Razorback is an Australian thriller and represents the first feature film by music-video director Russell Mulcahy, who would later achieve greater film success with Highlander in 1986. The film opens in the Australian outback with kangaroo hunter Jake Cullen (Bill Kerr) putting his grandson to bed. Suddenly a huge wild boar or ‘razorback’ smashes through the house, breaking Jake’s leg and making off with the infant. At the subsequent court hearing, no-one believes Jake’s story of the freakishly large animal, but they cannot convict him for the disappearance of the child due to lack of evidence. Thus begins Jake’s Ahab-like obsession with killing the Razorback.
But Jake is not the protagonist of this film, and the timeline jumps forward two years to New York, where wildlife reporter and animal rights campaigner Beth Winters (Judy Morris) informs her husband that the network has approved her trip to Australia to document the hunting of Kangaroos for processing into dog food.
Once in the insular town of Gamulla, she has trouble getting cooperation for her story, and one night while investigating the food processing factory is attacked by the crazy workers, Benny and Dicko Baker (Chris Haywood & David Argue, respectively). During the attack the enormous boar appears, and Benny and Dicko flee, leaving Beth to the beast. After her disappearance her husband travels from New York to the outback to investigate.
The film has a pretty weak script, and meanders around its plot somewhat. It seems unable to decide whether the antagonist of the piece is the titular boar, or the deranged and dangerous locals Benny and Dicko.
The Boar itself is badly realised. There is an animatronic boar that looks OK and moves it’s head and mouth fine, but it presumably does not have legs since they are never seen and it is only seen stationary, or in fast cuts. This worked fine in Jaws, where footage of real sharks was intercut with the mechanical shark to sell the illusion, but in this case, there is no animal that looks like the monstrous boar, and by comparison the real boars in the film are tiny but noticeably more animated. It very much hurts the film that the boar is not really capable of performing as a credible threat.
Razorback does have a very unique vision, and clearly comes from the director of a great many 80’s music videos from Duran Duran, Ultravox and notably Bonnie Tyler’s’ ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ (If you haven’t already, YouTube the ‘literal version’ of that song). The outback is presented as a Mad Max fever dream rather than a real representation of rural Australia. By day, orange, dusty and barren, by night, backlit with bright lights, causing dynamic silhouettes.
One particular sequence, where a character veers into madness, throws up images that look like moving album covers. While better than its derivative Syfy channel premise, and benefitting from a strong, (if very 80’s) visual style, the film has a weak protagonist, and a wandering plot and muddled themes.