This Legend has a lot to live up to. It's a laudable effort with something serious to try, I think, so the only question is: does the butcher butcher like a butcher should? "What's he on about?" That's the question I get most frequently regarding these reviews, so I'll give ya an answer. I'm trying to be clever. Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher wants desperately to recreate the feeling of bedrock insanity assayed by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre - a feat, I'll wager, no film will ever repeat - and the former film labors to do so with a variety of savvy techniques. What we want to know is whether said techniques are successful, and if so, how does that make you feel?
The short answer, Joaquin Montalvan, (Writer/Director) is 'not exactly'. There's a discourse to be entered into on why and how one can't recreate something that was originally a fluke, but I'll skip that. Of course Tobe Hooper didn't make Chainsaw by accident, but it can be argued that budget constraints, lack of experience, and a willful desire to put his principals through hell to get stuff in the can gelled to form something far more disturbing than Hooper dreamed. One can try to catch that lightning in the bottle, but it's a tough row to hoe.
Montalvan uses deliberately out-of-date audio and video recording techniques, plus a grip of post-production effort, to make a film that looks as though it were shot on Super-8mm and left to sit in a basement decaying for a few decades before it was released. It's pretty remarkable, even going so far as to simulate warp and flutter as the movie unspools before your eyes. However technique only carries one so far, so a good creepy plot, effectively portrayed, is necessary.
As a grizzled grampaw offers to tell a couple of wide-eyed tots either a scary story or one about a bunny, he settles on the tale of Carl Henry Jessup, (because all scary killers are identified by their full names) a crazy dude who had crazy parents, and now lives all alone in his crazy-creepy house in the woods, making moonshine and hanging out with his niece RaeLynn. Only that's about as far as the plot goes. Carl seems less crazy than cantankerous, isolated, and unsure that he's chosen the right path in life. He has a loser friend who comes around to drink the 'shine and ultimately assault RaeLynn after an ill-advised date. Once in a while an unfortunate person or two wanders onto his property, only to be summarily dispatched and turned into dinner. It's not a big deal though, since Montalvan chooses, for some odd reason, not to make it into a big deal.
Seriously, Jessup's cannibalistic insanity is presented as an afterthought to his penchant for sitting around ruminating about his lonely life. Through long, languorous, stately shots of Jessup pulling hooch and thinking, we get ... what? Not an essay on criminal insanity, but rather some lovely, lengthy shots of the backwoods, and a lot of great, eerie music that has nothing to back it up. Towards the end of 99 long minutes, Jessup gets up to some gut-fondling, and we learn that he likes to cuddle with a dessicated corpse, but by this point we'd be more interested if he got a decent therapist and found some hobbies. Two bits sum up the lack of conviction behind Butcher. A couple that should ostensibly be getting-it-on before being sliced not only don't even get naked, but the girl says "I ain't ready, and keep the Lord out of this!" Oooh, hot stuff! What's worse, Jessup himself opines (after a little killin') "I'm getting too old for this shit." Yes, you are Carl, and it shows. Rent It.