[FilmQuest Fest Review] #CHADGETSTHEAXE
#ChadGetsTheAxe
I don’t want to review #CHADGETSTHEAXE. I don’t want to think about #CHADGETSTHEAXE. I don’t even want to talk about #CHADGETSTHEAXE right now because I’m so angry. I don’t want to mention that it was an award-winning short film before being turned into a feature-length film. I don’t even want to say it was written and directed by Travis Bible and stars Michael Bonini, Spencer Harrison Levin, Taneisha Figueroa, and Cameron Vitosh. I don’t want to write anything about #CHADGETSTHEAXE at all!

Because then I’ll have to admit how much I really liked it.

And it is such a dumb premise and a horrible setup. Like, who makes a movie about basically one continuous livestream of investigating a murder house? Who would take a look at Unfriended and think to themselves, “Yes, but douchebags trying to get more views, and with more comedic beats, please”? Travis Mother-snuggling Bible, that’s who.

And when I first set out to watch this, it was late and I had to get up early, so I said to myself, “Eh, I’ll just watch twenty or thirty minutes and watch the rest later.” But #CHADGETSTHEAXE, this mother-flipping movie…I watched the whole damn thing in one sitting. I even rewatched half of it as a screener, people. That’s, like, unheard of, especially during my busiest month of Halloween viewing.

So, the story is this. Spicy Steve (Michael Bonini) is the “beta” to Chad’s (Spencer Harrison Levin) “alpha” energy. They’re bros, but you know who’s leading the relationship. They team up with a pair of other streamers, a hottie couple who fixate more on beauty tips and whatnot, Spennifer (Taneisha Figueroa and Cameron Vitosh), to go to a supposedly haunted murder house.

The film follows all four as they livestream from the house, unlocking its mysteries, as the live chat adds to the answers they uncover. However, things start going horribly awry soon after entering the house. Now they’re faced to wonder if this is all a prank created by other streamers, by each other, or if there is something more sinister at hand…

I will say three things that were in-freaking-credible about this movie and made #CHADGETSTHEAXE entertaining and worth the watch. The atmosphere. The writing. The acting.

While there were obvious jumpscares, every horror film doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. There’s a reason why some of these things can still scare us when done properly and with care. Yes, some of these scares are ones we’ve seen before, but the pacing and atmosphere were precisely crafted to make them feel fresh again. Bible was good at building the tension and holding you captive; I was reminded of the famous Hitchcock quote about building suspense in a scene, especially as we the audience would sometimes have the live chat as our proxy to our suspense. I was legitimately scared in parts and that’s rare as a horror reviewer.

And Bible creates a solid atmosphere that is possibly a new genre – instant found footage. Basically found footage we get to participate in and almost interact with.

Still from #CHADGETSTHEAXE

In fact, having the “fans” following and interacting with the main characters gave the atmosphere a huge boost; the fans went even beyond the real audience proxy to become interesting side characters themselves, such as Murder Maven and the feet guy. The writing added to the fan tension as we, the audience and fans, saw or heard things that the characters did not. The fans could relay that information to the characters, making it feel interactive for us in the audience, as well.

Trust me, the first ten minutes I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it because I thought the writing was rough. But it’s not. It’s actually really good because as the story unfolds, you realize how much of that larger-than-life bravado in front of the camera is a persona and how much is real. Plus, I want to give props to the writing on actually having genuine comedic beats besides Chad being a Chad. There were moments I legitimately laughed out loud and was furious that a movie called #CHADGETSTHEAXE was making me laugh.

But that’s probably because the writing is carried by tremendous talent, showcasing such a wide range of emotions. Spencer Harrison Levin nails this movie so hard, it can’t walk straight for days (sorry, I need a scumbag joke in here somewhere). I was completely surprised at the depth he brought, especially in the third act. I was not too fond of his character and yet loved his character. And for him to be able to pull that off is no small feat.

Michael Bonini was great at playing the soft, sweet boy trying to be tougher and Taneisha Figueroa had a lot of sincerity and grace to her role, which was not the ditzy bubble-headed bimbo we usually see but a resourceful and funny character. Cameron Vitos was terrific, but to be honest, they didn’t go too far in depth with his character like the others, which was a shame.

The only critique I have was that the killer, while a terrifying menace, did not have enough of a costume design to really stand out. He’s a cult leader, so have him look weirder and more cult-like. It’s just like…Bag Head. You can’t sell that at conventions. No one wants a bobblehead of Bag Head.

And also the blood…you need better blood. Travis Bible, call me, I’ve got blood recipes for you.

But, yeah, I’m furious at #CHADGETSTHEAXE. It was supposed to be bad. It was supposed to be unfunny. It wasn’t meant to be a social commentary that makes you feel things. It wasn’t supposed to keep me up watching until the very end.

So, #CHADGETSTHEAXE is horrible and douchey and makes me furious. And, as a horror-lover, I couldn’t recommend it more this holiday season. For something a little different, a fun romp, and slivers of a deeper look into our society, #CHADGETSTHEAXE is one movie to like and subscribe to.

#CHADGETSTHEAXE had its world premiere at FilmQuest Fest 2022.

#chadgetstheaxe Trailer 1 from Travis Bible on Vimeo.

 

J.M. Brannyk
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