Saturday, March 10, 2018

Razorback


**½ / ****

In 2007 I picked up a VHS copy of Razorback because, for whatever reason at the time, it came to mind. Maybe it was on the IMDb Horror Message Board when we were putting together our own “Orlocks” Top Five list of horror movies from each year. I do believe that was perhaps how Razorback returned to my attention. It was in 1984, quite a healthy year in horror, when Razorback found its release. While it isn’t a film with a plot or dialogue that reaches any sort of significance, I think its flashy style (this is the very definition of style over substance, as Mulcahy tries to compensate for a script that has very little meat on the bones at all) features some incredible visual touches. I can rewatch this film just for how Mulcahy shoots (benefiting from the talents of director of photography, Dean Semler) in the dust-wind Australian environs. Mulcahy and Semler can make dust circulating in a weather vane at night as light beams through it from a house worthy of awe. Of course, the hallucinogenic experience of Gregory Harrison’s Canadian “tourist” after being left behind by roo-poachers (working at a meat cutting and packing plant that could sure use a visit from some version of FOOD & DRUG) Baker and Dicko (Chris Haywood & David Argue) leaves a lasting impression. I took especially to the boar hunter, Jake Cullen (Bill Kerr), out to find the razorback of the title responsible for ruining his reputation and taking off his little boy. His attack at the evil of Dicko (who is just a crazed fuck willing to wound a kangaroo just to hear it shriek and live a bit longer before putting it out of its misery!) towards his legs, rendering him handicapped and crawling as hogs scatter about while the razorback eventually finds him in a small shed. Cullen unable to escape, his dog sent to fetch help ran over by Dicko, and the razorback tearing into the shed right at him is really horrifying…what a terrible conclusion for the character! Also Sarah (Arkie Whiteley), as the pig studier, on her own after the loss of her parents, assisted by Cullen in the pursuit of the razorback, remained a shining part of a rather small cast. I’ll be honest, even as I am a big fan of the Logan’s Run series he was once a star, Harrison isn’t given much to work with. He does have a really good emotional response to the verification of his wife’s death due to the razorback after Cullen finds the wedding ring upon firing into the giant boar, with Sarah serving as comforting friend to him, both looking on into the night. His walkabout descent after trying to get answers while with Baker and Dicko (all of this is surreal, from meeting them in the filthy pig factory to their cavernous hideaway, as Harrison’s Carl tries to remain innocuous), until finding his way to Sarah’s home is quite a visual dynamo. It is kind of like New South Wales after a rather hostile dust bowl left it all worse for wear. Mulcahy clearly had a vision, and the marvel that is Semler was the kind of cinematographer able to fulfill it for the most part. However, the giant pig monster movie formula the director and cinematographer are labored to cater to struggles in a tug-o-war with the stylish energy that calls for our attention. I give credit to the editing for trying to make the pig fierce without giving away its animatronic weaknesses. In regards to the locals and locale; the bar contains not too many assholes (the camera operator for Carl’s animal reporter heroine wife seems to integrate with them quite well) but the general area is under siege by poverty-row conditions. This is a couple years until Crocodile Dundee, but this film’s assortment of bar loungers and roo/boar hunters don’t appear too menacing or unsettling. But Baker and Dicko are clearly the human monsters of the film, accosting Carl’s wife and leaving her for dead when the boar stirs up their attempted rape of her. This backdrop is a fixture of Mulcahy’s interest, while the story and characters are somewhat developed if not altogether successful. I credit the film for holding my attention with what the visual stylists conjure from the Aussie setting but the story, to me, is what it is…nothing all that special.


I actually never watched Razorback growing up in the 80s but did see it for the first time on Joe Bob's Monstervision in the 90s. It was over at the house of my then-girlfriend. It wasn't as much the film as Briggs' nonsense during breaks involving a boar casserole, while occasionally mentioning the films and its talent.

October 4, 2007 IMDb account user comments
A man(Gregory Harrison), shaken from the disappearance of his pregnant reporter/animal activist wife, enters the garbage-strewn, desolate, uncompromising Outback to find her, running into intimidating, troublesome kangaroo poachers(typical undesirables that often populate Russell Mulcahy's films)and a gigantic killer boar.

The Outback town of Gamulla looks like the type of barren wasteland devastated by nuclear war in apocalyptic films and is photographed as quite menacing while at the same time stunning. While the film is indeed quite ugly, chock full of rotted dead trees, sand holes that have the shape of moon craters, and dust that is thick enough to cut a knife through, there are some amazingly shot sequences at night using light, shadow & cold breath. My favorite sequence has a lost Harrison, abandoned by the two poachers responsible for leaving his wife at the mercy of the giant razorback, trying to find a haven as the Outback becomes a surreal hellish nightmare where giant cracks open upon the ground and dead skeletal animals rise from the earth.

In the stunning opening scene, hunter Jake Cullen(Bill Kerr)watches as the razorback burrows through his home snatching his grandson as the moon light spirals through a windmill nearby. David Argue & Chris Haywood portray the grungy, unclean Baker brothers who run a meat plant cutting pigs and kangaroos who wish for their secret illegal practices of catching animals to remain under wraps. Arkie Whiteley portrays Sarah, a young woman who researches the growth and well being of boars in the Outback where she lives by tagging them, keeping up with their movements by a computer tracking device;she strikes up a friendship with Harrison's Carl. Jake's mission in life is to kill the razorback which ate his grandson. The climax takes place in the Pet Pak facility where the Baker brothers cut their meat for storage.

*I was expecting to locate a review of this film in my blog somewhere, but scouring page after page, I guess that isn't the case. Granted, my efforts only reminded me of how much content on the blog perhaps could be excised (my blog's healthy escape from the doldrums thanks to visitors from Europe since last year wasn't the case towards the end of 2012 and most of 2013-2016) or given a makeover of some sort.











*I did want to mention that this is the best the film has ever appeared to me. I found it on Turner Classic's Underground, after past experiences on television or rough VHS quality never quite gave it the presentation the film deserves. It popped on screen Saturday evening. This made me wish to see it at the drive-in.

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