Pig Hunt first published by Little White Lies
John Hickman (Travis Aaron Wade) and a trio of his military-obsessed friends (dubbed ‘the morons’) are heading from San Francisco to the backwoods of North California for a weekend of male bonding and pig hunting – with John’s resourceful girlfriend Brooks (Tina Huang) tagging along to keep their overinflated sense of masculinity grounded. John himself comes from a long line of local decorated war heroes, and is himself a skilled huntsman – but despite persistent rumours that the mysterious death of his Vietnam veteran uncle was connected to a legendary 30,000-pound boar known locally as the Ripper, John will not believe that the beast exists unless he comes face-to-face with it himself.
From its opening scene of a hunter being pursued and attacked in the woods by an unseen behemoth that grunts like a hog, Pig Hunt sets itself up to be a cheap porcine monster movie in the spirit of Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback (1984) – but in fact, despite his past filmography being decidedly sub-par (House 3, Jason X, Skinwalkers), director James Isaacs shows a real adeptness at confounding the viewer with all manner of genre-bound elements presented in gleefully unpredictable combinations. Sure a creature features, but there is also hillbilly havoc, biker bedlam, masculine rites of passage, fire-and-brimstone fundamentalism, bad-trip psychedelia, and Orwellian allegory – all of which merges into a much bigger picture, way beyond the bounds of conventional genre cinema, thanks to an oblique but insistent exploration of America’s entanglement in Iraq.
For Pig Hunt is a tale of an armed venture abroad where misplaced machismo, petty retaliations, treacherous tribalism, a prized natural resource, and one almighty Weapon of Mass Destruction lead to failure, loss of innocence and death. The film’s final line, “mission accomplished”, expressly evokes the empty triumphalism of Dubya’s notorious May 2001 appearance aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln to announce the (premature) end of major combat operations – and in the film, as in the Iraq conflict, no-one emerges looking fully human. It is this special blend of visceral thrills with genuine moral and political engagement that makes Pig Hunt the finest US horror film of 2008. So come on now – squeal.
© Anton Bitel