It isn’t often that I get excited about a TV movie, however twice Lifetime has tickled my fancy with redo’s of cult classics. The other film that peaked my pleasure points was the redo of VC Andrew’s “Flowers In The Attic”. However “Lizzie Borden Took An Ax” amped up my excitement to levels normally reserved for Indie horror films set to release. In this version of the most infamous American female murderess Christina Ricci took on the iconic persona of Lizzie Borden. The story is something that cannot change with the Borden murders but most of what we know about Lizzie herself comes from those few statements and descriptions from her friends and family. Lizzie told us very little of herself in her own words. Lifetime does a very good summarization of Lizzie Borden’s character and the events around one of the most well known murder cases in American history.
The story: On a scorching, hot summer day in 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts, Lizzie Borden returns home to the house she shares with her father Andrew, stepmother Abby and sister Emma. But, unlike any normal day, Lizzie encounters the bloody scene of her parents violently murdered. Police quickly question multiple suspects in town, but evidence keeps pointing back to the Borden's youngest daughter Lizzie, the seemingly wholesome Sunday school teacher, as the prime suspect. Lizzie's lawyer, Andrew Jennings, proclaims her innocence arguing that it is inconceivable a woman could commit the heinous crime of brutally murdering her family with an ax. Or is it? Lizzie is put on trial for the murders, both in the courtroom and in the press, sparking a widespread debate about her culpability. As the case rages on, the courtroom proceedings fuel an enormous amount of sensationalized stories and headlines in newspapers throughout the country, forever leaving Lizzie Borden's name in infamy.
My thoughts: First off, forget even trying to compare this film with the classic Elizabeth Montgomery movie “The Legend Of Lizzie Borden” because there is nothing there that can compare other than, maybe the stylized interpretations of the facts themselves. Montgomery gives a fab performance that does a good job of separating her portrayal here from her very famous persona on ‘Bewitched’. With equal respect Christina Ricci does a great job of creating a very emotionally charged, yet sociopathic-driven portrayal of Borden that brings more life to Lizzie Borden than I anticipated or even expected. It has been common belief that it was more than just selfish desire that drove Lizzie Borden to kill. She carried with her a dark passenger that created a sinister, cold, disconnected aspect to Lizzie Borden that was probably an unmentioned issue from early in her childhood. Ricci gives us that in calm, calculated edified gesture.
The stories atmosphere is a gothic blend of surrealism and psychological narrative wrapped around early Americana and polished off with modern folky, indie rock sounds that are as dark as the story and characters within it. It gives “Lizzie Borden Took An Ax” a modern, fresh energy that excites the viewer. Now there are still down moments within the film that create momentary lulls, but nothing that causes the movie to completely stall. Bonus aspect that really makes this movie watchable is the visionary, creative way the director chose to tell the story balancing between stoic character interactions, and shocking, visceral moments of brutality that are honest to the murder scene’s “truth”. This movie definitely delivered on giving me a great Lizzie Borden film. A definite watch!