Tag Pigs

Boar (2017)

Boar (2017)

Hogs and kisses…

Destroyed property, missing livestock and reports of people disappearing lead the locals to question just what could be causing all of the damage. Unbeknownst to them, a giant wild boar has decided to claim the area as its territory and anything in it is a potential meal.

 

Harking back to an earlier decade of Ozsploitation, Boar is the spiritual successor to 80s giant pig flick Razorback, a decent creature feature from 1984 which had a lot of heart but also a lot of problems. Over thirty years later, and Boar suffers from the same fifty-fifty syndrome, though this one does a much better job of making its premise – that there’s a killer pig on the loose – play out a lot more terrifyingly.

If you’ve seen one creature feature film, then you’ve seen the vast majority of them as they all run like clockwork. Much like the similarly unchanging slasher flick, there’s not a lot of leverage to play with the formula and so Boar sticks to the straight and easy route, making sure that ticks the relevant boxes without ever really stamping it’s mark down. The problem with Boar is that there’s no real story to the carnage – the characters all end up going out into the Outback and are attacked/killed in a series of scenes barely linked together with a simple narrative. The film spends time with a pair of characters, only to kill them off ruthlessly after about ten to fifteen minutes. Introduce another couple of characters, have them engage with each briefly and then feed them to the boar. It’s more or less a rinse-and-repeat cycle which gets boring after a while. Characters who survive longer against the boar are given little more characterisation than those who die almost instantly. Almost all of the scenes involving the patrons at the local bar could have been taken out with no harm done to the plot at all as they serve no purpose whatsoever except to pad out the running time.

This type of film depends largely on the titular creatures and how effective they look and portray the menace that they’re meant to. Boar features an acceptable mix of practical and CGI special effects. The practical effects look really good, especially during the night attacks, with a large boar head and plenty of blood and mangled corpses thrown around for good measure. Short, close-up glimpses are made of the boar for the first half of the film before the monster is unleashed more during the second half. The animatronic head used for attack close-ups looks good but isn’t very mobile, though this is nit-picking as I’m a massive fan of realistic practical effects, even if they are slightly jerky. I was surprised to find out that there was a big puppet, operated by a man inside, which was used for some scenes.

The CGI is used more sparingly than I had anticipated and works better for it, with a few weaker effects evident during a few of the quicker attack and charging sequences. There are plenty of people for the boar to work through, though sometimes less is better and the sheer number of victims within close proximity around the middle section of the film take away some of the gloss.

Minor genre legend Bill Moseley gets the top credit and doesn’t play the bad guy for a change, instead being saddled with a generic straight-talking stepfather role which gives him little opportunity to showcase why they cast him in the first place. It is very much a ‘keep it in-house’ type of cast with a slew of Australian actors scattered around the film: John Jarratt (Wolf Creek), Ernie Dingo (Crocodile Dundee), Steve Bisley and Roger Ward (Mad Max) plus a few obligatory actors who’ve been in Neighbours or Home and Away, and Chris Haywood who also starred in Razorback. Unfortunately, the script writers seem fit to have the majority of the Australian actors say ‘bloody’ and ‘mate’ literally every other word. Stick a few shrimps on the barbie whilst you’re at it, eh? You couldn’t play upon the Aussie stereotypes any more than this film does. Ex-WWE wrestler Nathan Jones steals the show as the friendly giant cousin, playing a role totally the opposite of the villain/heavy roles he’s frequently cast in. He’s a monster of a man and goes toe-to-toe with the boar in arguably the film’s standout scene. He’s not given much more screen time than anyone else in the film but makes the most of his camera appearances by firing his character up with a psychotic energy.

 

As far as creature feature films go, Boar succeeds mostly in delivering what it sets out to do – provide some silly spectacle and a lot of gore and tusk action. The lack of a real story and bunch of thinly-written characters doesn’t allow for the action, gore and special effects to gel together in the way it should have done had the script been worked on a little more. Still a better cut of pork than most swine-centred horror flicks.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