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Published by David Carter on 2014/11/9 (817 reads)
Directed by Joaquin Montalvan
Review by David Carter

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Released by Whacked Movies/MVD Visual
Running Time: 99 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Stereo English
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Making of, short film, interview
Trailer Online: Yes

Open in new windowShort Version: Psychedelic hicksploitation horror

The use of cannibalism as a source of terror in narratives is as old as time itself. Greek historian Herodotus wrote of cannibals living in the northern lands as early as 450 BC, setting the tone for the centuries of cannibal literature that followed. Cannibalism is always depicted as something that “those other people” do; the practice is almost always linked with primitivism and shown as the opposite of the “civilized” society of the author. During the colonial period, much of exploration literature depicted aboriginal peoples as cannibals – often just in an attempt to sell more novels. This continued into the cinematic age, with cannibal cinema most often taking place in the jungles of South America; the same lands maligned as cannibals by explorers.

Open in new windowJoaquin Montalvan has set his new cannibal film, LEGEND OF THE HILLBILLY BUTCHER, in an “unexplored land” of a different stripe, the desolate backwoods of rural America. It is there that we find Carl Henry Jessup, an aging hillbilly who prefers living on his own apart from mainstream society. Carl laments the state of the current world and the fact that it has abandoned the values of his deceased parents, from whom he inherited the moniker “hillbilly butcher.” Local teens dare each other to trespass on to his property because it’s rumored that the butcher has a taste for human flesh. It’s true.

Carl’s only human interaction is with his half-sister Rae Lynn, who cooks and cleans for her brother unaware that he is a cannibal. Longing to be reunited with his parents, Carl attempts to bargain with “Sam Bakoo,” a demonic spirit to which he pledges his soul in return for the resurrection of his mother and father. Carl initially thinks that his attempted pact did not work, but he soon finds himself lost in delirium and stalking the woods with greater frequency. Not even Rae Lynn is safe when Carl flies into a demented rage and the hillbilly butcher eventually finds himself face to face with Sam Bakoo in the flesh.

Open in new windowLEGEND OF THE HILLBILLY BUTCHER surprised me. The title implies a far different film that it actually is, and I was expecting a gruesome backwoods slasher movie. BUTCHER is more akin to a character study than a slasher film, as delving into the inner workings of Carl’s mind appears to be director/writer Montalvan’s primary motivation. That’s not to say that violence and gut-munching are in short supply, but rather that these elements are counterbalanced by some more high-mind pursuits as well. Psychedelic sequences are common as the line between reality and delirium becomes blurred for both Carl and the audience. The balance of blood and brains makes the film more compelling than if it had taken the more familiar straight horror route.

Whacked Movies and MVD Visual have released BUTCHER with a good presentation on DVD. The film’s many surreal moments come through on the print well and Carl’s world is a vibrantly green forest instead of the muted pallets seen in many horror films. A making of, a short, and an interview round out the presentation. LEGEND OF THE HILLBILLY BUTCHER will be a pleasant surprise for many of you as well, particularly those of you who require more than mindless killing in your horror films.
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