Russel Mulcahy, 1984
Starring: Gregory Harrison, Arkie Whiteley, Bill Kerr, Judy Morris
"There's something about blasting the shit out a razorback that brightens up my whole day."
Where the other famous homicidal pig film, Daddy’s Deadly Darling, disappointed all my expectations, Razorback more than lived up to them. An old man, Jake Cullen, is framed for the murder of his grandson by an enormous boar, also known as a razorback. Cullen is released because of lack of evidence, and becomes obsessed with killing boars of all shapes and sizes.
Several years later, an American animal rights activist and reporter, Beth, travels to Australia to document brutal kangaroo hunting. The locals dislike her presence and two of the more unpredictable members of the town, Benny and Dicko, run her car off the road late at night and attempt to rape her, but are scared off by a giant boar, who kills her. Her husband, Carl, comes to Australia to learn more about her death, even though he is told it was an accident. He meets Benny and Dicko, who take him hunting during the night and leave him for dead. Cullen and another local, Sarah, a scientist, help him discover what happened to Beth. When he learns the truth, he is determined to get revenge.
I could say that Razorback is the finest killer boar film ever made, but that’s not saying much. It is easily one of the best and most beautiful animal attack films and comes highly, highly recommended. Helmed by director Russell Mulcahy (Highlander and about a million music videos) and written by Australian screenwriter Everett De Roche (who, among many other things, wrote the equally serious, but slightly less effective Lost Weekend) and based on a novel by Peter Brennan, Razorback is essentially an outback riff on Jaws with a giant, terrifying boar instead of a shark.
I can’t believe that a movie about a killer razorback could be so beautiful, but it is, particularly lighting and framing. Mulcahy and his cinematographer Dean Semler (Road Warrior) do a fantastic job. I’ve never been to Australia, but in parts of Razorback it looks like Mars. Some of the film could be likened to Mad Max, particularly the characters of Benny and Dicko, but Razorback stands on its own (four hoofed) legs. There is enough action, violence and just a scant amount of gore to keep the film moving at a brisk place. Cast members occasionally die unexpectedly, which is a nice touch. There are a lot of great performances, particularly from Bill Kerr as Cullen, and we don’t spend enough time with any one character to get tired of them.
As with Lost Weekend, there is great tension and pacing, and some truly terrifying animal sound effects late at night. There are also some fun, nonsensical moments, like Carl’s delirious dream sequence, which is both effective and silly. And don’t forget the Australian cowboy in the beginning of the film who strolls past riding a camel, with a boombox strapped to its saddle, giving a new and wonderful meaning to the term ghettoblaster.
Though I loved it, I will admit that there are some flaws. The visuals certainly overshadow other elements of the film. Though the boar is effective - and apparently cost a quarter of a million dollars to make - it isn’t used often enough. But those shots toward the end are worth every penny and were designed by Bob McCarron (Dead Alive, Beyond Thunderdome, etc). The plot is divided and feels contrived, particularly when it comes to the gargantuan boar, who appears when he is needed to move the script along. Really none of the characters are developed, but this is a movie about a killer boar, so I have to admit that I barely noticed any of that.
Immediately track down Razorback if you want a thrilling, fact paced animals attack film. Warner released a basic version on DVD-R as part of their Warner Archive Collection, but you really want the Australian edition, full of special features. That is also included an a nice Ozploitation box set with Long Weekend, Stone and a few others. Maybe this will encourage you to get off your ass and buy a multi-region DVD player.