For today's movie, I decided to go with a piece of Iowa history. I've never really researched the Villisca axe murders before today, but true crime media does fascinate me, so I decided to give this one a shot on Netflix. Let's take a look at The Axe Murders of Villisca.
The film opens with a clearly possessed minister going room to room, killing the Moore family and their two houseguests with an axe, as a record player pumps out an eerie tune. A wounded older girl named Lena urges a younger girl named Ida to flee the house, but the girls are caught and executed by the minister. Fast forwarding to the present, Caleb has just received his High School Equivalence certificate and is planning to leave on a bus for Omaha the next day. His best friend drives him to school, and the two boys are berated by two of the school bullies, Connor and Rob. A girl named Jess is reading in a bathroom stall when two girls enter the restroom and begin watching a video of her having sex, posted online by Connor. Later, Rob confronts Jess about the video and Caleb slams Rob's face into a locker to defend her honor. After school, Jess drives to Caleb's house to thank him just as Caleb and Denny are leaving to take a tour of the famous Villisca Axe Murder House for their YouTube Channel, and Jess decides to accompany them. When they arrive in Villisca, the teens find the tour underwhelming and are evicted when Jessica is caught crossing the barrier ropes to investigate a sound... a song playing on an old record player. Jess suggests they break in that night and take their own tour. When she posts a photo of her and Caleb to Instagram, Connor and Rob realize where they are and go in search of revenge against Caleb. With the teens alone in the house, strange things begin to happen as the murderous spirits inhabiting the house begin to take control.
I have to be honest. I really just couldn't get into it. Aside from Jess, I really didn't find any of the characters to be relatable or likable. The actors playing Caleb and Denny really didn't have the onscreen chemistry to accurately portray best friends. We're pretty much forced to take the movie's word for it, because they sure as hell don't sell it. And if the actors can't sell it, the rest of the movie becomes a bit hard to swallow. Denny was enough of an insufferable jerk that I really couldn't bring myself to care what the hell happened to him.
The scares are okay. There are a few adequately creepy jump scares featuring some pale, muddy ghosts. I'm not sure why they chose the look for the ghosts that they did, especially the masks. Apparently the masks were tied to the Children's Day celebration that occurred in the town on the day of the murders, but the kids weren't wearing them at the time of their deaths, so... why include them other than a lazy scare tactic.A possessed Jess offers the creepiest moment when she begins to torment Denny.
I'd vote skipping this one and opt for doing your own research on the actual murders instead. If you're interested in the real events, the real Villisca Axe Murders House does indeed offer daily tours and overnight stays, so there's no need to break in like the doofuses in this movie.