Hey Pet Pigeons! After subjecting myself to Flowers in the Attic last week, I’m doing it a second time with Lizzie Borden Took An Axe. Why would I do this? Because the only thing better/worse than a Lifetime movie is a Lifetime movie about murder! Plus, it stars Christina Ricci AND your imaginary girlfriend Clea Duvall!
On a serious not though, it’s a fascinating true crime story with talented actresses attached. Plus I’m really enjoying Masquer’s creepy version of the Lesley Gore classic “You Don’t Own Me.”
I mean, this will always be the best version of that song, but still, good stuff.
With so much going for it, this movie couldn’t possibly be worse than FITA, right? Right?
SPOILER ALERT: this movie is poopy shit. So let’s dive the fuck into this cinematic dumpster, shall we?
The movie opens with Lizzie eating a pear and hanging out with some pet pigeons while creeping on a guy hanging laundry. She wanders around outside her house in her underwear…or at least I think it’s her underwear. Maybe it’s a dress?
Inside, her stepmother makes the bed and her father lies down for a nap…sidebar, I know it’s the olden timey days, but whenever I see someone on TV or in a movie take a nap fully clothed, I call shenanigans. Who naps in their fucking shoes and cummerbund and neck tie? STOP THE NAP LIES.
Lizzie walks into the house and sees her dad on the couch with his head all bashed open. She screams. The credits roll. BTW, Forever Intern Grace made the BEST adjustment ever to the title credits.
We see the Bordens still very much alive and leaving church. Let’s take a moment to admire Lizzie and Emma’s jaunty hats. Emma is Lizzie’s older sister, and she’s played by Clea Duvall (HEY GIRL HEY).
Lizzie admires the neighbor’s new carriage. We find out that Papa Borden is rich but super stingy. A guy admires the loveliness of the Borden girls, but their father is just like, where the fuck are my grandkids? Because that’s all daughters were good for in the old timey days, apparently. Also, they’re having mutton for lunch again.
Basically, Lizzie is bored as fuck and looking for some action. I mean, just look at her face.
Church is followed by a silent cold lunch and some silent cold chores.
It’s pretty clear that the Borden house is austere as fuck and Lizzie isn’t even allowed to hum while ironing the laundry. SHE CAN’T HUM Y’ALL, HEADS GONNA ROLL!
Lizzie is tired of being silenced literally and figuratively. It’s the classic tale of sexual repression and patriarchy and corsets and baskets! Lizzie goes out to feed her pigeons, her caged birds. Get it, because she’s a caged bird! BIRD METAPHORS FOR EVERY FEMALE STORY EVER AND EVER!
While she’s tending to her birds, she sees her cheap ass father arguing with some workers he refuses to pay. It’s pretty obvious Borden is a cheap bastard. I mean, his daughter’s only pets are pigeons! I believe the word pigeon is Latin for “shit bird.”
Lizzie is beyond bored, so she steals some money from her stepmother’s purse and heads into town for a shopping spree. And by “spree” I mean she goes to the only dress shop in town.
Okay, we need to talk about the music in this movie, because it is cuckoo bananas. All of the background music is modern twangy shit-kicking honky tonk. It seriously sounds like someone put the True Blood soundtrack on in the background and said “fuck it.” I have no problem with modern music in a period piece (see Moulin Rouge/A Knight’s Tale) but the lyrics to the song are literally “she’s a bad girl/crazy girl.”
WE GET IT MOVIE, SHE’S A KILLER! YOU DO NOT NEED TO TELL US THROUGH SONG!
Unless this is going to be a full-blown musical, in which case YES PLEASE.
Lizzie meets up with her BFF Alice at the dress shop, and they pick out dresses for the party that night. Even though her father has forbidden her from going out, Lizzie does what she wants. And she wants freedom, big dreams, and to get fucked up at the party tonight.
Alice asks about her sister Emma, but Lizzie tells her that Emma dreams small and boring and is a total pillowcase. Lizzie says/plants that her father has so many enemies, she feels like something terrible is about to happen.
