Sunday, April 10, 2016

Razorback


   Razorback is the kind of movie I absolutely love. For starters, it's an 80's creature feature flick. On top of that, it's an 80's ozploitation flick. Even better already. If you know anything about how wild and crazy ozploitation movies get, than you know what kind of insanity to expect from Razorback. If you don't know what ozploitation is, educate yourself here and here. The movie wastes no time laying out a rich and spooky atmosphere, with smoky nights and a rugged landscape... and then a gigantic mutated boar charges, crashes through a house, and ends up dragging an infant off with it, much to the horror of the baby's grandfather. Cue Moby Dick-esque revenge story.

   Oddly enough, while the movie opens on the grandfather's struggle to prove to everyone this beast is real, and that he himself didn't kill his grandchild- his conflict isn't even the main focus of the movie. We're then introduced to Beth Winters, a recently married reporter who's off to Australia to film a segment about kangaroos being hunted to extinction or something like that. Anyways, it's very clear that she's going to be the protagonist of the movie. Right? Wrong. She ends up being killed off by that same mutant razorback boar- but not before being terrorized by some of the creepy locals.

   Anyways, her husband... Carl Winters, makes the trip out, to find out what happened to his wife. He's not buying the party line that she 'fell down a mine shaft'. He's our main protagonist! Not the grandfather- who's become a lean, mean, boar-killing machine, not Beth- the intrepid reporter, Carl! The regular ol' Canadian husband dude. Just plain ol' Carl. Which is fine, because as a character nothing makes you more relatable than a search for truth and justice. You don't even have to be a particularly interesting character in a movie like this, just so long as you're relatable. Carl fills that roll quite nicely, and TV actor George Harrison doesn't do a bad job at all. Darn it, I like Carl.

   Anyways, I was hoping that Aussie Sean Connery grandfather dude would have a 'team up' moment with Carl as they both resolved to kill that mutant razorback to death. Once and for all. For keeps. Dead. Fortunately, there's plenty of dialog like that in the movie, but unfortunately, Carl and grandfather dude (the character is actually named Jake Cullen) never quite team up. I feel that was a misstep on the filmmaker's part. The movie making process is too involved and complicated for me to lay the blame at any specific person's feet, because it might not have specifically been the writer's fault, or the director's. Who knows? But, it felt like it was building to them teaming up, and they never do.

   Instead, Carl teams up more or less with a researcher, and friend of Jake's, named Sarah Cameron. She's been doing studies on the local wildlife, and has also been tracking the boars for some reason. They eventually kinda stumble into a showdown with the mutant razorback, and it's all completely bat shit crazy. But! Believe it or not, most of the wild and off-the-wall things about this movie, have little to do with a giant mutant boar. A good portion of the flick focuses on the vile locals that terrorized Beth before she died. They work at a creepy cannery, they're weird, disgusting, and they drive a vehicle that looks like it belongs in a Mad Max sequel.

   It wouldn't be ozploitation without asshats like these. But, the true weirdness is in stuff that you can't quite put your finger on. Like how, one of said asshat's eyes catch the light in a certain way to make them glow like a cat's eyes. It's creepy, unnerving, and really cool looking. Then there's a trippy hallucination sequence, with among other things, the skeleton of a dead horse chasing Carl through the wilderness. It's bits like this that make Razorback stand apart from your average creature feature. It's unique, and a lot of fun. The movie's pacing is tight, there's always something happening, and it's all set against some fantastic landscapes. One of the most important characters in Razorback is the outback itself.

   But, what would a movie called Razorback be without it's eponymous creature? The boar itself is as well done as one can expect. It's a nightmarish looking thing, only shown to us in parts and in glimpses, until the end of course- and even then. Maybe the full practical effect wouldn't hold up to the scrutiny of the camera? Who knows? But, keeping it always partially hidden made it scarier. It's such a simple tactic, but it works for Razorback. We're left with frantic images of blood, teeth, tusks, and slimy drool. That sounds scary enough for me. Seeing any more than that would've reduced it to just a big toothy pig. This isn't a pig. This is a razorback.

   The movie is richly atmospheric, it's colorful, and visually stunning. I should expect no less from director Russell Mulcahy, who also directed one of my all time favorites, Highlander. He brings his irrepressible and irresistible energy to Razorback and keeps it buzzing along at a decent clip. Every scene is dripping with style and flair. Mulcahy went all out for this flick, and it shows. Razorback is a squealing weird and wild good time, with plenty of lurid thrills and creature action to keep the viewer entertained. Razorback is a new-found genre favorite of mine and it would make a great double feature with Fair Game, although the latter movie suffers from a lack of giant mutant boars.

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