After last week’s premiere of Flowers in the Attic, Lifetime really kept the January creep-fest going with its new movie, Lizzie Borden Took an Ax. Based on true events, Lizzie Borden Took an Ax tells the story of a 32-year-old woman in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892. She was accused of brutally murdering her father and stepmother, Andrew and Abby Borden. From neglectful and abusive parents to children who kill their parents — shouldn’t these movies have premiered closer to Halloween?
Whether you know the whole story of Lizzie Borden, most have probably heard the rhyme: “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” (Though the number of whacks is exaggerated, sort of — 18 and 11.) Christina Ricci stars as the titular character in Lizzie Borden Took an Ax. Clea DuVall costars as Lizzie’s sister Emma; Billy Campbell plays the Borden’s lawyer, Andrew Jennings.
The plot of the movie sounds like something along the lines of Snapped: 1892 edition, and the set up of the story is particularly procedural. The first half hour is spent establishing the characters before the Bordens are murdered. Then the police investigate for a half hour before the 1890s equivalent of a district attorney (Gregg Henry) charges Lizzie with the murder. It takes forty minutes to get through the trial as the prosecutor and Mr. Jennings weave two possible scenarios. Finally in the last ten minutes, after Lizzie is acquitted, she comes clean to her sister about what went down on that hot day in Fall River.
On a technical level, the color of the film is unsaturated and made to appear aged. However a bluesy alt-rock soundtrack throws off the old-fashioned sheen of the movie, though, to be honest, I didn’t hate the music. Ricci pulls off the aloof and slightly sociopathic Lizzie while Campbell puts as much effort into his role as the defense attorney. Currently, we love Campbell on Syfy’s Helix, but we’re glad he took a break from mysterious viruses to delve into the mysterious 1892 crime.
Since Lizzie Borden Took an Ax is the story of an actual unsolved murder — though everyone really believes she did it — this Lifetime movie is perfect for people who enjoy learning about creepy historical figures (similar to Marie Delphine LaLaurie on American Horror Story: Coven) or fans of Snapped.
The best part of the whole movie however is the end, where the film includes the well-known rhyme. There’s nothing like a group of children singing about a gruesome double murder while skipping rope to really set the menacing tone of the ending. (Seriously what is it about kids singing that is so hair-raisingly spooky?) It was the perfect creepy end to a not-so-creepy movie.
C2013 James Dittiger
January is a major premiere month for Lifetime movies. So make some popcorn and get ready to live-tweet the two most anticipated films: Flowers in the Attic on Jan. 18 and Lizzie Borden Took an Ax on Jan. 25.
Flowers in the Attic is based on the 1979 book by V.C. Andrews that was adapted into a poorly received (and seriously campy) film in 1987. Even if you’ve never read the book, you probably know Flowers in the Attic as that incest novel. Although the '80s movie shied away from the taboo topic, Lifetime promises their adaptation goes there. This new version of Flowers in the Attic will stay closer to the book, which tells the story of Cathy Dollanganger, a teenaged girl who is locked in an attic along with her three siblings for more than two years. All four children suffer abuse at the hands of their sadistic grandmother. Yikes.
Lizzie Borden Took an Ax is based on the infamous court trial of Lizzie Borden, who was accused and acquitted of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe in Fall River, Mass. in 1892. The title of the movie is taken from the folk rhyme that immortalizes the girl: “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” To this day, people still speculate whether Lizzie actually committed the murders.
Although these Lifetime movies are much darker than typical films created by the network, we’re certainly excited for both. If we had to pick which one looks better, well, we’re not sure we could make that decision. Incest or patricide — that’s a tough one.
A sweltering hot day in Massachusetts, 1892, is pierced by the brutal double murder of Mr. and Mrs. Borden that would stun the nation. Lizzie, a wholesome Sunday school teacher and Mr. Borden's youngest daughter, quickly becomes the prime suspect. Now, as her lawyer Andrew Jennings proclaims her innocence, the original good-girl-gone-bad will stand trial in one of the most gripping, gruesome mysteries of all time. Her name will forever live in infamy and the eerie children's rhyme will continue to haunt those that know the story, but the truth is anything but clear.