Sunday, August 18, 2013

RAZORBACK (1984) movie review

Razorback (1984) d. Mulcahy, Russell (Australia)

During the Ozploitation heyday born of the success of George Miller’s The Road Warrior, music video veteran Mulcahy took the wheel for this surprisingly effective yarn about a giant killer boar menacing Outback locals. In the decade after Jaws scared everyone out of the water, the silver screen played host to all varieties of vicious oversized beasties, with the results ranging from tongue-in-cheek thrills (Alligator, Grizzly) to ludicrous camp classics (The Sea Serpent, Deadly Eyes). No one could have guessed that an carnivorous slab of bacon sporting giant tusks and a bad attitude would turn out to be one of the more successful imitators; Mulcahy’s approach of presenting the cloven-hoofed menace completely straight-faced, while simultaneously introducing the foreignness of the desolate sand-swept environs and its bizarre inhabitants, works like gangbusters.

On the levelheaded side, we are given Yank reporter Judy Morris, soft sensitive husband Gregory Harrison and sweet local lass Arkie Whitely, with casually homicidal Aussie junkyard rats Chris Haywood and David Argue holding down the loopier quarter.

Screenwriter Everett De Roche (Long Weekend, Roadgames) keeps us on our toes by unexpectedly offing characters without a second glance, but it is grief-stricken Great White Hunter Bill Kerr’s arc – for whom the inevitable confrontation with the boar is personal – that provides the film’s soul; the sturdy character actor anchors the material, allowing the director to roll out some impressively hallucinogenic visuals.

Mulcahy also takes a page out of Spielberg’s playbook by keeping his monster on the edge of the frame, empowering the beast with a near-mythic quality, and it doesn’t hurt that when we are given a good look at the titular terror, the results are impressively authentic (courtesy of designer Bob McCarron). The slaughterhouse finale, with its crackling sparks and grime-covered machinery, delivers the final reel shocks and splatter we deserve without compromising any of the well-grounded work that has gone before.

Well worth your time, and available through the Warner Archive site.

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