For horror fans up and down the UK, the highlight of the calendar is Frightfest and since its first-ever event back in 2000, it has gone down as one of our best-known film festivals, with a reputation that extends beyond our tiny little island and deep into the American heartland. Genre favourite Guillermo Del Toro described it as the “Woodstock of Gore”. For their 2018 festival, they are presenting a selection of titles under the banner “the best of the fest on the small screen”. Movies that include The Dark, Secret Santa (the only one which we won’t be covering this week), Lifechanger, Boar, Pimped, and, funnily enough, Fright Fest.
Today is the turn Chris Sun and Slaughter FX with their giant killer pig movie, Boar. Given the trend of this Frightfest mini-reviews thus far, you should expect me to say that this killer animal movie is, in fact, something deeper and more thought-provoking than its genre trappings may suggest. Not this time, Boar is exactly what you expect.
The ‘elephant’ in the room is the 1984 Ozploitation movie Razorback (dir. Russell Mulcahy), Boar is much the same but to accuse it of borrowing from the same hymn sheet as its fellow Australian is a bit rich. All these films can be traced back to Jaws, which in itself is no great original. What would be a more fitting explanation of just what type of film this or any killer animal is to describe them as an oversized killer animal Vs. an isolated community. Here, we are in the Australian outback as a boar the size of a rhino devastates the countryside, killing livestock and pulling over fences, and eventually developing an insatiable taste for human flesh. The key players in this community under siege by this ungodly pig are Ken (John Jarratt – Wolf Creek’s Mick Taylor), Debbie (Simone Buchanan) and Bernie (Nathan Jones, 6′ 11″ former weightlifter), there is a community beyond that but true to such a low budget endeavour most of them are forgettable on the account of them being typical of the bad actors found in exploitation cinema.
There are two major players in this, the first is Nathan Jones. Given his behemoth stature, Jones’s film roles have been those of physically domineering henchman that the hero has to overcome against all odds, he did it in Mad Max Fury Road, Jet Li’s Fearless and First Strike. However what those films overlooked was the innate charisma and likeability the man has, whenever he is on screen the movie is at his very best. Also, the novelty of him picking up an overly handsy bar patron like a child’s toy will never fail to entertain. To me, he has the same charm as many a blaxploitation lead. Like Pam Grier, Isaac Hayes, Fred Williamson, or any number of other 1970s black leads, Jones commands attention with the same sheer personality. I may be a little hyperbolic here, but it is the most genuinely surprising aspect of the movie, an aspect I’d love to see other directors pick up on.
This is a low budget film, one produced by an Australian FX studio, so you expect nothing less than a very impressive beast. With my review materials I received a detailed explanation of the ins and outs of this massive creation, but even so, that detailed document doesn’t really prepare you for how intimidating this thing is. With its massive hooked teeth, one blind eye and blood-drenched fur, in the night scenes I imagine pretending to be scared wouldn’t take much acting. Even better than that, this thing actually moves, okay not very much, still, this thing is a massive undertaking. And therein lies the problem with Boar, the kill scenes. The scenes where someone is done in feature the victims and the boar staring at each other through the blood-soaked, late night fog. Which is intimidating, at least it would be if this trick wasn’t trotted out (sorry) every time the boar kills and it kills a lot – probably too much, actually. Adding on top of that is the digital FX needed to bridge the gap that can’t be achieved with tactile tech – running. The discrepancy between this thing stood and/or chomping on a person is undermined by how artificial the FX are when this thing runs. Let’s compare that to Alligator, a beloved American film from 1980. When their alligator moved about above ground it was obviously a guy in a rubber suit (an uncredited Kane Hodder). Did that ruin the film? No, it’s just something you to have to learn to expect from killer animal movies: a conditioning to expect entertaining rubbish.