest in ghost hunting, along with Jess (Alex Frnka), the new girl in school who’s already got a reputation, sneak into the house where the infamous bloodbath occurred in hopes of recording paranormal activity.
What the trio encounters is far more horrifying than anything they could have imagined…
” …this is an all-too-familiar setup that doesn’t check enough boxes for horror fans: jump scares and overall atmosphere are lacking, the kills are fairly pedestrian, and the characters aren’t developed enough to root for. Certainly watchable for a majority of the running time, the last act is a distorted, frenzied rush to the finish line that creates more confusion than any feeling of resolution.” Drew Tinnin, Dread Central
“Disjointed and confusing, the film fails to live up to the promise of its spooky setting. There’s a good horror film to be made from this story, but The Axe Murders of Villisca isn’t it.” Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
“Oozing with finely crafted atmosphere, it’s an ideal location for the picture – both inside and out, but what resonates most is undoubtedly Owen Egerton’s script […] The Axe Murders of Villisca focuses on the struggle of our besmirched trinity to reconcile with their personal demons; it’s a device that really makes this low-budget film pop with originality.” Dave Wain, The Schlock Pit
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“The triangular chemistry between each leading character is actually fine when they’re not being cocks to one another, but this obvious allegory for accepting our pasts is without thrills, fun or much substance. The Axe Murders of Villisca tries to up the “deadly house” game, but neither Tony E. Valenzuela nor co-writers Owen Egerton and Kevin Abrams find individuality despite retelling such a storied crime.” Matt Donato, We Got This Covered
“The acting is fine, and it’s refreshing that Egerton and Valenzuela have at least spent some of their 78 minutes beefing up the characters and relationships — even if the end result is still clichéd. But The Axe Murders of Villisca never really comes to much, perhaps because its focus is too diffuse. The scares are low, and the plot under-baked.” Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times
Scriptwriter Owen Egerton discusses the film, the house and the murders at Birth. Movies. Death
- Robert Adamson – Dr. Chopper
- Jarrett Sleeper – Fight of the Living Dead
- Alex Frnka
- Riley Bodenstab
- Kellan Rhude
- Conchata Ferrell – Krampus
- Jon Gries
- Urs Inauen
- Claude Knowlton
In North America, IFC Midnight released the film on January 20, 2017.
A British DVD release from Gilt Edge Media was released on 31 July 2017.