When making a low budget film, one of the easiest and most accessible locations for your film is the woods. It’s a wide, open location that you can let your actors play around in without needing much set dressing or anything like that. Simply put, it’s cheap production value. That’s why you see so many low budget horror films filming there. I’m in no way criticizing this choice. I did it for my first film as well. The woods can be eerily quiet, secluded and easily lost within. Nature is scary. There is so much to be mined from this type of location. A good film will take advantage of that, and a lesser film will just bore you to tears.
Luckily, The Axiom is a pretty decent lost-in-the-woods film that tries to inject some new life into a well wrought subgenre. The themes of isolation are explored to full effect in the film. There’s nothing scarier that being lost in a vast space with no hope for making it out.
Axiom uses the classic five friends grouping as they travel out to the woods to search for the sister of two of our leads. Marylyn has been missing for some time, and sister McKenzie and her brother Martin are going to find her. They bring along Martin’s girlfriend, Darcy who brings along her brother Edgar. Also, weird British friend Gerrik is along for the ride as well. So there’s a lot of familial connections to keep up with here.
Upon arriving near the location of Marylyn’s disappearance, the group meets a strange native to these parts, Leon. Leon leads the group to where the lost sister might be, but there’s something sinister afoot in these woods. He warns McKenzie in particular of the voices that get inside your head while there. He gives her potion that is supposed to help silence those.
From there our group arrives a cabin where it looks like Marylyn might have stayed at. That’s when creepy goings on begin to happen. My favorite of which is that even as their stay reaches late into the evening, the sun never goes down. This is a cheap and effective bit of creepiness that I’m jealous I didn’t think of first. It works within the confines of the story, but it also helps that the entire production then takes place during the day with natural lighting. I though this was a clever little bit.
The group is soon visited by ghosts called the pale ones that resemble Voldemort from Harry Potter. As the group begins to slip further from reality and see strange figures in the woods, McKenzie dips into the magic potion pretty quickly and ever has to share it with her fellow campers as they begin to lose it.
To delve further into the plot would lead us into spoiler territory, and I’d want to avoid that. I will say the explanation of what’s happening there, and what “The Axiom” really is sets this movie really apart from other movies in the subgenre. It’s some really cool stuff that leads to a world that I’d really like to see built upon in future installments, should there be any.
Overall, two of the things that work really well in the film is the cinematography and the makeup effects. As the group starts to “turn” on each other, there’s some pretty gnarly effects in the latter half of the film. The great woods location is really showcased in the film’s fantastic and classily simple cinematography. The film simply looks great.
Now, there are a few things that really didn’t work for me in the film. First, there’s no real standout performance in the film. Everyone here does a fine job in their roles, but no one really brings it home. The pacing of the film also hurt it. At around 100 minutes, the film feels a bit too long, and we have some stretches of the runtime where I was checking my time counter.
I also wish we got to the world establishing a bit sooner because I thought the idea of The Axiom itself was really cool. Again, perhaps in a sequel, that can be explored further. SPOILER ALERT, there’s a bit at the end when McKenzie finally finds Marylyn that really frustrated me. END SPOILER.
In the end, I can recommend the film to a certain sect of the horror community that really digs on lost in the woods films. This film does offer something new for the subgenre and looks great to boot. There’s some cool effects in the film and trippy things that happen as our characters go further down the rabbit hole. The film gets bogged down by its lengthy run time and makes some odd character choices near the end. While it wasn’t a wholly satisfying experience, you could do a whole lot worse with woods-based horror films.