When Lizzie goes to buy the dress, the shopkeeper informs her that her stepmom cut off her credit. Lizzie pays with the stolen cash and shoplifts a fancy mirror when the woman’s back is turned.
We then flash to Lizzie at home, where she gets naked and looks herself over in the mirror.
Emma walks in and is like, why the fuck did you steal a hand mirror, dad is pissed! Lizzie tries to cover it up, but Emma knows when she’s lying. Apparently Lizzie lies to everyone.
Dad paid off the shopkeeper, but he’s still pissed about the theft. He bans Lizzie from going to the party, especially without an escort. Lizzie’s response is to turn on the creep charm and feels up her father to convince him to let her go.
Once the lights are out, Lizzie sneaks off to join the party. And by sneak I mean she walks right through the front door and no one gives a shit. Once she gets to the party, it’s all hillbilly rock, red light bulbs, and bad behavior. BTW, it is really weird to watch people ballroom dancing to honky tonk.
Lizzie joins a group of people and has a drink. One woman knows her as the Sunday school teacher, but Lizzie reminds her that’s only on Sundays.
Lizzie is soon joined by her friend Nance, who she seems to be flirting with her. Or not. After all this build-up to this party, literally nothing happens. No clandestine love affair. No drugs. Literally a glass of sherry and she’s out that bitch. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie, and that tone is build up to absolutely nothing.
The next morning, Lizzie’s parents are all in a tizzy because some jewelry and money is missing. They’ve even called the police, which is ridiculous because it’s obviously their klepto daughter.
Lizzie tells her father that the real thief is the stepmom. Apparently Dad is willing to spend money on the stepmom and her side of the family, but he keeps Emma and Lizzie locked up like prisoners.
She then turns on the creepy flirt charm with her dad by admiring the gold ring she gave him. He wants her to get married to someone, but she’s like fuck marriage. Spinsterhood forever!
Lizzie then cleans the pigeon coop, which is filled with blood and she has no reaction to it! What the actual fuck? Emma tells her she’s leaving town to visit a friend, and Lizzie is like, cool, take your time, ignore my crazy eyes!
After Emma leaves, we see Mr. Borden go to town. Bridget the maid cleans the windows. Mrs. Borden makes the beds. Lizzie goes into the basement. What is this, Chores: The Movie ?
I have to say, we haven’t even hit the first commercial break, and this movie is dragging ass. It should win an award for Best Opposite of Tension in a Televised Film. The maid hears a loud noise, and dad comes home. Lizzie tells him that her stepmom went out. Dad wants to know why she’s all hot and sweaty.
Lizzie waits for him to take a nap and we hear a muffled scream. We jump back to the opening scene, where Lizzie screams at her father’s dead body. Bridget runs upstairs and screams as well.
During the commercial break, there is a trailer for Lifetime’s next original movie, The Gabby Douglas Story. I’m not gonna recap that.
Like I’m going to snark all over an Olympic champion and make vagina jokes about a child on a balance beam? Please, I have some respect. Adults on a balance beam however, will be nothing but LOLs and stubbed vag jokes. You’ve been warned, Kerri Strug!
So Bridget runs into town screaming for a doctor. A crowd gathers outside the house as the doctor and the police investigate the murder scene. It’s so gruesome that one officer pukes. Everyone is like, where’s the stepmom? Bridget goes upstairs and finds her all axe murdered as well.
Emma shows up like, what the fuck, I was only gone for an hour. Lizzie says she had no idea they could fit so many people in their house.
The detective starts questioning Lizzie about what happened. Lizzie tells him she was in the barn looking for some shit, ate three pears, then came in and everyone was dead.
The cops find an axe, and in a bizarre choice, decide to examine the bodies on the dining room table! Come on cops, they eat mutton there! Then the head detective proceeds to scan Lizzie’s body for any traces of blood. Literally, he just puts his face really close to her body and moves it up and down. I guess this is what they did before CSI.
