Queer horror week is coming to a close and we end on a possible theory for what took place in the famous Lizzie Borden axe murders. Lizzie has been reimagined as an epileptic lesbian with a strong and independent will that often went against her father’s wishes. It’s always interesting to see what filmmakers come up with when doing one of these “here’s what really happened” movies based on unsolved crimes.
While most people are familiar with at least the murders of Lizzie Borden’s father and step-mother; far fewer know much about Lizzie as a person. Here we follow Lizzie (Chloe Sevigny) as she develops a bond with the new housekeeper, Bridgette (Kristen Stewart), and uncovers the plot that her uncle John is attempting to gain the inheritance of the family wealth. The friendship with Bridgette soon turns into a romance and she decides to destroy the will that her father had written making John the conservator of the family fortune. Then, of course, the parents get axe murdered but who dunnit?! It was Lizzie. I know. Shocker. Spoiler alert or whatever.
The movie does a good job of setting up why Lizzie might have murdered her parents and even goes out of its way to make you not feel bad for them or at least the father. He is shown as a raping Bridgette, stealing land out from under people, and generally being kind of a terrible person. They don’t really get into the stepmother, which is unfortunate since we know that Lizzie dislikes her but it’s never really said exactly why. The acting is well done by the entire cast and Stewart doesn’t manage to sound too cringey with an Irish accent. The relationships between the characters are well established and conveyed without having to make them come out and tell the audience.
There is a bit of tension and horror atmosphere that happens during the film but I would probably classify this more as prospective history than a real horror film. The murders themselves barely even happen with any horror perspective; unless, of course, you find a naked Chloe Sevigny to be particularly scary. The times when the movie leans into the horror aspects with flashes of violence or menace; it works very well to keep you engaged with the story. There is definitely an uphill battle when you already know to whom and when the murders are going to happen. The family drama at the center of this makes for a decent “what if” in the Lizzie Borden story.
I don’t think this is a bad movie at all but it certainly isn’t one I’d gush about or want to talk with people about. It does a good enough job that you don’t regret watching it but I can guarantee that I’ll most likely forget about in short order.
Score: 3 out of 5