LIZZIE BORDEN TOOK AN AX
The Lizzie Borden story lives on in popular culture. There has been much theorising by true crime writers since about whether she was guilty or not, although none of these writers have identified any strong alternate suspects. There have been a number of plays, books and songs about her, even a heavy metal band called Lizzy Borden. There have been several films, including the tv movie The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975) starring Elizabeth Montgomery, while The Curse of Lizzie Borden (2006), Lizzie (2012), Lizzie Bordens Revenge (2013) and American Poltergeist (2015) all feature Lizzies ghost or spirit being resurrected in the present.
Lizzie Borden Took an Ax was a movie made for the Lifetime Channel, which usually specialises in womens films and true-life inspirational dramas but have in recent years been branching out into genre material, most notably with the series of tv movies adapted from Virginia C. Andrews. Written by Stephen Kay, director of Boogeyman (2005) and Cell 213 (2011), the film is at least reasonably faithful to the facts of the Lizzie Borden case.
The problem is also that it is not a very interesting treatment of the story. The most interesting parts the axe murders occur off-screen and fairly soon into the show. This means that the bulk of the film is taken up by the substantially less interesting details of the court case. When it comes to dramatic scenes with prosecutor Gregg Henry casting suspicion on things like Christina Ricci eating pears you can perhaps get an idea of how much the film lets its possibilities slip through its hands. What we have feels for all the world like one of the historical re-enactments that you get in the specials made for the History Channel.
Even then, the film fails to do a convincing job of portraying the 19th Century. Christina Ricci seems an ill fit for Lizzie Borden. She doesnt look much like the Lizzie Borden we see in surviving photos. Ricci also has a history of weird girl roles meaning that she seems naturally suspicious rather than what you would expect of a dutiful, Sunday School-teaching 19th Century daughter that people initially had difficulty believing guilty of the crime. Added to that is Riccis playing in the scenes with her father Stephen McHattie, which come with too much in the way of 21st Century attitude to seem convincing for someone of that period. The major thing that kills any suspension of disbelief that what we are in a 19th Century setting though is the insertion of modern rock songs on the soundtrack.
The film had a sequel in the tv mini-series The Lizzie Borden Chronicles (2015), which ran for eight one-hour episodes and featured Christina Ricci and Clea DuVall repeating the roles they play here. This concerns itself with their lives in the aftermath of the trial and is largely fictionalised.