Tag Pigs

Razorback (1984)

Razorback (1984)

Nine hundred pounds of marauding tusk and muscle!

A giant razorback boar goes on a killing spree in the Australian outback, taking the life of an animal rights activist Beth Winters in the process. Her husband, Carl, travels over from America to find out what happened to her and encounters unhelpful locals as well as a man who is a crusade to kill the pig.

 

If you think that the premise of a killer pig sounds a bit laughable then you’d be right and Razorback proceeds to prove it. Razorback was the debut feature film of Russell Mulcahy, a man who directed some of the 80s most famous music videos during the early days of its form, in particular his work with Duran Duran across ten music videos and the first ever music video shown on MTV, Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star. It’s amazing to think that many film directors today originally made their big break with music videos but Mulcahy was a pioneer – the first of his kind. As I’m not a huge fan of modern music video directors making films due to their style over substance tendencies, I have to shift some of the blame onto Mr Mulcahy!

Mulcahy’s eye for expansive detail is clear to see in his Duran Duran music videos – Save a Prayer is lushly shot in some tropical paradise and Rio‘s Caribbean yacht cruise is beautiful. So Razorback‘s major plus is that Mulcahy manages to give the Australian Outback some breathtaking splendour. It’s one of the most inhospitable and dangerous places in the world, especially for a Westerner not familiar with the Australian flora and fauna. As Carl travels across the Outback looking for the answers, we share the wonder of the sights he sees but feel little of the peril he faces. Armchair tourism is the best kind!

But we are talking about a film which features a killer pig and so really all of this talk about cinematography should come behind talking about the monster. I came to see a horror film not a tourist guide. Sadly the nice imagery can only last so long before it actually needs some substance to go with it. This is where reality suddenly hits and we realise that Razorback is about as enjoyable as a sausage that has rolled under the settee on a furry carpet and then been chewed by the dog a couple of times.

The monster of the title is hardly on camera at all, presumably because it looks awful whenever it does make a cameo appearance. It appears to be a huge, immobile model made out of fur and bin bags which is rolled out on a set of wheels every time that they need to shoot it from a distance. For close-ups, a giant model head is used but once again this lacks any sort of movement – a couple of stage hands must be shaking it left and right for the camera whenever it needs to get angry. It’s up to the editor and the sound guy to stop the attack sequences from degenerating into farce and they do a reasonable job of papering over the obvious flaws. The comparisons with Jaws that I’ve read about are rather vague I must add. Apart from the basic ‘nature runs amok’ plot, there’s very little similar between the two.

With the killer pig providing a huge let-down, it’s up to the intimidating scenery and deranged outback characters to provide the necessary threat to our main character. As I’ve already highlighted, the Australian Outback looks amazing in this film. During the day it’s a hotbed of desolation but it’s even more frightening during the night scenes. The dry ice machine does goes into overdrive during these moments, no doubt to attempt to conceal how shoddy the boar really looks, but at least these scenes are well lit, sometimes even spookily lit like the classic moors scene from An American Werewolf in London. The kangaroo hunt and subsequent slaughter is a particularly nightmarish sequence.

Without the killer pig on screen, Razorback precedes Crocodile Dundee by a couple of years in portraying as many ridiculous Australian stereotypes as possible, in particular those of rough and ready people who live in the Outback. Save for the deranged Aussie hicks who run a slaughterhouse and the an old ‘bush man’ type of character, anyone else Australian is shown spending most of their time drinking beer. The crazy poacher brothers who live in the middle of nowhere provide more of a menace to our lead character than the pig does and are way more memorable as human villains than they have any right to be.

Main actor Gregory Harrison is a rather ineffective lead role, continually on the wrong end of pretty much everything hostile in the film. It hammers home the fish-out-of-water message about an American businessman heading into the Australian Outback but his performance is too stoic to make an impression. I would rather have seen more of the secondary plot involving veteran Aussie actor’s Bill Cullen character setting off in some sort of Captain Ahab-style one-man crusade to find and kill the pig. This had potential but sadly it’s not the main focus of the film.

 

Razorback falls over flat with its original premise regarding a giant killer pig but there is still enough for everyone to warrant at least one look. It’s masterfully shot and rarely has the Australian Outback been portrayed as so inhospitable yet so majestic at the same time. This is one pork product that deserved a bit longer under the grill before it was served up.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