He finds a stain on Lizzie’s dress that she chalks up to stew. Sure, BRAIN STEW.
The district attorney Nolton aka Quinn Fabray’s dad aka that guy in ever TV show ever shows up to join the proceedings. Nolton starts questioning Lizzie about whether or not she loved her parents, but everyone else is like, how dare you she is a delicate flower!
Emma and Lizzie decide to spend the night in the murder house, and Alice is joining them too. Plus, she’s bringing a roast lamb! Slumber party!
Lizzie is already looking at real estate and planning her fabulous new parentless life, but Emma is like, what the actual fuck, we’re orphans. Emma promises Lizzie she’ll always protect her, and asks Lizzie if there’s anything she wants to tell her.
Emma asks Lizzie why she didn’t run, and Lizzie said that she thought only guilty people ran and she didn’t want to look guilty. Emma is like, oh shit, this crazy bitch murdered our parents.
The next day the daughters are visited by Andrew Jennings, aka Billy Campbell aka Evan Rachel Wood Bisexual’s dad on Once and Again. He’s the family lawyer and he’s here to defend Lizzie against the extremely likely murder case that is developing.
Nolton is convinced that Lizzie committed the crime, despite there being no evidence. And because the stepmom died first, it ensured that the inheritance wold go through Mr. Borden then to his daughters. Besides, what stranger would murder one person, then stay at the murder location for two hours before killing the next one?
So whenever any of the characters in this movie talk about the murder, we see the same quick shots of bloody axes and bodies. Over and over again. This is presumably to hold our interest bc the rest of this shit is boring as fuck.
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I would watch the shit out of murder or menses.
thank you for acknowledging the weird-ass black keys soundtrack.
so like, the lizzie borden house is now a bed and breakfast and i’ve been there! weird right? my avatar is actually a picture of me in the friggin lizzie borden house, allegedly the hat i’m wearing was the father’s hat! the pigeon thing is TOTALLY TRUE, according to our creepy tour guide… also there is a theory that the dad was molesting her and emma all the time, which is why she killed them. the house is really weird, like there are no hallways, one room opens into another room into another room, which they tell you probably added to how stifled lizzie felt in that house.
also girl, she didn’t look anything like christina ricci, nice job with the sexy naked slow motion axe murder scenes, guys.
what a good lifetime movie. better than liz & dick, not as good as the anna nicole story.
petition for an official lifetime movie hierarchy infographic
obviously the two greatest lifetime films of all time are “the client list” starring haviland stillwell dot com and “mother may i sleep with danger?” starring tori spelling:
Those are in my top 5 as well. Love them. Also a big fan of Death of a Cheerleader, also obviously starring Ms. Spelling. And Friends Til The End.
oh also that one where brian austin green was a teen dad and he lived on a boat! and wasn’t kirsten dunst in something called 15 and pregnant? it is the best genre.
Oh no. Large portions of this movie were filmed in my hometown (Lunenburg, Nova Scotia), which means I’m condemned to watch it no matter how bad it is, just so I can experience the fleeting superficial joy of representation. We do this a lot in Nova Scotia. It’s called the Haven Effect.
A Matthew Barney reference! If there’s not going to be a Lifetime recap next week, can we get a full recap of the entire Cremaster cycle instead please please please?!
Wow. I realize that will never actually come to pass but I would so read that. Because bees, man. BEES. Also, thank you for ruining Mr. Tumnus for me FOREVER Matthew. I can’t buy vaseline any more either.
Chelsea, getting to read (and understand the references in) this recap made my completely consensual real-time viewing of this movie entirely worth it. At last!
Also if I recall correctly the Samantha Stephens/Mona Robinson* version also had Lizzie getting nekkid to off Papa Borden. Ostensibly to prevent staining her duds, but both films also heavily suggested some rather untoward incesty implications as well.
*I guess I mean the Elizabeth Montgomery/Katherine Helmond version, but I really don’t.
The captions are so so so good. I like to give myself a wine-induced lifetime movie coma once in the while.
