Razorback (1984)

Director Russell Mulcahy
Writers Peter Brennan
Starring Gregory Harrison, Arkie Whiteley, Bill Kerr, Chris Haywood, David Argue
Genre Creature Feature
Tagline Nine Hundred Pounds of Marauding Tusk and Muscle

Director Mulcahy cut his teeth on the outback creature feature Razorback and you can pretty much tell from the get go the dude was born to be directing movies. This porcine tale of mayhem is simply core Aussie movie making at it's best with the Director taking advantage of his locations, strangely a pretty good script for a creature feature, and wrapping everything up in "fish out of water" newspaper. There’s a whole bunch of Aussie horror flicks I haven’t got around to yet, notably Undead and Wolf Creek, but I wanted to start a pretty intense movie weekend off with something special. Don’t ask me why but I had neither previously got around to seeing the cult Aussie creature feature Razorback and since Umbrella Entertaining were re-issuing a $10 package the time seemed right for fighting in the streets boy. So did the flick live up to its cult status or was it just another exercise in ocker shenanigans?

Talk us through it

The Aussie outback is being terrorized by an insane, huge, and nasty piggy that doesn’t want to go to market. Some dude’s two year old son is taken by the porker two years previously and the dude becomes obsessed with tracking the pig down. And if you think that’s bad enough an American journalist filming nefarious activities at a dog food plant also gets nabbed by the porcine wonder. Not to mention the fosters drinking yokel who watches the side of his house and television being dragged into the bush one evening by the pig. Okay drinking fosters is a crime against nature so we'll let the pig off the last one. The journalist's husband heads Down Under to try and discover what happened to, as we learn, his pregnant wife.

Turns out our hero for the evening will be yank Carl Winters, who develops his own obsession with doing in the pig. He receives help from local Sarah Cameron and pig hunter Jake Cullen, the dude who lost his son. Arranged against Carl are the pig, a whole bunch of smaller porkers, and also the Baker boys, Danny and Dicko. If you are thinking that this sounds like Jaws in the Aussie Outback then you are right on the money An at times engrossing movie ensues.

I'll get the obvious pun out of the way now rather than letting it hang over the review like a bad smell. Danny and Dicko have covered their tracks re their involvement with the death of the Journalist, she fell down a mine shaft according to the dubious duo. Naturally we the audience know that they are telling porkies! Kaboom Tish, I'll get my hat and coat.

Ready to bring home the bacon?


"Wakey wakey, hands off snakey!!!" - Dicko Baker

First up, the makers of Razorback openly admit that not only were they inspired by Spielberg’s classic Jaws but in fact set out to make “Jaws in the Outback”. Now you can’t get more up front than that, and it’s pleasing to hear from blokes in the industry prepared to call it how it is rather than drop words like “re-envisioning”, “based on a true story”, or any other Hollywood speak for “hey that Spielberg flick made some cash so let’s do something similar”. So guess a comparison to big brother is warranted, taking into account Mulcahy is directing with nothing like the budget Spielberg enjoyed. If anything Mulcahy does more with his movie than Speilberg could even envisage, but then again the yank is the darling of the Hollywood scene and Mulcahy is just that guy from Down Under. At the very least one of them understands the genre he is working in while the other is an overrated hack. Hey I call them as I see them and for every decent flick Speilberg puts out there's a whole bunch of crap seeping onto his resume. Speilberg has become increasingly "our town" didactic, while Mulcahy is taking any work he can get. Oops, putting soap box away now.

Like Spielberg, Mulcahy keeps his creature off screen for the majority of the movie, which is just as well as when you finally get to see the porker you will be wondering if it has guiding wheels or something on it. Yes, totally bogus and nowhere near as effective as “Bruce” the wonder white pointer. Where exactly they managed to spend quarter of a million on the mechanical boar remains a mystery, Peter Jackson could have knocked it up in his Dad’s shed for about $20. But fair crack of the whip, like in Jaws less is more, and Mulcahy nails the creature POV stuff to a tee and builds his tension nicely through out. Would have loved to hear a couple of chords from the Jaws theme going down during a few scenes as a wink to the audience though.

Unlike Spielberg, Mulcahy is well aware of where the horror taboo lines are, he just refuses to have anything to do with them. The first victim going down here is some two year old kid who is spending a night sleeping over at his Grandad’s place due to mom being in Brisbane. It’s night and we are getting plenty of pork POVs going down. Note the use of red filters through out the opening scene, the Director will hit that heavily through pretty much 80% of the movie before switching to blue filters for the climaxatic resolution. With his first scene Mulcahy doesn’t waste any time, and in a tight fast-paced shooting style the boar attacks, pretty much rips the house apart, and disappears with grandson in mouth to allow for Granddad to become obsessed with killing the pig and to avoid confrontations with the censors via showing the kid’s demise on screen. As stated in previous reviews, horror flicks are on dangerous ground when it comes to minors biting the bullet. Mulcahy makes it work for him, no doubt via the gore being off screen and implied, and it goes towards a major plot development. There’s nothing gratuitous involved here, as opposed to say Alien v Predator 2: Requiem where the directors are simply out to shock and have no idea what tiger they have by the tail. This isn't to say that Mulcahy is letting the audience off easy as the scene winds down, Grandad is franatic looking for the young one in the dark with the child screaming off camera. Works as a pretty effective and chilling introduction to what the Director has in store for us during the rest of the movie.

Almost from the first frame, a long shot to the farmhouse about to drip blood, Mulcahy serves notice that Razorback will have a Dream like never never quality, which perhaps owes more to the Koori dreamtime than modern movie making. There's plenty of odd angles, odd imagery, and a general feeling that we have stepped into a fairy tale rather than a blood and guts horror flick. Mulcahy nails it when we get to the pet factory that is filmed as stark, totally disgusting, and with a sort of techno feel to it. I guess you could also throw in the changed shooting style of the local pub, but I had those scenes nailed as the comic relief for the evening rather than being of major plot involvement. Camels eating coke cans!

Mulcahy manages a dream like reality for his outback imagery that has the effect of putting the U.S character in a totally alien environment, maybe reflecting overseas perceptions of the Aussie bush.

Having pointed out he’s not going to be a wallflower with the opening scene, Mulcahy ups the ante, if that’s possible, with the demise of Beth Winters. Beth is an investigative reporter who has dropped in on the township of Granullla in the Australian outback to report on the slaughter of wildlife for pet food. Why exactly this would be of interest to U.S television viewers remains unexplained. Beth does a bit of midnight photographing of the PetPak slaughter house, which is doing a number on the local roo population. Naturally Beth incurs the wrath of Dicko and Benny, the redneck owners of Pet Pack. What follows is Mulcahy hitting warp factor nine and leaving the audience in no confusion as to his intent. Dicko and Benny charge after Beth in their ute and force her off the road. During the pivotal rape scene we have Benny spotlighting the whole thing and urging his brother on. Dicko looks back at Benny, his eyes reflecting the spotlight in an almost dingo like way, and that single look ushers in the no-holds-barred approach Mulcahy is going to go with. Dicko doesn’t get to finish the job as the titular beast makes an appearance; we still aren’t seeing much off it, but we do get a resounding “crunch” which is the best use of a sound bite since Jaws 2 for mine. Once again Mulcahy gets in his licks while keeping things under the radar of the censors.

From here on Mulcahy goes tropo on us, and to be honest I was left in the dust as Razorback picks up speed and simply goes ballistic. We get hard zooms, crazed angles, filters gone wild, jump cuts, lighting angles from every possible side of the frame, shaky cam, and an almost stylized visual match to various pop songs. If this is all sounding surreal then you are on the right page of the playbook. Mulcahy, who surprisingly previously did the video clip for The Buggles “Radio Killed the Video Star”, simply throws everything he has at the screen and hopes some of it will stick. The director is backed up by the harsh Aussie Outback locations, and sets that look straight out of a Mad Max movie. Sterling stuff and surprisingly it works. As stated this is a whole different reality we are dealing with.

During parts of the movie I was on this whole Jaws bender, and was just waiting for our three leads to end up in a ute hunting the pig at night. Instant classic line would have been “we are going to need a bigger ute” (actually might use that), but you can’t have everything. Anyway, I got down on how similar to Spielberg’s trio the Razorback lot are. U.S. dude Carl Winters is the Chief Brody stand in, fish out of water who gets down and dirty when needed, Jake is old seadog Quint due to hunting wild pigs etc, and surprisingly Sarah is the Matt Hooper character, she is after all a government-appointed pig watcher. Not surprisingly, director Mulcahy is not letting the audience have it that easy and we don’t end up with three in a ute going on safari.

The one part of Razorback I didn’t cotton on to was the characters of Benny and Dicko. For frack’s sake, can we have an Aussie movie without the ockers in it for once? Sorry, I’ve lived in this country for over 20 years and have yet to meet an “ocker” as depicted in our cinema! To be honest the yanks would have made a better job of things there.

Since this is an Aussie horror movie made in the 1980s, we simply had to have an American lead, dirty mongrels just trying for some action on the North American box office front. Gregory Harrison (Carl Winters) actually does a pretty decent job and nails the becoming more Aussie than the locals angle well. Full on props for the hallucinatory scene after being stranded in the desert. Arkie Whitely (Sarah) is there for her looks – who’s complaining? – but at least doesn’t look at the camera. Aussie legend Bill Kerr (Jake Cullen) does his thing – loved the look when the local authorities wouldn’t believe a pig had made off with his grandson – but doesn’t overly stretch it. Finally, Chris Haywood (Benny) and David Argue (Dicko) do the ocker thing.

Arkie Whitely supplies the T&A for the boys with a quick tits and bum shot, don’t blink or you’ll miss it, while the gals get nothing much. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into exploitation cinema, you find a movie that isn’t exploitation orientated – bummer!

Iva Davies (Icehouse) provided a haunting score that’s apt to go weird at the drop of the hat. Interesting and completely different was my take on it. We also get “Blue Eyes” by Elton John, for no apparent reason Duran Duran’s “New Moon on Monday”, and local James Reyne’s excruciating vocals on “Reckless (Don’t Be So)”. Hey I like the song, but Reyne sounds like he has a pork roast stuck up his butt.

Summary Execution I had a lot of fun times with Razorback. Sure the movie is another Jaws clone, but at least it’s trying something slightly different to the run of the mill fodder. The movie kept me interested from first frame to last frame, dialled in enough gore to be going on with, and upped the tension when required. The surreal aspects of the movie wasn’t overdone, and director Mulcahy was well aware he was making a horror flick here and not some sort of arthouse hybrid. Can’t believe I haven’t seen this movie before, will definitely be adding it to my ANZAC weekend required viewing from here on in.

The movie did a bit of box office business but really nothing to get excited about and has pretty much up to now been a cult flick from Down Under that not many people outside the horror genre have bothered to catch up with. Umbrella seem to be hell bent on releasing everything they can from Australia’s horror back catalogue so guess a few more people can go and check it out.

Guarded recommendation on Razorback; the movie isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste but should satisfy a boring Friday evening requirement for those predisposed to catch a creature feature. Definitely not the best film ever made in the subgenre, but at least the moviemakers are trying for something a little bit different, which given the current crop of remakes the studios are banging out is something of a blessing. Go put pork on the menu, it might just crisp up nicely, (whatever the hell that means).

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

Well worth hunting out, add it to your DVD collection Razorback wont be out of place.