Deep in the Australian outback, a young child named Scotty goes missing. His grandfather, Jake (Bill Kerr), swears that a giant boar (“a razorback”) broke into his house and ran off with his grandson. The locals don’t think it was a boar. They don’t even think it was a dingo. Instead, they charge Jake with killing his grandson but, because there’s not evidence to convict him, Jake goes free.
Two years later, a nosy American reporter named Beth Winters (Judy Morris) mysteriously vanishes shortly after arriving in the Outback to do a story on how kangaroos are being hunted to the point of extinction. Women and children are vanishing in the Outback? This sounds like a job for Lee Majors but the best this movie can do is Gregory Harrison. Harrison plays Beth’s husband, Carl, who comes to Australia to search for her. At first, he thinks that she may have been kidnapped by the moronic Baker brothers (Chris Haywood and David Argue) but then he meets Jake and a comely pig expert named Sarah (Arkie Whiteley). Jake tells Carl about the razorback and later comes across Beth’s wedding ring in a pile of boar shit.
Razorback was probably pitched as being “Jaws meets Mad Max.” Just as in Jaws, the authorities refuse to accept that people are being eaten by a giant boar and it is up to an inexperienced American, an old timer, and a scientist to try to stop it. Also, like in Jaws, the boar is that star of the show even though it does not get much screen time. When the boar does appear, it bears a distinct resemblance to Motorhead’s War-Pig. Just as in Mad Max, every Australian in Razorback drives like a maniac. Whenever the Baker brothers tear across the screen in their truck, it’s easy to imagine Max Rockatansky and Goose in hot pursuit.
Along with the boar, the other star of the film is the Australian outback itself, which the film treats as almost being an alien landscape:
If Razorback makes the Australian outback look like an 80s new wave music video, that might be because it was directed by Russell Mulcahy, who started his career directing videos for Duran Duran. Before one boar attack, Duran Duran’s New Moon On Monday is even heard playing on a radio. (Ironically, New Moon On Monday was one of the few early Duran Duran videos that Mulcahy did not direct.) Both the boar and the film look great but all of the humans get overshadowed by the visuals. Not that it matters, since they’re only there to serve as razorback food.
Despite the strong visuals and the amazingly cool monster, Razorback got only lukewarm reviews when it was first released. Critics aside, it was a hit in Australia, where it won Australian Film awards for both editing and cinematography. (Cinematographer Dean Semler later won an Oscar for his work on Dances with Wolves.) It only found cult success in the United States. One admirer was Steven Spielberg, who reportedly called Mulcahy to ask how he achieved some the film’s visual effects. Two years after the release of Razorback, Mulcahy directed his best-known film, Highlander.
Flaws and all, Razorback is the best movie ever made about a wild boar eating people in Australia.