Australian cinema through the decades, arguably forming within the explosion of exploitation and art in the 1970’s, has been a consistent cradle for the horror genre in a suitably wild spectrum of guises. From the dehumanising effects of sociological and ecological wilderness in the shape of Wake in Fright and Long Weekend, through to the modern evolution of these themes in caustic brutality of serial killer cinema such as Hounds of Love and the iconic Wolf Creek franchise, Australia as landscape has marked the horror cinema it has produced. Indeed, in more than just human terms, as one of its most cultish creations was Razorback, a creature feature about a relentless, gigantic hog whose stylisation coupled with its sheer oddity has made it as endlessly enduring and wildly watchable as any film in the cannon of Ozploitation. It seems only fitting that the most recent Australian creature feature to emerge from the outback takes clear inspiration from the daddy of Aussie monsters; Chris Sun’s Boar shares Razorback’s DNA but unfortunately doesn’t quite match it’s ancestor’s imposing standard.

The premise is as simple as it can get…a behemoth, rhino sized boar is loose in the outback and on the rampage. Can anyone survive? Who will be next? And in this pure sense, the film excels when focusing on the boar’s…ahem…interactions with the unfortunate humans in its way. While early in the film the monster is kept hidden, once it is fully revealed and we see the devastation it can cause, the film bursts into dynamic and thrilling life, none more so than in the attack set pieces. Suffice to say, the film pulls no punches in the presentation of the boar’s violence, and this is captured in an unrelenting, incredible combination of editing, cinematography and special effects. These sequences are worth the price of admission alone at times in their gory tangibility, channelling retro horror thrills in the quality of their practical effect work. As characters have a boar tooth rip through their faces, bodies left hanging in the creature’s mouth, failing like a rag dolls, it’s such a savage sight that you can’t help but find yourself aghast at the power forged in the detail of sequence design and execution applied. Unfortunately, as the set pieces build in the film and the boar shown in more light, the film begins to integrate more CG effect work, which aren’t terrible by any means, but compared to the sheer craft and presence that the practical effect work generate, lack a tangibility that takes the audience out of the moment and cause an imbalance between the two forms rather than compliment each other. Indeed imbalance is an issue that cuts through the core of the film itself, particularly in the tone and pacing of the film.

While the dynamics of the monster movie are applied with guile and clear admiration for the genre by director/writer Chris Sun (the use of a dolly zoom upon a character finding themselves face to face with the boar is a particularly clear  homage to Spielberg’s Jaws), the overall shape of the narrative and it’s character work is severely lacking. The audience are introduced to an array of characters who intersect from the surrounding communities to cross paths with each other and ultimately, the titanic terror of the monster itself. The problem is these sequences are at best filler, and at worse, unsatisfying and crass in their tone. Rather than laughing at vulgarities shared, the relationship between events and even characters felt so disparate that the tonal shifts sat uncomfortably, leaving a jarring instability. Indeed, from the first time the audience meets the family at the core of the film and suffers their interactions…I’ve gotta say I was rooting for the big pig. Of course, some of this underdevelopment is a classic symptom of needing cannon fodder, and it can be argued that the low brow dialogue attempts to capture the colloquial nature of the environment, it’s in these interactions and their role in structuring the overall tone that the film that the pacing lurches in a frustrating manner compared to the ebb and flow of the far more crafted and direct monster sequences, in which action and reaction helps foster more genuine humour and audience empathy.

However, while the dialogue and narrative tension of the film are often lacking, the casting is inspired. Sun has compiled a collection of Australian exploitation alumni, such as the iconic John Jarrett, Steve Bisley and Roger Ward. This casting only serves to reinforce the legacy of Australian exploitation cinema that as forged a generation of fans and filmmakers. Special mention also goes to the casting of Nathan Jones (famously the hulking Rictus Erectus in Max Max: Fury Road) as Bernie, who as well as imposing his sheer physique on the film, brings a charming levity to the film that makes his character stand up. The image of Jones crammed into a Jeep enthusiastically belting out Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby is a true highlight of the film.

Boar at its best is an entertaining and surprisingly brutal creature feature whose superior practical effect work in the  monster set pieces are fun as they are vividly gory; however, the film is ultimately hogtied by its own inconsistencies in tone, pacing and crucially character, which takes the bite out of this rampaging beast.

Boar will be released in the UK in early 2019 through Frightfest Presents

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: Boar
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About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul250190@gmail.com