2012 – Not Rated – Sledgehammer Films
Gather ’round these here parts and mosey on up to the campfire to hear the legend! There’s something people don’t seem to do anymore; tell ghastly stories and fabled legends around a burning campfire, trying to scare the mud out of each other’s britches. With how constantly connected we are now, the equivalent to camping would be watching a movie on your iPad, sitting around a campfire Blu-ray from your couch. But enough of about my unbridled hatred for the 21st century and all your precious modern technology; let’s be reminded of a more simple time, when chilling stories were told and hear the tale of a time when people were proud to live off the land, provide for themselves with what the Earth gives them and forage for their own food… even if it’s trespassers! Let’s hear the tale of Carl Henry Jessup… Let’s hear The Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher!
The set up makes it appear to be a cut and paste slasher, but I assure you, Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher is anything but. It’s easy to get that impression from the start, as an old man tells three wide eyed children this probably not so age appropriate spooky tale about a butcher and his meat, long pig (would you like to take a guess as to what that could be?). This scene reminds me of the opening to Madman, which is a good thing. When Carl isn’t stating is political propaganda or scaring local whippersnappers off of his property (which you do not want to trespass on), he’s passing the time by cooking his meat (no, that’s not an innuendo) with his half-sister, Rae Lynn (Theresa Holly here does a stellar job), or taking swigs of moonshine out of the jug with his friend Billy Wayne, who’s about as trust worthy as he appears to be. This guy seems like he’s just one strangled hooker away from making the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Yup, Carl sure knows how to live.
Of course, his life isn’t all gravy. Speaking of gravy, he sure does miss his Pop’s gravy (again, not an innuendo) ever since he killed his wife then himself back when Carl was a boy, passing on his butcher knife. Rae Lynn does her best to fill in the lonely void by cooking and cleaning, but it’s just not enough. Haunting visions of a demon (called Sam Bakoo, but I can’t recall if this if ever mentioned) in his sleep wake Carl up that not even his decaying, skeletal girlfriends can help him get back to sleep. He decides to take drastic measures to bring back his parents by offering his blood and soul to the Devil, but that soul ain’t worth no damn. What is a man with a worthless soul to do?
Well, killing trespassers is one thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s stabbing young lovers or disemboweling the director dressed up as a drunk hick, they have no right being on his property! And besides, a man’s gotta eat. Each victim meets (or should I say “meats”) their end by Carl’s knife, as he guts them and cuts them up for meat and stringing it up from the ceiling in the basement, which his darling half-sister Rae Lynn cooks for them and Billy Wayne on occasion. Speaking of Billy Wayne, he is one available bachelor if you can believe it. He takes an interest in Rae Lynn and even asks her out on a date ever so elegantly. After one of the most sexiest montages I have ever seen of Rae Lynn trying on different dresses, they spend some time… somewhere in the woods (it doesn’t have to be specific), but the date quickly goes sour after Billy Wayne sucker punches poor Rae Lynn. But hey, she shouldn’t tease a man like that!
While this is going on, Carl is seeing the ghost of an unknown young girl, Jesse, who tells him that his blood line is cursed and urges him to bury the knife. Could she mean that literally or is this one of them metaphors? Carl looks at this as a second chance and possibly a way to stop these haunting visions that look like they are out of a goth band’s music video. If I thought I was constantly envisioning Prodigy music videos, I would do anything to make them go away too. It’s also at about this time Rae Lynn stumbles across all Leatherface like decorations in the house, asking the burning question… how did it take her so long to see any of this?
Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher reeks of 70’s and 80’s exploitation drive-in films and it smells wonderful. It has that certain atmosphere of dread in the wilderness, secluded in the open, yet there is a false state of serenity as you here the nearby creek babble and the insect population sings like a choir. The sometimes out of focus, fuzzy look, complete with dirt and scratches over the film gives it an aged look without making it too faux. However, there were times when I found the filters to be overbearing. For example, on occasion, there will be an orange burn mark in the upper left corner of the screen, varying in intensity, but at times it seems to be too intense and going on a bit too long (this never took away from my enjoyment of the movie though), which I did find to be a tiny bit distracting. Even the audio sometimes has a muffled sound to it at times. It’s these elements that remind me of films like Don’t Go in the Woods and The Forest. There’s a reason this won six awards, some from a genre new to me, Hixploitation and the enchanting actress Theresa Holly gets a well deserved award for Best Actress and I would even call her the Independent Movie Scream Queen.
Best Retrosploiation Film? You betcha! It’s been awhile since we’ve seen something like this (or at least done well) and it’s welcoming to be reminded of cult camp movies that remind you of warm summer nights with possible terror lurking somewhere in the woods. Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher is an alluring, gory bio pic. Joaquin Montalvan certainly is a man who can do it all; writing, producing, directing and even doing the cinematography. This man is the reason this movie looks so damn good, so credit where credit is due. Of course, the rest of the cast and crew is great as well. This is one of the most engrossing independent films I have scene in a long time, so I would highly recommend giving this a watch, ya hear?
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Watch the trailer for “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher”!