Razorback

Razorback is one of the best Australian horror/action movies ever made. The direction is dazzling, the cinematography is truly remarkable and the cast is brimming with quality actors. Mysteriously, no one seems to care.

There is no denying that Razorback’s basic plot premise is pretty ridiculous. In short, a giant boar (a Razorback) goes on a killing spree in a small outback town. This is about as unlikely as a giant shark terrorising swimmers (“Jaws”) or a wet Japanese woman climbing out of a television set (“The Ring”). My point is that even the most ludicrous storyline can be overcome by excellent film-making and this is certainly the case with Razorback.

Razorback was the film that launched Russell Mulcahy’s film career after making a name for himself directing music video clips for AC/DC, Queen and Duran Duran. Razorback reflects the same sensibilities that Mulcahy brought to his best video clips: frenetic pacing, flashy camera angles and stylish visuals. These qualities are almost disorientating during the film’s action and horror sequences, making them all the more suspenseful and eerie.

Mulcahy’s dizzying direction combines brilliantly with Dean Semler’s superb cinematography. Semler seems to thrive on barren landscapes and he captures the harsh beauty of the Australian outback magnificently. The scene with the wooden horse bobbing up and down on the salt flat is mesmerising, as is the entire sequence of Carl hallucinating in the desert. Put simply, Razorback is one of the most beautiful horror films not made by an Italian giallo master.

The cast is equally accomplished, offering a smorgasbord of excellent Australian character actors. Judy Morris (“Phar Lap”) does well as Beth, not being hampered too greatly by an American accent. Bill Kerr (“Gallipoli”) seems to have appeared in every second Australian movie. He has one of his best roles as Jake. Chris Haywood (“Muriel’s Wedding”) is also memorable as the ultra vile Benny. American import, Gregory Harrison, does respectably as Carl and the late Arkie Whiteley is sweet as Sarah, a woman who inexplicably monitors boar movements in the middle of nowhere.

The special effects still hold up reasonably well and the creature effects for the Razorback are great. I love the close-up of its eye in the finale. There is not much gore, but what the film lacks in blood, it more than makes up for with constant action. Razorback begins with an action sequence and simply never lets up. There are car chases, kangaroo shootings, beatings, home demolitions and that just covers the first half of the film. Razorback is not a particularly scary film, but it compensates for this with eerie atmospherics and relentless tension.

In addition to the fine film-making, I also enjoy Razorback for its political incorrectness. The outback characters are arch stereotypes and just about every animal in town comes to a violent end. Benny and Dicko even run over Jake’s dog for fun, which would be unimaginable in a film made today. Furthermore, the irony of an animal rights activist being eaten by a giant boar was not lost on me.

Razorback is an excellent genre film that deserves much wider recognition. I wish the Australian film industry would make more films like this. If Russell Mulcahy’s upcoming “Resident Evil” instalment does well, he should consider making the long overdue sequel to Razorback.