Russell (Highlander) Mulcahy’s feature debut was an antipodean cult hit in the early eighties, but has largely been ignored since. Now remastered 34 years after its release, it not only stands up against modern releases, but surpasses our original impression.
American TV journalist Beth Winters (Morris) has travelled to a remote outback town in Australia to report on the barbaric kangaroo hunters, but falls foul of a pair of ockers who run the local pet food plant. She goes missing, assumed to have fallen down a well, so her boyfriend arrives to try to make sense of her disappearance. Meanwhile, old timer Jake (Kerr) has dedicated his life to catching a monstrous razorback boar that killed his grandchild several years earlier.
Music video director Mulcahy brings his flamboyant touch to the larger screen as one would expect. This is a lusciously shot picture, with plenty to enjoy. The Australian landscape lending itself perfectly to his lens as he paints the vistas just as Dario Argento tinted Suspiria. There’s more to Razorback, however, than merely ‘Jaws with trotters’. The creature design is wisely kept mostly off-screen, which helps heightening the tension and take the attention away from any design flaws that it may have had.
Umbrella Entertainment’s new remastered Blu-ray release contains more than enough added value to make this an essential purchase, however. Alongside the obligatory audio commentary, there’s a feature-length retrospective ‘making of’, with contributions from many of the key crew and actors, and a brand-new roundtable discussion on the film by four leading Aussie critics. Also included is the ‘VHS cut’, which presents the film as it would have been seen on cassette, complete with tracking marks, copy degradation, and in the good old 4:3 ratio. It’s certainly an item for completists that very few will watch, but nice to have all the same.
Razorback is a movie that was ahead of its time. Highlighting ecological and social problems, it moves along at a rollicking pace while still finding time for a surreal dream sequence when the hero is left to fend for himself in the sweltering outback. It’s gorgeous to look at and plays brilliantly as a horror thriller, be it of nature vs man or locals vs outsiders. It’s a low budget masterpiece that is ripe for rediscovery, and can definitely not be considered a bore.
RAZORBACK (1984) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: RUSSELL MULCAHY / SCREENPLAY: EVERETT DE ROCHE / STARRING: GREGORY HARRISON, ARKIE WHITELY, BILL KERR, DAVID ARGUE, JUDY MORRIS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW