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Razorback

Year: 1983
Production Co: McElroy & McElroy
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Producer: Hal McElroy
Writer: Peter Brennan/Everett de Roche
Cast: Gregory Harrison, Judy Morris, Bill Kerr, David Argue, Chris Haywood, John Howard, Arkie Whiteley
One of the best Australian films ever made for cinematography and design, and a thrilling story with money-shot effects to boot.

Instead of the endless string of Australian movies that showcase the outback as a pretty, sweeping and lively place with dangers nice tourists don't have to worry about, director Mulcahy (a veteran at that stage of music video clips) and now-legendary cinematographer Dean Semler have created an Australian outback that's cold, bleak, lonely, ugly and brutal. It's also (ironically) claustrophobic, with swirling deserts mists in the middle of the night hiding all manner of horrors.

Any notion of a killer pig being in any way funny is kept far away because of dead seriousness in every aspect – from the performances to the set design – and it's as effective a monster thriller as Jaws, Alien and the other early special effects-era monster movies it emulated.

Jake Cullen, a hunter from the flyspeck town of Gamulla, loses his baby grandson late one night in a wild boar attack. Arrested and charged with the murder, there isn't enough evidence to convict him and although he's acquitted, he loses the respect of his family and his standing in town, all he has left bloodlust for wild pigs, which he hunts mercilessly trying to exorcise his demons.

Two years later, an American animal rights activist, Beth Winters, arrives to do a story on the kangaroo slaughter and investigate the mysterious pet food cannery outside town.

But strange things have been happening, and Jake thinks the biggest demon of all is back. The psychotic brothers who work at the cannery take exception to Beth hanging around asking questions, and when they run her off the road late one night meaning to rough her up, the boar attacks.

Beth's husband Carl comes looking for her, tricks his way into the brothers' confidence, and starts investigating with the help of pretty local wildlife researcher Sarah. More attacks occur, and the hunt is on. After more terror and violent death, Carl confronts both brothers and eventually the creature itself in the dark, haunting cannery – a quasi-industrial set to equal anything out of Alien.

The basis given for the pig's existence is entirely plausible, and you can't help wondering if it could really happen, especially in such an unexplored land that is portrayed so chillingly.

But the real star is Bob McCarron's animatronic razorback boar (the makeup and prosthetic artist who's worked on everything from The Piano to The Matrix). The early 80's effects are rough around the edges, but the beast is huge and terrifying as it appears from the mists with its squeal-like scream. The shaken glimpses we get of it are just enough to satisfy – rather than it having to be implied because of a lack of budget.

A triumph in every sense, from storytelling to film making prowess.

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