australian films

Australian Movie Month: Razorback (1984)

Starring: Gregory Harrison, Arkie Whiteley, Bill Kerr

Director: Russell Mulcahy

When an old kangaroo hunter is babysitting his grandchild, a giant wild boar (or razorback), attacks and takes the child, but no one believes his story. That is until an American journalist comes to town and goes missing, and soon her fiancee arrives wanting answers. What’s really happening in this tiny Australian outback town?

From the film description, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a film like Jaws, where a giant animal goes wild. I mean, on the one hand, it kind of is that, but it’s totally weird and surreal in a way that most killer giant animal films aren’t. And the razorback himself is kind of secondary to the madness.

It’s directed by Russell Mulcahy who was a music video director and who would go on to work on Highlander. Not only does the whole film have an over the top feel to it, a hyper real, larger than life quality to it’s visuals and sets, but it also has some interesting sequences that feel like music video, Dali-esque montages.

This film is one of those Australian films, of which there are many, that seem to suggest that the the Bush or Outback is not there to be tamed and conquered, but rather has some strange an menacing power. A feeling that ends up corrupting the people who live in it. The Baker brothers in this film are a great example of this. They are rapacious, violent and just plain weird. They play jokes but there’s always the sense that the joke could turn deadly at a moments notice.

The two leads here are really the Americans coming in from out of town to find things out. They were added to film to make it acceptable to a wider audience, so that it might sell in the US, but their foreigness works nicely as a stark contrast to the locals and the uncivilised landscape.

So, where is the beast in all this madness? Well, he tends to make sporadic appearances, and isn’t as present in this film as most killer animals are in films of this genre. In an odd way, that’s kind of great. It gives the film this sense of madness. Where is this animal of the title? What are we watching? Why is there a eerie, nightmarish scene with a horse skeleton? And yet, when he does turn up, it’s pretty great. The creature design is really pretty good. The razorback is huge, hulking, all teeth and insane anger. It has this 80’s era, practical effects feel that works so well with the whole design of the film, and he’s also not revealed too early or too much, which often ruins a films suspense and tension.

It’s kind of a weird and wonderful film with it’s colorful, overly designed feel. And sometimes it’s straight up laughable, in a really good way. It’s one to watch with a sense of humour. It also has some of the great examples of Australian film tropes, like the scenes of the outback red earth, strange customised cars, old school manly bush men, people who have gone crazy living far out there, violence and a landscape that constantly threatens a violent death. It’s kind of great really.

See It If: A film about a giant killer razorback with music video visuals and a sense of humour. It’s great and it’s also totally weird.

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