This was no exception.
the cheetos caption made me laugh out loud.
also, thank you for this recap. i tried so hard to watch this movie because it actually seemed like it would be interesting, but i made it about 3/4 of the way through and i just couldn’t anymore. even though i probably should have just pushed through because by that point i was basically at the end.
Lizzie did have an affair with Nance O’Neill, a few years after the murders (and pretty openly, too), but didn’t know her while her parents were still alive, so I don’t understand the partying with Nance before the big night thing. I’ve visited that house, too, and it is so dark and close–ugh. I really believe the “Emma did it” theory. It makes so much more sense, esp. because she was privy to the details of the wills and knew that the only way the girls would inherit was if Abby was killed first (otherwise the estate would pass from their father to Abby, and thence to her family). Lizzie supposedly did not have access to that information (though I suppose Emma could have told her). It’s amazing that such a fascinating case could be made so boring; this is why I don’t bother with cable. But very funny recap!
Emma certainly had more motive and more to gain than Lizzie, but the known facts of her movements on the day of the murders mean that, although not impossible, it is highly improbable that she was the murderer. We know that Emma was staying with friends in Fairhaven where she received the telegram regarding the murders. I don’t recall the time of day that the telegram was received, but we do know that she was on a train that left New Bedford at 3:40 pm. To get to the station at New Bedford, a journey of roughly 25 miles, would have taken at least an hour. The train journey to Fall River is reported to have taken an hour and 20 minutes. Factor in transit time to the Borden home from the station and you’ve got a total journey time of 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Given that the murder of Andrew Borden was reported shortly after 11 am and that Emma would have had to have either had some way to have protected herself from or cleaned up the gore on her person, and given the journey time involved, it seems very far-fetched to me that Emma would have come back to Fall River for the purpose of murder that morning.
As for the ‘Abby died first’ thing, I’ve always had an issue with that. The examiner on scene, who was a family doctor, not a coroner or medical examiner, used what are now considered to be inaccurate methods to determine the death order; a feeling of coolness to Abby’s skin and her blood seemingly being more congealed (ewwww) than Andrew’s. So, since Grissom wasn’t around, the time of death was ultimately determined on stomach contents, assuming that both Bordens had last eaten the same quantity at the same time. This is an extremely imprecise method as well, since no conclusive testimony exists on whether either Borden had any other food intake, and since both were suffering the GI effects of eating week old unrefrigerated mutton stew (double ewww), their rates of digestion would not necessarily conform to normal rates.
So, though it has been a traditionally accepted fact that Abby died 60-90 minutes before Andrew, there is actually very little conclusive evidence to support it, and if she didn’t die 60-90 minutes before him, then she likely died either right before him or right after him, in which case things make slightly more sense as a crime of passion. Which may or may not lend support to Lizzie’s innocence. On the one hand, a crime of passion could just as well have been committed by someone Andrew pissed off (and he apparently pissed off a lot of people), but then why kill Abby, particularly when she was just minding her own business, making the bed upstairs, yo. On the other hand, if Lizzie did have a Dexter moment, and killed her father, then it would make sense for her to then kill Abby so as to get at the fortune.
Why yes, I am moderately obsessed with the case, thanks for asking. Currently living in the UK, so did not get an opportunity to see what was apparently an all-time low, even for Lifetime; but I too, enjoyed the recap.
I also have stayed at the LBB&B, where I assure you, I was not murdered. But the continental breakfast was to die for.
I imagine Abby was killed because she was hated (by both girls). You know way too much about this case!!
I was in gymnastics for 10 years… when one of us stubbed our vag on the balance beam we called it “crotching the beam”.
THE MORE YOU KNOW!
oh gawd, the captions. <3
This was hilarious. I do recall reading a book suggesting that the daughters committed the crime together – Emma knew about the will and approached Lizzie with the idea, and Lizzie did it, while Emma was conveniently not there.
“The Legend of Lizzie Borden” was and is one of my favorite TV films. It shocked the shit out of me when I saw it at 10 or 11. I think it’s on youtube still.