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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

PIG HUNT -- movie review by porfle

[Note: Fangoria magazine has teamed up with Lightning Media and Blockbuster for a series of eight horror/thrillers which will be available exclusively on DVD, VOD, and digital download Sept. 28 under the "Fangoria FrightFest" banner. This film is part of that series.]

I didn't know it was such a short drive from San Francisco straight into the heart of DELIVERANCE country, but in PIG HUNT (2008), five friends from the city end up stranded in Yokelvania and running for their lives from homicidal hicks, cutthroat cultists, and a man-eating hog big enough to keep two Piggly-Wigglys stocked in bacon and pork chops for a year. 

When a loony forest-dwelling uncle dies, nephew Johnny (Travis Aaron Wade) inherits some land and the old shack where he grew up.  Johnny and his girlfriend Brooks (Tina Huang) decide to spend a pig-hunting weekend there with three friends--green, trigger-happy Marine Ben (Howard Johnson, Jr.), chubby tenderfoot Quincy (Trevor Bullock), and slacker Wayne (Rajiv Shah).  In the woods, they run into some of Johnny's childhood acquaintances, hillbilly brothers Jake and Ricky (Jason Foster, Nick Tagas), who go along for the hunt.  Jake tells them of a legendary 3,000-pound boar hog named Ripper who supposedly roams the woods, but of course they don't believe him. 

Things turn ugly when the hunters stumble upon a huge marijuana field hidden in the forest.  While Jake and Ricky want to sack up a few hundred pounds of prime weed, Johnny's for alerting the authorities to their find.  An altercation results in death for one of the brothers, and the other, stoked for revenge, runs off to gather the rest of his kill-crazy clan.  The city kids flee to the supposed safety of a hippie commune run by a mysterious stranger (Bryonn Bain) where they find themselves in even deeper hog-poop than before.  Carnage ensues when city dwellers, yokels, cult crazies, and a 3,000-pound surprise guest hog start makin' bacon out of each other.

While lesser hands may have botched such a promising premise, director James Isaac (JASON X, SKINWALKERS) scores a bullseye by mixing gory TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE-style backwoods horror with a wicked sense of fun.  The long build-up of the film's first half explodes into kinetic energy when the hillbilly clan goes into action against Johnny and his friends, racing headlong down dirt roads in their trucks, dune buggies, and motorcycles in the first of several sequences that look like the filmmakers had a ball shooting and editing them.  When they converge on two of the main characters back at the old shack there's a frantic sense of real terror as they scramble desperately to escape the mindless killers. 

Meanwhile, Ben stumbles into a scene right out of his most surrealistic fantasy when he comes across about a dozen beautiful naked women lounging around the local swimmin' hole.  I have to hand it to the writers here--this scene really adds that certain special something to the story.  Ben ends up like a shiek in a harem, complete with hookah, and thinks he's gone to heaven.  Hog heaven, that is, which he's about to abruptly discover.

One of my favorite scenes occurs after one of the yokels bursts in and starts blasting away.  As he holds the main cult babe at gunpoint, she plucks a boar's tusk from her necklace and jams it into his eyeball.  Johnny grabs the gun and points it at her, but waits.  As cult-babe is viciously rearranging the hillbilly's face, she glances up a couple of times to make sure Johnny's going to hold off and let her finish before pulling the trigger.  It may not sound like much in the description, but the way it's acted, shot, and edited makes it one of the coolest moments in the film.

And then there's the Ripper.  For most of the film his presence is shown by a JAWS-style POV accompanied by low, throaty growls and brief glimpses of blazing eyes and jagged tusks.  When he finally makes his grand entrance in the final act, complete with a dead bit player dangling from his mouth, the rig that the SPFX guys have come up with to depict this massive pork-orca is so over-the-top outlandish that it's hilarious and impressive at the same time.  CGI would've rendered a smoother, more active creature, but ruined the more satisfying effect achieved by good old-fashioned methods and judicious editing.

I watched a screener so DVD specs and details on special features were unavailable.

A capable cast playing fairly interesting characters for a change helps kick PIG HUNT up a notch over similar films.  (Trevor Bullock as Quincy is particularly good as he reacts convincingly to his impending death at the hands of the hillbilly clan.)  Add to this a sense that the filmmakers are having all sorts of fun making this movie, and you've got a no-holds-barred backwoods blowout that's just as much fun to watch.

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