Legend of Hawes opens with a title card, meant to look like something from a silent movie, telling us about sub-human marauders who terrorized the old west, looting, killing, and ripping their victims’ faces off to wear in battle.
Not wasting any time, the film drops us into the action as a mountain homestead is attacked and leaves Harriet (Emily Whitcomb, Righteous Blood, Darkness Waits) and her cousin Inger (Karin Brauns, Once Upon a Time in Deadwood, The Obsidian Curse) the only survivors. She immediately hires Mr. Tyson (Richard Tyson, Cry Havoc, Eternal Code) and sets out to find the famous gunman Hawes (Mike Markoff, Wrong Place, Wrong Time, The Cove).
It doesn’t take them long to find him, he’s passed out at the nearby saloon. Apparently, his family met the same fate as Harriet’s and he’s taken it rather badly. Despite his issues and his reluctance she eventually hires him and they set off on the bloody road to revenge and redemption.
Director Rene Perez (The Dead and the Damned 3: Ravaged, Cabal) and co-writer Kent Hill (The Vampire and the Vigilante, Righteous Blood) make sure that the road is indeed bloody. They take elements from The Hills Have Eyes, Bone Tomahawk, and any of a million generic vengeance-themed westerns to make sure there’s always some killing to be done. And it’s backed up with plenty of practical gore.
And those effects, by Pratik Singh (Nightfall, Pro God-Pro Gun) really are the film’s highlight and range from bullet hits that actually use blood squibs to partially eaten bodies. It’s too bad that the film didn’t put as much effect into the creature’s backstory as it does their activities. We never learn who they are or why they’ve turned cannibal.
Unfortunately, that’s far from Legend of Hawes’ only problem. Perez also brings all the liabilities we’re used to seeing in his films as well. The action scenes are poorly staged, characters stand in the open shooting at each other rather than taking cover. At one point Hawes is getting his ass kicked and then his attacker stops hitting him long enough for Harriet to toss him a six-shooter, and for him to catch and cock it. Then as if it realizes what’s going on attacks again just in time to be shot.
The dialogue is frequently laughable with characters saying things like “My body is relatively uninjured, however, I am very scared”. There is also lots of sermonizing and talk about God and His plan. At one point an angel (Emily Grace Turner, The Vampire, and the Vigilante, My Perfect Love) appears to Hawes. I really hate when a film like preaches to me, if I wanted that I’d go to church. And in the case of Legend of Hawes, it seems very out of place mixed in with scenes of ripped-out intestines and bare breasts.
And just as a final complaint, Perez goes heavy on the digital film damage effects. Legend of Hawes frequently goes out of focus and has simulated scratches running through the picture. This faux grindhouse, or maybe in this case revival tent, look is well past its expiration date even when used lightly its constant use here is inexcusable.
I’m really not sure just who the audience for Legend of Hawes is going to be. Those who are watching it for the blood and boobs are not going to want to sit through all of the heavy religious messages. And those looking for a faith-based tale of Hawes’ coming to God and being redeemed will most likely find the gore and nudity off-putting. For me though, the most off-putting thing in the film was the modern-day epilogue which hints that this is the first of a franchise. God have mercy on us all.