I know, I know — it’s been pretty well established by the largely self-appointed horror “intelligentsia” out there — you know, the guys and gals whose blogs and websites get more hits in an hour than mine does in a week, NOT THAT I”M RESENTFUL OF THEIR SUCCESS OR ANYTHING (ahem!) —that the whole faux-documentary “hand-held horror” thing is past its prime and strictly running on fumes at this point. Yes, the same folks who breathlessly told us in no uncertain terms that Blair Witch was the greatest thing ever, then told us a few years later that no, it was actually pretty stupid and just a cheap gimmicky flick after all (and somehow managed to change their opinions without admitting that they were actually, ya know, wrong about it to begin with), are now ready to heap scorn and contempt on pretty much any “mockumentary”-style horror flick before they’ve even seen the thing.
And you know what pisses me off about this whole situation the most? The fact that these pompous assholes are, at least in this instance, by and large right. I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves here — the Paranormal Activity franchise aside, this is one seriously played-out subgenre (and even the last PA movie was kind of a step backwards, quality-wise, from the others). All of which brings us , finally, to the film I sat down at my computer to write about this evening — indie Canadian release Long Pigs.Maybe it’s the fact that this flick was made in 2007, before the hand-held horror craze had run its course quite as thoroughly as it has today (though it didn’t get anything like an official release until 2010 — if you count DVD screener copies making the rounds at horror conventions as an “official release”). Maybe it’s the fact that its $250,000 (Canadian, mind you — oh, wait, there dollar is worth pretty much the same as ours now) budget doesn’t really allow for co-directors/co-screenwriters Nathan Hynes and Chris Power to make it look like they’re spending a bunch of money to ape a “cheap look” because they well and truly can’t afford anything other than an authentically cheap look in the first place. Maybe it’s the gusto with which lead actor Anthony Alviano tackles his role as cannibal-next-door Anthony McAlistar. Or maybe the Canucks are just better at this whole thing having had the chance to see Bruce McDonald’s seminal Hard Core Logo hundreds of times over. Whatever the reason, Long Pigs has an air of freshness and excitement to it that has been sorely lacking in most all the mocu-horrors to come out of the Hollywood pipeline for a good many years now.
Not that it’s perfect, by any means — but its imperfections generally only add to its, dare I say it, charm. By and large, this really does feel like the real deal, and even when it doesn’t, you still gotta respect Hynes and Power for giving it the ol’ college try. Anthony seems like a real guy — he plays beer-league hockey, visits his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother in the nursing home, and has generally learned to adopt a “go-along-to-get-along” attitude at his dead-end gig parking cars at a posh downtown (Toronto, I think) eatery. He just happens to murder folks (prostitutes, mostly, as if you couldn’t have guessed) and hack ’em up in his makeshift basement abattoir for their meat (for those of you not in the know, “Long Pig” is a euphemism for the flesh of our fellow human beings).
Now, I did say this film has its flaws. The insertion of clips from a “shock-jock” drive-time radio host are pretty well pointless and serve as cheap info-dumps for expounding on plot points necessary to move the story forward that occur outside the main narrative thrust of the proceedings. The psychobabble ruminations on the nature of serial killers, cannibals, and all their ilk by a stereotypically liberal female academic -type character that pop up from time to time are pretty pointless, as well. And the story itself really does bog down a bit around the 2/3 mark of the film. But these are all forgivable sins, surely, especially considering that the various “talking-head” bits do sort of come into play a bit as the film reaches its rather abrupt, but nonetheless pleasantly surprising, conclusion — I just think Hynes and Power could have found more inventive ways of presenting and communicating this information.
On the “big pluses” side of the ledger, however, we’ve got some seriously great blood n’ guts effects work (the fake human carcasses they’ve molded for this film are especially amazing and put most major studio prosthetic constructions to shame), some downright awesome “slice of life” sequences (the accidental visit to an actual pig farm is a real treat), and a killer turn in the lead role from Alviano, who I sincerely hope we see a lot more of in the future. All in all, the good outweighs the marginally bad by a pretty fair margin.
I found this little gem on a recently-released five-movie, single-disc DVD collection from an outfit called R Squared Films titled “Extreme Canadian Horror,” which is part of their “Cutting Edge Films” series (I understand it also bears the alternate title of “Pure Canadian Horror” on some of its labels for whatever reason), and while it’s probably the best of the bunch, the other four flicks all have something interesting to offer, as well, and I’ll be getting around to talking a bit about most, if not all, of them in the coming days and weeks — hence my little “North-Of-The-Border Horrors” series title for these posts. As far as technical specs go, the movies are all presented in widescreen format with 5.1 sound, so no complains in that department. There aren’t any extras like commentaries and what have you, but come on, folks, you’re getting five feature-length flicks for under ten bucks — how much more do you want?
I strongly urge you to give Long Pigs a go, whether as part of this set or if you find it somewhere out there (like, say, the internet) on its own. It’s hardly revolutionary stuff by any means, but it gave me hope for a genre I had all but given up on. There might just be some fight in the old dog that is mockumentary horror yet.