Retro Review: ‘Razorback’
To outsiders, the Australian Outback in a wild and mysterious land; filled with beauty and danger in equal measure. It is in this region of the world, that director Russell Mulcahy decided to set his 1984 Ozploitation horror flick Razorback. Supposedly inspired by the death of Azaria Chamberlain in 1980, this creature feature is developing quite the cult following, thanks not only to its strange premise and characters, but the unsettling atmosphere and setting as well.
The film opens with renowned hunter, Jake Cullen (played by Bill Kerr) babysitting his infant grandson one night. Any thoughts of a peaceful and normal night are shattered with a massive beastly boar charges through his home and devours his grandson. As one does, Cullen swears vengeance on this creature whom nobody else in his community believes exists. His search is fruitless (or pigless?) until an American reporter covering a story in the area, is brutally killed by this giant razorback. Her husband, Carl, ventures down into the wild and remote village of this movie to work with Cullen and his scientist partner Sarah. It becomes abundantly clear they not only have to deal with a giant killer razorback, but also the local sociopaths Benny and Dicko who are operating an illegal meat processing business.
Right off the bat, what people notice about this movie is the setting. The Australian Outback of this flick is strongly reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, it should come as no surprise that director Russell Mulcahy chose Dean Semler of Mad Max II to be the director of photography. He creates a hostile world full of bizarre people, just as dangerous as the killer boar on the loose. The end result is that Razorback is hauntingly beautiful in a grim way. Every single shot tells the story of a region on the fringe that is not easily understood by the two American outsiders in the movie. Given Mulcahy is the same director who gave us the cult classic Highlander, it is safe to say he can take a shoestring budget and make it look like a full-blown blockbuster.
The razorback, the movie is named for is sparingly seen, often portrayed as just a shadowy figure or an unstoppable force. That makes all the more impact when we do see the animatronic creature. Though expertly obscured by camerawork and shadows, what we see of the boar is incredibly detailed and life-like. Those expecting to laugh at a cheap monster movie will no doubt be surprised and hold their chuckles. Of course how great the beast looks does not mean anything if it does not deliver, but I assure you Razorback delivers the goods for genre fans. When your monster’s opening gambit is to devour a baby, you know it does not play around. The movie is filled with brutal gorings courtesy of the Razorback; whether it is the reporter vainly trying to hide in her car or a grizzled hunter having one last showdown with the creature.
Razorback is truly one of the underrated monster movies of video-era. Sadly the film flopped in Australia upon its initial release due to the heavy stereotyping in its portrayal of those in the Outback region. It never even received an American theatrical release, though it found a cult following thanks to VHS and DVD releases as well as showings on late night television. This is a far superior flick to most of the other ‘killer animal’ movies out there and deserves recognition for that.