Boar (Review) There’s nothing out there but dust and roos…

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BOAR

 

THE SETUP

Boar is the latest Horror film from Australian Writer/Director, Chris Sun (Charlie’s Farm). Presented by Slaughter FX and OZPIX Entertainment, Boar is set in a local country town and follows a family who encounter an over sized boar while headed for a reunion. Debbie (played by Simone Buchanan of TV’S “Hey Dad”) and her American partner, Bruce (Horror icon, Bill Moseley) with kids, Ella and Bart in tow (played respectively by Christie-Lee Britten and Griffin Walsh), along with Hannah’s boyfriend, Robert (Hugh Sheridan) are heading for a homecoming with Debbie’s brother, Bernie (played by the brutish, Nathan Jones). Elsewhere in town, fences and land are being damaged and livestock killed by something and it’s up to, Ken (played by Wolf Creek’s, John Jarratt), his mate, Blue (Roger Ward), and a group of the locals to stop the beast before anyone else gets hurt. The film also stars Melissa Tkautz (Housos), Chris Haywood (All Saints), Steve Bisley (Water Rats), Ernie Dingo (Crocodile Dundee 2) and Sheridyn Fisher.

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THE GOOD

Here’s a little history for you. Boar marks the fourth feature film from Chris Sun, and if you know the journey behind the story, it’s clearly the most difficult venture that he’s undertaken thus far as he continues to grow as a genre filmmaker. Sun shot a sizeable chunk of Boar in Gympie, Queensland and the small town of Kandanga all the way back in late 2015. Unfortunately, with piracy being what it is these days the film hit a massive road block in terms of money, and the investors were getting nervous about their contributions and the potential for major losses. Without warning, money was pulled and the funds to pay cast and crew in order to continue the production dried up almost immediately. Chris, coming from a DIY (do it yourself) background and being the battler that he is, didn’t let the stress of it all get to him, and instead, decided to reach out to fans and other potential investors to get the money to finish the film. It took all of his time, a couple of online campaigns and reinvesting to see this latest film come to life. It may have taken several years but Boar is finally here, having been released on a one night only limited run and I happened to catch the session last night.

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The first things that jumps out at you in Boar is DP, Andrew Conder’s lively cinematography. The luscious green backdrop of a Queensland setting lends itself to some impressive photography to begin with, but add Conder’s 25 years of experience and the result is certainly a sharp one. The camera is always on the move during the action, a combination of handheld steadicam work and swift tracking shots and crane work. All of the two shot conversation pieces are well crafted and the night exteriors are laced with a thick fog, bringing plenty of atmosphere and intrigue to what might lie beyond the fence line or the hills. Mark Smythe’s moody score and the teams sound design for the Boar itself is another technical highlight of the film. Much to my surprise, a lot of the dialogue and content was funnier than I was expecting. No doubt viewers will be drawn to the horror aspect and the practically conceived creature, but there’s actually a lot of fun to be had with the lighthearted nature of the banter and Aussie idioms spoken among characters. The pacing is solid and there’s a good dose of practical effects work (in addition to the super impressive creature), albeit unveiled in patches. The first on-screen kill doesn’t come nearly as early as it probably should’ve. We get some nice aftermath shots but not a lot of Boar action until the film nears its third act. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was one of the only people who attended the screening that hadn’t previously seen “Razorback”, the only other known Australian pig film (unless you count Babe haha), so I have no comparisons to draw upon. The blood and gore does flow a little better as the film hits its peak, but it didn’t quite reach the heights I’d initially hoped for.

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Boar’s one of those homegrown films that you and your friends can have some fun with in regard to matching actors faces to the names. It’s a hodgepodge of familiars and iconic names spread across generations of Australian TV and Film work (some have even gone on to make a real name for themselves internationally). Boar might just be the first of Sun’s films to contain multiple likable and relatable characters. His debut film “Come And Get Me”, featured some truly horrible fuckers (as Chris himself would say) and “Daddy’s Little Girl” consisted of two equally screwed up individuals. It wasn’t until Sam Coward’s, loveable larrikin “Mick” in Charlie’s Farm, that we saw someone we could root for in a Slaughter FX film. In Boar, the dynamic duo that is local drinking and hunting buddies, Ken and Blue, make for one of the best pairings committed to screen in an Aussie film. Jarratt and Ward combined, boast nearly a century’s worth of experience and it shows. They play great country stereotypes and both possess unrivaled comedic timing for this particular brand of humor. Arguing over who should go where, how they should get there and the discourse on the behaviour of others, it’s all a bloody blast. There’s a momentary nod to John’s iconic “Mick Taylor” character of the Wolf Creek series, but it’s a complete role reversal for him and I love that about the film. Nathan Jones is another powerful figure (literally), but for other reasons too. Those of you who aren’t familiar with Nathan, he played Charlie in Chris’s previous film but he’s also appeared in films like “Conan” and “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Once again, Bernie is another example of something completely different from a Sun-written character, as well as Jones as an actor. From the moment we see the hulking “Bern” being smothered by baby goats as they lap up his attention, it’s clear we’re in for something different with this childlike man. Extremely likable and funny in most moment’s, this might just be some of Nathan’s best work. The family of four all have their moments as well, Moselely looking very much like the out of his comfort zone family man, an image so far removed from his bearded and delusional “Otis” of “The Devils Rejects”. Haywood, as a drunk, and Dingo as an indigenous local, at different stages each supply the comedic relief. Sheridan is given that mantle when the focus is on the family and he does a nice job as well. Melissa Tkautz as “Sasha”, Ken’s daughter and owner of the local pub, brings the fire and a sense of warmth to her character, she features nicely in the climax of the film.

