January 26, 2013

Razorback (1984)

Directed by Russell Mulcahy. Starring Gregory Harrison ("Carl Winters"), Arkie Whiteley ("Sarah Cameron"), Bill Kerr ("Jake Cullen"), and Chris Haywood ("Benny Baker"). Rated R.

Source: DVD-R (Warner Archive)
Running time: 01:34:30
Country: Australia

All you really need to know about the plot of RAZORBACK is that there's a ginormous killer pig in Australia's outback and that it's essentially JAWS on land. There's an Ahab character who's obsessed with tracking down and killing the aforementioned pig, and there's another guy from Canada whose journalist wife may or may not have been eaten by the titular razorback while she was in the country working on a Kangaroo-hunting expose. And, since this is an Aussie horror movie from the 80's, you can also expect to see obnoxious local caricatures with rotten teeth, messy hair, and exaggerated accents.

It should be said that the reasoning behind the old pig-hunter's obsession with the "shit-eating, Godless vermin" razorback is that it stole his infant grandson. Yeah, you read that right. Sounds ridiculous, but you actually get to see this bizarre kidnapping transpire at the very beginning of RAZORBACK, when the, uh... razorback plows through the old man's house like a semi-truck and comes out the other side, leaving a giant pig-sized hole in his secluded domicile. During that time, the pig managed to swipe the dude's grandson and do God-knows-what with it. Most likely eat it, but I'd like to think that the razorback raised the boy, like the apes raised Tarzan. The pig-hunter, whose name is Jack by the way, was jailed and actually accused of having something to do with the sudden disappearance of his grandson, but he was eventually set free, basically, due to a lack of evidence. Hence why he hates pigs with a passion.

But yeah, the Canadian guy, Carl, travels all the way to Australia to look for his missing wife, but he's inconspicuous about it. Still, it doesn't keep him from crossing paths with the obnoxious Aussies I mentioned earlier (one of whom is named "Dicko"). In fact, they're some of the first people he meets. What luck. Not only that, but they totally fuck with him and basically leave him out in the middle of the desert to die. It's during this portion of the film that we get some truly awesome nightmare visuals that are surprising for a movie about a massive swine. Luckily for Carl, he's rescued by a hot blue-eyed blonde who just so happens to live alone out in the middle of the desert and shower outdoors. She looks like Baby Spice. But with an Australian accent. Boner city, brah.

RAZORBACK inevitably turns into a slasher movie with a killer animal in the same way that JAWS is. There's definitely a stalk n' slash element to the film when it comes to how the razorback prowls the outback and preys on its victims, but it should be said that - more than likely due to budgetary restraints or perhaps problems with the large animatronic pig - the razorback doesn't really get as much screen time as you may think. Who knows; it could have been a creative choice right from the beginning to keep the pig out of the picture in order to make the climax that much more effective. Whatever the case, most of the focus is on the characters, particularly Carl. Dicko and his pal Benny are essentially the main antagonists for a majority of the film. And, speaking of the pig, it looks decent, or at least the filmmakers did a good job of obscuring its flaws and hiding the fact that it was probably sitting on a dolly of some sort.

While the Warner Archive copy doesn't really do it a whole lot of justice, RAZORBACK - like a lot of "Ozploitation" movies from this era - looks great and is beautifully shot in widescreen. There are also some interesting stylistic choices throughout that make RAZORBACK stand out from pretty much every other Nature Run Amok movies (that I've seen anyway); lots of theatrical lighting, as well as a combination of lights and smoke for a lot of the nighttime scenes in the outback, and of course the impressive extended outback-fever sequence. Another plus is that there's some outstanding stunt work in this, which is expected considering its an 80s Australian movie. For whatever reason, the filmmakers decided not to put too much of an emphasis on the gore and the body count factor, which is kind of a shame. Aside from the atmosphere and great visuals, RAZORBACK is a film that sort of hovers between average and slightly above average, but I'm a big fan nonetheless.

Score: 6


  1. Great review Aaron for what is a generally under-appreciated movie. Tons of atmosphere make this one even more worthwhile than it otherwise would have been.

    You might like THE WHITE BUFFALO, as well. It's an 'animal attacks' movie in a western setting and with Charles Bronson.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Brian! I first heard about WHITE BUFFALO a few years ago and it's been on my "to watch" list ever since. I hope I can finally sit down to watch it some time this year. The thought of Charles Bronson hunting down a mythical buffalo sounds appealing to me.