As much as I hate to say this, you’re hard pressed to find indie horror films that are falling far from the zombie/slasher/inbred cannibal storyline. It just sort of happens out of necessity. If you take that much of something in, you have no choice but to be affected by it. Directors Chris Power and Nathan Hynes have decided to take the road less travelled, and consequently, might have made my favorite horror film of the year.
The film is shot as a “documentary” by two desperate filmmakers looking to make their mark on the world. They encounter and engage a young man named Anthony McAllister, a gleeful serial killing cannibal. He doesn’t kill out of impulsive psychosis, exclusively. He seems to enjoy his work and enjoys the art of cooking human flesh. The filmmakers try to expose the “human” side of their subject. But as time goes on, the breakdown between subject and scientist becomes increasingly tense. Stories begin to not add up and the fun-loving side of Anthony starts fading away, making room for the real beast that lives inside of him. After Anthony becomes very aware of how much of his sick world he’s actually unveiled, an intense encounter results in nothing being left but a busted up camera that houses the lost footage that we get to view.
There is no better feeling to the horror fan than being invigorated by a new film. Something truly original lands in your lap, you cannot wait to share with all your horror friends. “Long Pigs” would be that type of film. Their are obvious comparisons to be made to classics like “Man Bites Dog” or the incomparable “August Underground” series. But there’s an attention to the emotional depth of this movie that perhaps the previous two didn’t quite tap into. Not to say that those films didn’t have a strong emotional strand running throughout, but Long Pigs truly feels like you’re watching a documentary. There are inane, everyday parts of Anthony’s life that feel so goddamned genuine, you catch yourself LIKING this monster! He’s got a sweet disposition that is hard to not empathize with. At first. The progression of the movie finds your heart changing drastically, as you find out that Anthony killed a child who’d become one of those milk carton/America’s Most Wanted stories. The filmmakers arrange an interview with the victim’s father and take Anthony along to run the boom mic. Here, Anthony is confronted with the results of his killing. You see a change in his demeanor that indicates his downfall. This scene alone is enough to just rip your heart out of your chest. It’s so emotionally raw that after watching the father’s plea for his daughter’s return, you want nothing more than to see Anthony suffer. But not all the blame can lie on Anthony, and that’s what makes Long Pigs a rare gem amongst it’s brethren. It’s so well steeped in what makes for a dramatic documentary, it feels genuine.
This isn’t necessarily worn territory, but it has been done before. But like anything in horror, if you’ve managed to take a concept that’s been done and make it better, then you’ve set yourself onto the path of success. