The Axiom 2017
A group of friends are tricked into going on a rescue mission in the woods, unknowingly crossing into a terror-filled dimension.
Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, and Nicole Dambro
I was definitely in the minority when it came to Adam Wingard’s sequel to The Blair Witch Project, Blair Witch, released in late 2016. While I marveled at innovations that saw the woods transform from a place of physical terrors to a metaphysical nightmare world where the laws of time and space no longer applied, others groaned that the film was boring and didn’t add anything new to the established mythologies. It made me wonder if I’d watch the same Blair Witch as everyone else, because what I experienced was a surreal thrill-ride that was both infinite in scope and claustrophobic in aesthetic. Whether it was a case of sequel/reboot/remake hate or knee-jerk aversion to the found footage presentation the first Blair Witch propelled into the mainstream, the reactions to the film just didn’t seem to coincide with the creative and harrowing innovations the movie displayed. Thankfully, there’s 2017’s The Axiom, an indie creepers that injects standard cabin-in-the-woods horror tropes with the kind of paranormal sci-fi folks were too blind to appreciate in Blair Witch.
What exactly is an axiom? Webster’s’ defines an axiom as: A statement or proposition that is regarded as being established, accepted, or self-evidently true. In the film, an axiom is more of a doorway, a natural metaphysical occurrence that opens portals to other dimensions. The Axiom is part of a growing number of films that take Bermuda Triangle motifs into dense woods and forests. In addition to 2016’s Blair Witch, it’s a relative of movies like Yellow Brick Road, The Corridor, and Suicide Forrest. Throw in some fantasy elements reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Mist and even Netflix’s Stranger Things for a unique mashup of motifs that make The Axiom as cerebral as it is primal, devastating, and harrowing.
Official Synopsis: A group of friends are tricked into going on a rescue mission in the woods, unknowingly crossing into a terror-filled dimension. The Axiom is written and directed by Nicholas Woods and stars Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, and Nicole Dambro.
Writer/director Woods is clearly a horror fan and aficionado, skilled in identifying and executing maneuvers that will keep the audience rapt, even if sometimes confused. There are a ton of nods and shout outs to classic horror movies from Gremlins to Friday the 13th. Woods has an appreciation for the intelligence of today’s genre connoisseur; no longer content with sloppy scripting and slashers lacking any clear motivation, we want something that challenges our preconceptions with lofty concepts and complex, nebulous dread. The scripting isn’t perfect; the meat of the film’s mythology is stingily withheld until the 3rd Act, which can be a bit overwhelming. It means viewers have a lot to piece together as The Axiom marches towards its climax. But this is a small gripe, considering the film’s overall creativity. It’s an ambitious movie, deceptively typical until multiple universes emerge to boggle viewers’ minds.
Every member of the cast is a skilled thespian; from the film’s final girl to the Deliverance-reminiscent locals who only appear briefly, everyone commits and no one stands out as amateur. I was most impressed with Taylor Flowers who played Edgar. While designed as a supporting character, Flowers delivered a powerhouse performance that was absolutely star caliber. He’s a character recovering from a recent bout of mental illness, but he’s not a stereotype, and his condition is not treated lightly. While the film focuses on a brother-sister duo, Edgar is the X-Factor that makes The Axiom truly gut-wrenching. Flowers’ performance elevates the entire film a full half point by himself.
The Axiom is clearly a low-budget film, but it makes the most of the natural surroundings and light, giving the entire affair an authenticity that’s genuinely compelling. There is a huge implied mythology, worlds of monsters beyond imagination. We believe these places exist, even if we can’t see them (a mark of skilled storytelling). Those adept at delving for subtext will also find The Axiom a poignant examination of sibling relationships (specifically as ties loosen during adulthood) and the need for resolution in order to heal emotional wounds. Gore-hounds will be satisfied by capable gore and creature FX that add the perfect amount of overt terror to the subtle madness that permeates everything.
Bottom Line: The Axiom is an ambitious indie whose reach slightly extends its grasp; the film’s weakness come from a desire to cram diverse tropes and lofty concepts into a single narrative. A more focused, traditional film, however, would have lacked the unbridled creativity that makes this film worthy of your attention. Despite physical limitations, the filmmaker’s intentions are clear and the innovations on established motifs show promise. Horror fans should keep writer/director Nicholas Woods on their radars.