By: Jon on March 11, 2002  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Director: Russel Mulcahy
Starring: Gregory Harrison, Arkie Whiteley, Bill Kerr, Chris Haywood, David Argue, Judy Morris, John Howard
Screenplay: Everett De Roche
Country: Australia
Year 1984
Duration: 95 minutes
"Hey guys, I've just seen Jackie Kong's THE BEING on video, and they had a monster which looked like they just built the top half of it and pushed it around on a trolley".

"I'm going pig shooting this weekend"

"That Lindy Chamberlain is pretty hot for a fat chick. Do you think we could convince her to make a porno with that guy from the TV show TRAPPER JOHN MD?"

Rumor has it that this was the brainstorming session held in the office of Hal McElroy in the early 1980's that led to the production of the Oz monster flick Razorback. What the Australian public ended up getting was a reasonably entertaining Jaws-on-land variation starring an American actor and monster creation only a few steps up from the chicken wire and paper mache things built for Roger Corman's 50's cheese fests.

Jake Scully (Bill Kerr) is looking after his infant grandson in the outback town of Gamulla while his daughter is away. A rampaging, monstrous pig charges through the house, scoops up the baby, and runs off. No one believes Jake since a pig of this size and power is unprecedented and everyone thinks he killed the boy, but there's insufficient evidence to convict him of murder. So he's ostracized from the community and his family, and now lives in what looks like a burnt-out bus, obsessed with tracking down and killing the giant boar that ruined his life. Two years later, American animal rights activist and journalist Beth Winters (Judy Morris) travels to Gamulla to do a report on Kangaroo culling. She's about as popular in the town as a dead rat in a tampon factory and decides to sneak out and film at the Pet Pack Cannery manned by local miscreants Benny & Dicko Baker (Chris Haywood & David Argue). For some unknown reason her cameraman stays at the pub getting pissed and telling jokes. She's caught spying by the Baker brothers, who force her car off the road, but their attempt to rape her is interrupted by the big pig. The boys flee leaving Beth to be gobbled up. The locals believe she had a car accident then wandered into the desert and fell down a mine shaft, but Jake has his suspicions about the Baker brothers. Beth's husband Carl (Gregory Harrison) arrives in town in an attempt to find out what really happened and is led to Benny and Dicko by Scully. Carl pretends to be interested in opal mining and goes roo shooting with the brothers who abandon him in the desert because they're real dickheads.

Carl stumbles around the desert, having hallucinations and a non-fatal encounter with the great beast, and finally staggers into the home of Sarah Cameron (Arkie Whiteley), who nurses him back to health. He's able to tip Scully off to the whereabouts of the boar, but Jake's effort to blow the beast away is thwarted by Dicko who smashes his kneecaps with an axe making him a convenient razorback meal. Carl finally gets the shits and both man and pig head for the Pet Pack Cannery for a final confrontation.

Razorback falls in the middle ground as far as Man versus Nature films go. It's definitely not Alligator but it isn't Jaws the Revenge either. It's certainly well photographed, with some stylish edits, hardly a surprise since the DOP was Dean Semler and director Russell Mulcahy came from a hugely successful MTV career. This also resulted in Iva Davies creating the effective electronic score due to his previous collaboration with Mulcahy on the Icehouse music videos, but unfortunately we have to suffer through INXS, Duran Duran, and Elton John songs on the soundtrack as well. It's also got a pretty amusing screenplay by Everett De Roche, a veteran Oz horror scriptwriter, whose best work remains the truly creepy Long Weekend. The necessity of many Oz films to cast an American actor to supposedly help sell the film overseas has the piss taken out of it a bit in this one. Harrison really does look genuinely confused. When he points out to Benny that he's actually Canadian, the reply is "well that's in America isn't it?", and Dicko calls him a "septic". Judy Morris gets to put on a pretty bad American accent and the Don Lane Show is playing on TV when the pig trashes a house. The support cast is good. Arkie Whitely is really hot and we're teased with a brief out of focus shot of her top shelf while she's in the shower. I was really hoping for a romance to develop between her and Harrison only for the chance that more of her gorgeous flesh might have been displayed. David Argue and Chris Haywood steal the film though with their viciously comic portrayal of the cretinous brothers, who no doubt live together so far from civilization because no one else on the planet can stand them.

There's minimal gore on display, which is actually quite a relief since the scenes in which any sauce flows are pretty awful, generating more laughs than terror. We're treated to the sight of a chomped corpse that almost makes the body that falls out of the truck in Mad Max 2 look like the work of Tom Savini. The most effective pig attack sequences are the ones in which the razorback isn't even seen, where it's basically up to editing and sound effects to do the trick. When the razorback does make an appearance on screen, it's a bit tragic. In long shots it looks like a cardboard cutout silhouette. Up close it's all a bit rubbery but at least it's jaw can chomp up and down like a hand puppet. Any movement of the beast is simply in a straight line as if it was on tracks. There's little doubt this has affected Mulcahy's ability to successfully present the attack sequences and the limitations are especially evident in the climatic duel between Harrison and the razorback. The fact the whole pig obviously couldn't be shown up close makes for a very clumsily edited finale, as the efforts of Harrison to force the pig into a huge mincing machine seem over before they've started.

It's kind of surprising that so few revenge of nature films have been made in Australia. I suppose that it's tough to come up with a distinctly Australian killer beast, since most of our native fauna are just so damn cute. A film about a deadly bandicoot or carnivorous koala probably isn't going to generate alot of terror. So if you're yearning to watch a home grown monster flick, then the choices are pretty limited, but you should get some enjoyment from Razorback. Like I said before, this little piggy isn't the best Man vs Animal movie out there, but it's far from the worst.
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