The Horror Honeys: Because Nineteen Whacks Isn't as Catchy...

Because Nineteen Whacks Isn't as Catchy...

True Crime History in Horror Films with Revenge Honey Linnie!

It's fair to say that the infamous Lizzie Borden has her share of fans at the Horror Honeys, while a few of us might be downright obsessed with her. Personally, even when I was wee, I devoured every book I could find on the Bordens, to the point that my elementary school librarian called my parents in for a meeting. They told her to fuck off, and I've never stopped consuming information about Lizzie Andrew Borden, so suck on THAT, librarian lady whose name I can't even remember.

Anyway, the Honeys have decided it might be fun to look back at the history of the most infamous killers as they've been portrayed in horror films, and obviously, I decided to start with Miss Lizzie! We'll open with a little history, and then take you through their past in film, letting you know which is the best, as well as the most accurate.

So sharpen those axes, because it's time to visit with Lizzie!

The Real Lizzie Borden: Lizzie and Emma Borden were raised in a strict household by their father Andrew, and their stepmother Abby. Tensions were high in the Borden household, as the frugal Andrew had been giving away property to Abby's family, while Lizzie and Emma were often denied small luxuries that were common for women of their status at the time. In the days before Andrew and Abby were murdered, tension had peaked thanks to the infamous "pigeon incident," as well as an unexpected visit from Abby's estranged brother. 

The body of Andrew Borden, August 4, 1892
On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered with a hatchet by a still technically unknown assailant. Lizzie discovered Andrew's body and screamed for their maid, Bridget Sullivan, who then summoned the police. During the ensuing investigation of the Borden's house, Abby's body was discovered in the upstairs guest room, in which her brother had slept the night before (though some reports state the Borden sisters' friend Alice Russell had stayed there). While Abby's brother remained a suspect, Lizzie was charged with the murders due to her lack of an alibi and the fact that her stories changed many times over the course of the investigation.

The trial of Lizzie Borden was a media sensation, covered in all the papers across the United States. The prosecutors believed they had an open and shut case, convinced the evidence against Lizzie was irrefutable. What they hadn't counted on was that the common perception of women as "the weaker sex" was stronger than any evidence against Lizzie Borden. After deliberating for only an hour and a half, Lizzie was found not guilty. No one else was ever charged with the murders, but suspects include Bridget the maid, Emma Borden, Andrew's illegitimate son William, and John Morse, Abby Borden's brother, and of course, Lizzie herself, who was never truly considered innocent by the other residents of Fall River, Massachusetts.

Lizzie Borden in Film

The Older Sister, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Season 1, Ep. 17 (1957)

Tonight's theme song will be that familiar little ditty everybody knows. "Lizzy Borden took and axe, gave her mother forty whacks. And when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one." I venture that by this time you can see we are not presenting a romantic comedy tonight. However, we shall not re-enact the crime. We had intended to, but casting difficulties interfered. Oh, we had no trouble casting the mother and father, but we kept losing them in rehearsals. So, instead, we shall show you a slightly different interpretation of the Lizzy Borden story. It begins just one year from the time of the murder…

In the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, old Hitch presented us with an alternate theory of the Borden murders; one that has widely been considered by murder historians for a century. In The Older Sister, Emma snuck back from Fairhaven, murdered her father and stepmother, then went back to Fairhaven in time to receive the news of the deaths. Lizzie figured out what her sister had done, but in an act of love, took the fall. A reporter comes to the Borden house one year later, bringing the whole sordid history crashing back to both sisters. The Older Sister is great fun, and with the exception of some questionable casting (in which Emma looks about forty years younger than Lizzie), this piece of revisionist history will delight you.

True Crime Rating: 4 whacks out of 5

The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975)

I only just had the pleasure of seeing The Legend of Lizzie Borden, a 1975 movie of the week in which Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) portrays Lizzie. And the truth is I was absolutely blown away that this movie was made in 1975, for television. The Legend of Lizzie Borden is without question the most accurate representation of the Borden case I've ever seen. It bravely tackled the suspected sexual abuse Lizzie endured at the hands of Andrew, while also showing Andrew's history as a mortician, which is something you rarely see in versions of the Borden story. However, the real surprise came in the murder scenes, which were beautifully filmed, with most of the violence implied while still showing Montgomery splattered in blood, in the nude. In 1975. If you're looking for the most realistic Lizzie Borden film, The Legend of Lizzie Borden is on YouTube!

True Crime Rating: 5 whacks out of 5

Lizzie (2012)

You'd think by now Head Honey Kat and I would be tired of bashing David Dunn Jr.'s dumpster fire of a film, Lizzie. And you'd be totally wrong! You can read our original review here, because I can't adequately explain in this minimal space how much of a travesty this film is. Rather than even try to rely on the true history of the Bordens, Lizzie just makes shit up. Then it compounds the misery by creating an ancestor with the mental acuity of a piece of driftwood... and half the acting talent. Add on truly uncomfortable scene in which Gary Busey rapes the maid, and you have a piece of garbage more offensive to Andrew and Abby Borden than the hatchet whacks they got to the heads.

True Crime Rating: 0 whacks out of 5

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax (2014)

I could not have been more excited when Lifetime announced they were producing a Lizzie Borden movie in which Christina Ricci (a Scream Queen Hall of Fame inductee) would portray Lizzie. And for the most part, Lizzie Borden Took An Ax didn't disappoint. Excellently cast with flawless production value, Christina Ricci couldn't have been more suited to the role. Her childlike voice and Dorian Gray-esque lack of aging made her just innocent enough to play a Sunday School teacher with a secret. The trial scenes were engaging, as were Lizzie's interactions with her sister, Emma (Clea DuVall, also in our SQHF). In terms of accuracy, Lifetime's Lizzie still skirted some relevant issues, and the modern music in a period piece thing was annoying. But otherwise, Lizzie Borden Took an Ax is a solid entry to the Lizzie canon. 

True Crime Rating: 3 1/2 whacks out of 5

The Lizzie Borden Chronicles (2015)

~ I'm not afraid of you!
~ Then you haven't been paying attention.

The unexpected success of Lizzie Borden Took an Ax lead Lifetime to develop a Lizzie series, titled The Lizzie Borden Chronicles. Set one year after the trial's conclusion, Chronicles follows the further adventures of Lizzie and Emma as they try to make a life in Fall River. From an accuracy standpoint, this series is pure entertainment. While Chronicles makes use of little discussed players like William Borden, it also builds off many of the rumors and innuendos that surrounded Lizzie for years. All of that being said... Chronicles is a damn good time. Christina Ricci turned Lizzie into a truly ruthless serial killer, snuffing out anyone who stands in the way of her's and Emma's happiness. It may contain nary a kernel of truth, but The Lizzie Borden Chronicles is a blast.

True Crime Rating (for accuracy): 2 whacks out of 5
True Crime Rating (for entertainment): 5 whacks out of 5

Which is YOUR favorite Lizzie? Who would you like to see featured next in this series?
Let us know on Twitter: @horrorhoneys & @linnieloowho