Pig Review [SXSW 2017]

Matt Donato

Reviewed by:
On March 16, 2017
Last modified:April 24, 2017


Pig is a torture flick in one of the worst ways - it tortures its audience.

Pig Review [SXSW 2017]

Every so often, a movie comes along that words cannot serviceably justify. When you’re a horror degenerate like myself, that “so often” timeframe is a little more frequent. Adam Mason’s Pig is one such title; a despicable, mean-spirited, tragically pointless torture bomb. So sickening that it’s been hidden since 2010 without release, minus a live world premiere on website Bloody Disgusting. Pig: The Final Screenings read new promotional materials, because it’s set to be destroyed after South by Southwest 2017. At least I can say “I’ve seen Pig!” when horror buffs discuss lost movies years from now? Whatever that’s worth.

Mason ties his camera to leading man/co-writer Andrew Howard, who stars as a backwoods lunatic with perverse day plans. On his trailer plot are four captives, all in different locations. When he returns from bashing one’s skull in (the film’s opening sequence), Howard moves to a female plaything he has chained up. After defiling her and whatnot, a second girl is let loose from her cage (she seemingly stays put willingly). This one is pregnant, “talks” with a disability and acts as if her maturity has been stunted. She’s like a large child, accompanying Howard as he walks uphill to a shooting range where his male victim is tied up. One by one he enacts his wildest pleasures, most of which are violent, disgusting and without redemption. Then the twist ending hits – which I’ll get to later.

For now now, let’s translate the above.

This is basically Psycho’s Day Out, devoid of rhyme or reason. Sound design plays spoon-slappin’ hillbilly rock over most of Howard’s dialogue, making his crazed rantings largely inaudible except for a loud and clear “Rape time!” jig. You know, something like “Rape-time! Rape-time!,” as his mumbling accomplice kicks her legs in-rhythm. While he’s wearing a dress and uses blood as hair dye I believe? I digress. The point being, there’s never a reason besides living in the now for Howard’s descent into shock-value horribleness, which makes it just that – horrible shocks that leave a gutless sensation. Intentional or not. Mason’s villain tortures, shoots crazy-eyed laughter, hits a quick clean-down shower and then enjoys sluggish down-time where he cooks or sips alcohol. Rinse and repeat, except you’ll never feel clean.

Don’t underestimate Howard and Mason’s commitment to exploitation cinema. Pig may start civilly with female mutilation and cannibalistic meal-prep, but then Howard REALLY starts to let himself go. Slurping blood from a slit neck, golden showers, sexual abuse, necrophilia tendencies, human debasing, cock-mashing against a victim’s face – why. WHY. There’s no theme or message. Just experimentation without artistic intent, almost like we’re watching a snuff film for the goddamn hell of it. Maybe you can make a case for the far-right background radio that spouts misogynistic rhetoric, as men discuss trophy wives and always having the upper hand over women – but even this obvious attempt at political skewering falls miles short.

Pig appears to have been shot on a higher resolution rate than necessary, which completely strips a cinematic tone. Overt brightness blinds your eyes as previously mentioned drum scores try to amp some excitement. Hopelessly, at that. Howard’s preggo partner outstays her welcome after mere minutes, as a poor actress is forced to repeat lines and sacrifice dignity for far longer than any one performer should. The camera fixates on her running in circles while screaming nonsense, sometimes playing with a costume bunny head, other times just flailing around like a neanderthalic version of Sweet Dee from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. There is no calming release. Howard and his wench interact for a good seventy minutes of excruciating improv, complete with all the ugliness mentioned above. Did I mention there’s no script?

Admittedly, one production aspect demands note. Mason doesn’t just film sequence by sequence. The entire first seventy-ish minutes are one long, sprawling take. Start to finish. Everything in one flowing motion, without rhythm or choreography. Howard runs in and out of focus, mixing foreground and background without landscaped frame appeal. You’ll look around, and all of a sudden the crazy lady (Lauren, possibly?) is shaking a broken TV. Or Howard is covered with blood again. We feel like we’re constantly catching-up with a man who’ll never pay off our curiosity, hoping for a white flag at some point. If Pig were a comedy, based on execution, it’d be one seventy-minute poop joke that only ever gets grosser and grosser. Apply that mentality to horror, and you now understand intent.

Normally, this would be a spoiler free zone – but you’re never going to see Pig. So why not reveal the big, massive pivot-point that makes everything “worthwhile.” Are you ready? Sitting down? Good.

It turns out, Howard’s character has to go back to work after everything is done. He’s just a normal guy, who gets in a car, and by the time he reaches his private jet, a British accent has sunk back in. Because we’re all monsters on the inside? Never judge a book by its cover? Who the f&#k cares. What fresh hell is Pig, and how does it all make sense? These are questions that will plague the rest of my days, while you all can rest easy knowing you’ll never experience this genre bewilderment.

Mason and Howard have created something uncomfortable. Morally arresting with an unwieldy presence. Maybe this is the exact reaction these ambitious lunatics are shooting for? I truly mean ambitious, because these guys try something few horror filmmakers have. There’s the craziest, most unhinged merit in such devotion. Part of me wishes that cult-midnight screenings will pop up over time, just to share some bit of the emptiness that has vacated my soul – but Pig seems to have reached the end of its cinematic life.

I’ll just think of Adam Mason’s infinitely better Hangman and leave it at that.

Pig Review [SXSW 2017]

Pig is a torture flick in one of the worst ways - it tortures its audience.