FIVE FILMS FROM...1984
(Directed by Russel Malcahy)
At one point in the 80s the director of “The Scorpion King 2” and “Derek and Clive get the Horn” (Yes! Really!) was regarded as a wunderkind on the cine-circuit, and was expected to go onto great things. Whilst Mulcahy had long been respected for his many extravagant pop videos for the likes of Elton John, Duran Duran and Ultravox, his helming of the insta-cult movie “Highlander” in ’86 brought him to the attention of critics and studios. However two years before that, he made this utterly-bonkers but extremely stylish killer-pig flick. “Razorback” was a seminal example of an ‘Ozploitation’ offering from around this time, along with stuff like “Roadgames”, “Turkey Shoot”, and… err... “BMX Bandits”. It’s based on a novel from Peter Brennan (the creator of TV show “Judge Judy”!!), and was adapted for the screen by Everett De Roche who also penned another great Ozzie Nature-Horror in the shape of “The Long Weekend” (1978). The cast includes Gregory Harrison (“Trilogy of Terror”), Arkie Whiteley (“Mad Max 2”), and the great character actor Bill Kerr (“House of Mortal Sin”). As far as the premise goes, it’s fairly simple and feels like another landlocked “Jaws” rip-off, although to be fair large chunks of “Moby Dick” and several Outback/Urban legends are also incorporated. Basically the plot sees an unusually large feral pig (‘Razorback’ is a common term for these aggressive wild boars) stalk the outback and garner a taste for human flesh, which leads several unlikely characters to hunt it down.
It boggles the mind to think that Jeff Bridges was nearly cast in the lead for this! But very loose realism and mixed reviews aside, this is actually a decent exploitation piece that’s a grisly tusk above the rest. You do have to put up with some (perhaps appropriately) ‘hammy’ lines like; “It has two states of being… dangerous or dead!” There are also plenty of stereotypes and unlikely occurrences. But in terms of visuals and outlandish tension, it knocks it out of the Aussie Rules pitch. Like “Jaws” the production contained a misbehaving animatronic animal, which (like the shark) benefits by being viewed infrequently and only at the appropriate moments… and it mostly looks quite good in some startling shots. It helps that Mulcahy shoots the whole thing like a pop video with everyday items and buildings being lit like they’re on a stage. The outback has seldom looked so stylish, as the cinematography bathes remote farm houses in neon-blue moonlight or shines orange desert sun-rays through rusting wind-pumps. Then there are the occasional gory gorings, and some unsettling shots of the giant pig highlighted on the horizon, or charging down victims. It was very much a calling card for the director and it looks much better than the slight piece of exploitation that it could have been. There are some grim incidental details (a victim’s wedding ring is found in pig-crap!), and RB’s attack on a car and the final duel in the food cannery are suitably gruesome. The film never really became a huge hit, but gained cult status over the years and remains one of the better “Jaws”-on-land variants that exist. According to Mulcahy Spielberg even contacted him to ask how some of the effects were done. Fans of Killer Pig movies should also be tempted to hunt down Jeong-won Shin’s fun 2009 offering “Chaw”.