Sunday, February 15, 2015

Razorback (1984)

"Katie, bar the door!" Razorback shouts as it opens with a large pig tearing through a small house and carting off its smallest resident.  A film could do worse than borrow from Jaws, especially when it basically transplants the action to the Australian outback and gives a boar instead of a shark the starring role.  This frenetic opening gives the audience a big jolt right at the beginning, but it also serves notice that this film is not going to be a hack job.  We get gorgeous Suspiria-style red and blue lighting, then smartly-photographed effects and on-point editing work.  


No one believes this grandpa about this pig eating the baby.  This must have burned badly to Australian audiences because of the Azaria Chamberlain case.  But, surprisingly, we now divert our attention from this vengeful old man and meet an American journalist who's arrived to expose animal cruelty.  It's also here that Razorback swings from pure black tragedy (baby-eating pigs) to the oddness of Australia.  Sometimes the oddness arrives as scenes of random quirkiness.


And sometimes it's pretty dark in its own right, like when we meet two hoons who work at a meat-processing plant and spend their spare time shooting kangaroos and raping.  Some viewers might get a Texas Chainsaw feel from the attack below, with its truck-lighting and its murderous backwoods mutants.  So what?  As with Jaws, it's not a flaw to borrow from the best and the movie does gives its villains a nasty Australianess, including ugly laughter that sounds like kids imitating machine guns.


Later, the imitation tables are turned, as we go to the boys' underground lair and get a premonition of similar scenes in Texas Chainsaw 2, which would arrive a full two years after Razorback.  We also get more of the twisty turns of the narrative, as the movie eventually seems to settle on one protagonist after its long search.  I'd say this is one of the movie's main flaws.  If I were making it, I would've stretched the second portion of the narrative out a little more.  There's a little too much of the third act and not enough content to fill it.  What had been relentless and driven starts to show some flab.


Having said that, there's more good than bad throughout the film.  Russell Mulcahy had established himself by directing videos for people like Duran Duran and the best parts of the video aesthetic show up here.  It's visible in the surreal dream scenes and the rapid pace and the very impressive transitions between scenes.  


The human villains also add to Razorback's ambiance with their psychedelic cannibal couture.  


Oh yeah, and this movie also has a pig in it.  Again, wisely borrowing from Jaws, we mostly get flashes of the beast and never really see the whole thing.  What's here looks great, though, except at the very, very end, when it's obviously a stationary prop.  But, by that time, you've already been seduced by the charms of Razorback and will probably be able to overlook such minor details.  This isn't a classic, but it's definitely underrated and still a fun viewing some thirty years after its release.


***1/4

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