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THE BAD

There’s a couple of small inconsistencies in Buchanan’s acting, most notably with Debbie’s reaction to something that transpires with one character in particular. On occasion she falls in an out of the emotional beats as the situation escalates. The same can be said about young actress, Madeleine Kennedy who plays Hannah, an innocent camper who ends up in the path of the wild animal. Some of the secondary characters are conveniently placed in precarious positions if for no other reason than to serve as additions to the body count. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that in the confines of a horror film, but there still needs to be some logic behind character’s decision-making. For example, Hannah and her boyfriend and another couple appear to be randomly camping on private property in a vast field. There’s no exposition as to why, it’s not near any obvious views or landmarks, there’s no broken down vehicle in sight, and yet there they are because the film requires it. Several characters do things that make no sense. Debbie and Ella discuss making some torch sticks because bears (sort of like pigs..) don’t like the light/heat so they might be able to ward off the thing, smart right? Immediately after, they’re shown sitting inside a perimeter with three or four small fire torches around them, but when the Boar attacks they don’t actually think about picking one up and trying to burn the damn thing, you know, considering it’s covered in fur/hair… Instead, they think a few swift kicks and punches might do the job, What the hell? Other examples would be when Bernie drops his gun and fails to pick it up again, despite the boar not being in site. In addition, certain characters get attacked from side on while facing others who can clearly see the direction said character would be being attacked from. It just doesn’t make any sense when there’s no warning called.

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I think Boar may have been stronger with a more direct focus on Ken and Sasha, the father and daughter bond, with a good dose of Blue thrown in for comedic purposes. The film appeared to be heading in that direction late in the first act as the spotlight turns away from the family of five for what felt like a good 20 to 25 minutes. After a quick rendezvous with Bernie there’s no cutting back to the group at all for almost the entire second act. The way the film opens felt a little lack lustre too. I’ve come to expect a good early on-screen kill from these creature feature types of films and what we get here feels rushed and lacks tension. Budgetary and time constraints are no doubt a continual challenge on a film of this magnitude and unfortunately it shows. If you’ve got a million, you need ten. If you’ve got a month, you need three, and so on and so forth. The lengthy gaps in the shooting dates and the minimal funds attached don’t allow for complete control over continuity and the heavy elements of CGI required. The Boar POV shots were clearly altered in post production utilizing a mix of Final Cut Pro filters over the image. I don’t think they were essential and had they been cut it may have provided a little more suspense about where the creature was in relation to the prey. The fact that Chris and Slaughter FX built a practical Boar to scale, and with some animatronic capabilities as well, is a huge feat in an of itself and deserves the highest of praise. With stylish lighting, great framing and talented puppeteers, Boar looks at its best when the creatures head is active and it’s attacking and devouring at close range with minimal movement e.g, the showdown with Jones’s character. It’s obvious in those stationary shots that the legs don’t allow for much, but hey, you can’t have it all (well you can it just costs a lot more). Unfortunately when things ratchet up a notch and the film gets visual effects heavy, it lacks in quality. The movements look cheap, the layering simply doesn’t contain enough depth and it all looks spotty in relation to the configuration of the frame with the actors in it. I wanted to love it, but in order to keep the consistency evident there’s no room for wide shots or daytime action and everything needed to be shot tighter. I’d love to see Boar made on ten times the budget, but my limited experience in the industry has taught me that you work with what you’ve got and Chris did that.

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The journey behind Boar is a resourceful one and it’s been a long time in the works, so it’s great to see Chris’s drive and passion for this project finally pay off. There’s a lot to like about this entertaining and surprisingly good-natured creature feature horror film. Conder’s cinematography drives the high production value, the location looks great and  Smythe’s sound design is shaped ominously. All of Suns comedic gags land, the characters are all engaging and the Boar action makes for a pretty wild ride. It’s not as gore heavy as some of Chris’s previous work but there’s some on-screen carnage for fans to revel in. What it does display is a huge practically conceived creature, something all too rarely seen in this particular sub-genre. There’s a few undersold emotions in a couple of the performances and a lot of the secondary characters are conveniently placed in situations they wouldn’t be in unless the film required it. There’s some dumb decision-making and things happen that don’t always add up. The film is an ambitious one but there’s only so much you can do when you simply don’t have the time or funds required to do so. Had the focus of the story shifted to the father daughter connection I may have been able to distract myself from looking further at the somewhat inept digital effects. That being said, Sun put every dollar he had on the screen to get Boar made, and the end product is his best yet and a hell of a lot of fun at that. If you love your creature features please support this homegrown film because it’s a tough gig when you’re going it alone. Boar will available on Foxtel and other streaming services by the end of the month. Check out the official trailer below!

My rating for “Boar” is 6.5/10

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