Pig Hunt (2008)


USA. 2008.


Director – Jim Isaac, Screenplay/Producers – Robert Mailer Anderson & Zack Anderson, Photography – Adam Kane, Music – Les Claypool, Additional Score – David E. Russo, Digital Visual Effects – Mr. X Inc. (Supervisor – Brendan Taylor), Special Effects Supervisor – Thomas F. Sindicich, Makeup/Creature Effects – Kerner Optical LLC (Supervisor – E. Erik Jensen), Production Design – Geoffrey Kirkland. Production Company – UpCal Entertainment


Travis Aaron Wade (John Hickman), Tina Huang (Brooks), Howard Johnson Jr. (Ben), Trevor Bullock (Quincy), Jason Foster (Jake), Byronn Bain (Hippie Stranger), Nick Tagas (Ricky), Rajiv Shah (Wayne), Christine McKay (Crystal)


Iraq War veteran John Hickman and his girlfriend Brooks join three other friends from the city on a hunting trip to the backwoods farm of John’s uncle. There they join Jake and Ricky, two hick cousins of John, who act as guides. There are rumours of a legendary two thousand pound pig named Reaper in the woods. The two hicks make frequent derogatory fun of the city slickers. During one such confrontation, Ben ends up shooting Ricky. Shocked at what they have done, John urges them to flee for their lives as Jake drums up the rest of the backwoods clan to come hunting them.

Pig Hunt was the fourth directorial film of Jim Isaac (sometimes credited as James Isaac). Isaac started out working in creature effects with such notable credits as Return of the Jedi (1983), Gremlins (1984), Enemy Mine (1985) and several David Cronenberg films. He made his directorial debut as a replacement director on The Horror Show (1989). This gained no particularly good notices and it would be a few years before Isaac made his comeback with the Friday the 13th sequel Jason X (2001), followed by the werewolf film Skinwalkers (2006). Pig Hunt was Isaac’s fourth film as director and the final one he would make before his death in 2012.

I felt confused by Pig Hunt. It starts out as one type of film, lets you think it is going in one direction and then takes a dogleg turn and becomes something else entirely – and not just once. At the outset, we have a group of city slickers heading out into the woods, joined by a couple of hick backwoods types, and it seems to be that we are in for is a film about them being hunted by a massive, near-mythical killer pig. Killer pig didn’t seem to be that exciting a concept – on the other hand, you keep remembering that Russell Mulcahy had made excellent things out of the premise with Razorback (1984). Jim Isaac seems to be setting this up reasonably and we get at least one extremely gory scene where a pig is shot and hacked up, while one of the party is wounded.

However, about the one-hour mark, the film does a sudden left field and has the hunters from the city being pursued by the hicks seeking to kill them. It then seems that we are in for a Backwoods Brutality film a la Deliverance (1972), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Hills Have Eyes (1977) et al. Isaac conducts this with a reasonable brutality. Only the film has yet another left field twist up its sleeve and veers off to introduce a cult – which apparently consists of only one male (Byronn Bain) and a lot of women (all of whom seem to bathe topless in an outdoor pool – it is one of those films that throws scenes in like that just because) who are harvesting marijuana in the woods and have, for some reason, bred the giant pig, which does eventually appear, get to run amok and eat people at the climax. The result makes for one of the most conceptually confusing films I have seen in some time. Maybe Isaac thought he was being clever and taking us in constantly unexpected directions but the results emerge on screen as a film that is all over the place.

The other oddity is that Isaac seems to be setting the film up to make a big message. We are first introduced to Travis Aaron Wade as he gets up in the morning and prominently poses against a wall-sized painting of US forces in Iraq. We see homeless Iraq War veterans begging in the street in front of murals on the wall calling for democracy. The hero is a veteran of Fallujah and there are walls in the uncle’s abandoned house covered in clippings about Bush and Guantanamo Bay. There is the feeling in all of this that Jim Isaac is setting things up for some loud and clear message about Iraq and Bush politics but for the life of me, I come to the end of Pig Hunt without any clear idea of the message that Isaac was trying to make, even if he was for or against the war.

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