By J Fountain
Of all the giant killer pig movies, Pighunt is perhaps the best. The reason: the film refuses to simply retread the clichés of Razorback (1984) [essentially a pop music video with a killer boar] and Chaw (2009) [essentially Jaws with a pig…and set on land, otherwise the pig would drown], and move in a different direction. But first, let’s set the scene. The movie opens with a hunter being chased by something and betting caught. So far, so run-of-the-mill. The credit sequence kicks in with some naïve paintings of a happy-land style liberation of Iraq. This is actually an important underpinning for the film, so pay attention. We then are introduced to young former soldier John Hickman (Travis Aaron Wade) and his sexy Asian girlfriend, Brook (Tina Huang), who we soon learn is the artist responsible for the painting. John is the hunter’s nephew, and has decided to gather a group of his friends (none of whom really seem to get on) to go to his deceased uncle’s cabin in the woods and hunt some pigs. It’s never really clear if he knows what has killed his uncle, but he does seem to have an ulterior motive.
Joining him and Brook on the trip are loud-mouthed wannabe soldier Ben (Howard Johnson Jr), laconic Wayne (Ravij Shah) and lardy dog-lover Quincy (Trevor Bullock). And Wolfgang the dog. As a dogy-daddy myself, my heart sank when I saw that a dog was involved in the movie. Things never end well for the dog in movies like this. The group set out into the backwoods, stopping off at a stereotypical roadside convenience store for directions. During this little break, the group meet Kukri-wielding hippy overlord Cimi and a couple of his drugged up beauties, and manage to kill a snake. Once back on their journey, they pass through the territory of the local clan of inbred hillbilly rednecks, who are John’s former friends. However, the meeting is brief as the city-folk drive straight through, sharing only suspicious glances with the locals.
Once they reach the cabin, it seems as if John’s uncle was a little cracked; the place is festooned with skull, antlers, newspaper cuttings and various unpleasant phrases such as “Death Walks On All Fours” daubed on the walls. Sensibly, the group decide to camp outside. As the sun comes up, John and Brook are rudely awoken by two of the locals, Ricky and Jake. It turns out that they and John share a rocky history; John gave Ricky a bad scar when they were children. There is something of a rivalry between them. While the men (save John) posture and swagger, and Brook suffers lecherous comments, Quincy tries to make friends and score some drugs at the same time.
This is not a functional group. Setting out to find the main wallowing ground of the wild pigs, things don’t go according to plan; a pig cripples Wayne, and relations deteriorate further when a crop of high quality marijuana plants are found on John’s property. The deterioration of relations leads to a gunshot, and a very pissed of redneck. Realising things have begun to spiral out of control, John decides to abort his mission of vengeance in favour of getting his friends home safely. The group splits up…but those who survive will find themselves at the mercy of not just a giant, mutated pig, but also those who worship it…
This is a great, entertaining movie. From the opening shot of a sunrise, to the bloody finale, it doesn’t really stop moving for long. Channelling the best of various exploitation movies from the 70s (indeed, a strong 70s vibe runs through the whole film), such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Death trap, both incidentally Tobe Hooper films, it doesn’t need the gimmicks of retrosploitation fare such as Deathproof and Planet Terror; it achieves it’s goals through an excellent verisimilitude, aided and abetted by wonderfully grimy cinematography, and expert direction.
You can almost smell the rednecks, feel the mud in your eyes, and taste…well, taste the pig. There is a fantastic musical sting that twangs into action whenever the heroes do, and it makes you want to yell “The South Will Rise Again”, even if you come from a middle-class British background. Best if you don’t shout that, of course, or the neighbours may start to wonder what’s going on. There is a subtext in the movie, perhaps more than one. There is something in this film about the visceral nature of Man, and the fallacy in following the path of others. More than that, there seems to be a comment about war. Is this movie a metaphor for the war in the Middle East…no, but it wants to be. There is something there, but it is so subtle as to be almost irrelevant. That being said, the conflict between the three groups: city-folk, rednecks, and hippies, is well played. Anyone who has seen Deliverance knows not to screw around with the locals, but hippies?
There are some good performances in this film: Travis Aaron Wade is excellent as the slightly distant, often lukewarm John; Tina Huang is excellent as the feisty and more than capable Brook, and Howard Johnson Jr is believable as a bravado-drunk loud-mouth out to prove himself a man. Less remarkable are the rednecks, who seem to have fallen out of any number of “crazed-local” style films (with the exception of Nick Tagas and Jason Foster as Ricky and Jake, who are slight less broadly drawn).
The best thing about the film is, as has been said, that it refuses to bow down to established clichés. What could have been a run of the mill giant pig movie with the whole hunter-prey dichotomy vacillating away at it’s centre does something more interesting: yes, the hunter-prey dynamic is there, but it is not focused on the pig. The pig is merely the catalyst; the true dynamics of the piece are down to human interrelations and their failures. Killing the pig won’t solves the problem, because the giant mutated killer pig isn’t the real problem: we are. Many other movies have tried to present this philosophy and most fail because they flag the issues then try to drown the audience in their moralising and viewpoints. Pig Hunt is not that blatant. It is subtle in it’s voice. Well, as subtle as a movie dealing with a giant mutated killer pig, psycho rednecks, and weird hippy-cults can be, anyway.