Pig Hunt promises many things: enormous killer pigs, hunting, rednecks, a small arsenal of weaponry, scantily dressed babes, and fields of marijuana (and that’s just the poster). It also follows in the footsteps of a very particular strain of American filmmaking, one that pits man against the elements, adventure against terror and the noble instincts of hunter against hunted.
In fact, I can easily imagine a scenario which would sell the film as The Deer Hunter (1978) meets The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), or Deliverance (1972) meets Jaws (1975). But does it live up to such shiny examples? I hear you cry.
The film follows the hunting trip of four friends – John (Travis Aaron Wade), Ben (Howard Johnson), Wayne (Rajiv Shah) and Quincy (Trevor Bullock) – to John’s deceased uncle’s cabin in a remote area of Northern California.
The guys’ weekend doesn’t get off to a good start when John’s artist girlfriend crashes, and further goes down hill with the addition of two rednecks, friends of John’s from childhood, to their hunting trip. Throw in a legend about a 3000 lb hog (‘Death Walks on All Fours’ apparently), rumours of marijuana fields, some extremely odd encounters with local hippies and you’ve got yourself a disaster waiting to happen.
It is surprising just how complicated the plot gets, the film seemingly desperate to cram in as much as possible.
Even more surprising is that this isn’t the work of a first-time director. Jim Isaac has certainly been around (though being responsible for Jason X (2001) isn’t going to cut him any slack from me). I felt overall, that there was an unevenness of tone, with the beginning of the film differing quite dramatically from where it ended up. This is partly due to an odd and intermittent sense that the film owes some debt in the presentation of the trip north and band of male adventurers to the teen exploits found in films like American Pie (1999) and Road Trip (2000).
That said, Pig Hunt has quite a lot going for it. It looks good; the contrasting landscape is well deployed and the visual style is fairly cohesive, though perhaps a little lacking in texture. The cast is uniformly competent, and finds a strong lead in Travis Aaron Wade.
The portrayal of the redneck clan works with, and against the kind of archetypes that crop up elsewhere and particularly in relation to more recent examples. As such it is a great relief that there is no indication of hideous deformity a la Wrong Turn (2003), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006) etc.
The films edginess (and I mean this relative to the numb slickness of the current tidal wave of Michael Bay produced horror) is further emphasised by the musical influence of Les Claypool, who also plays a preacher in the film. Best of all is the mystery of the killer pig, and in this Isaac clearly understands that less is more and the power of the grotesque (the revelation when it comes is worth waiting for).
Pig Hunt is a strange beast. It is undeniably ambitious, but this overall leads to a slight muddling of intent.
Is it an anti-war movie? Whilst there are identifiable hints towards an attitude towards war and particularly America’s involvement in the Middle East, it isn’t sustained or clearly held.
Is it a redneck horror film? Yes, there are rednecks in it but I wouldn’t say that their way of life is a theme in the movie, though it does offer – at points – a more complex understanding of its characters than many similar movies.
Is it about hunting? Again, yes, and there are some interesting parallels to films like The Deer Hunter and its emphasis on mastery (the one shot kill principle), and it does offers some neat subversions of expectations in relation to the theme, but overall the film doesn’t entirely follow through with a discourse on the hunt.
Not so much The Deer Hunter meets The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but maybe Deliverance meets Jaws via Road Trip?
Additional film information: Pig Hunt (2008)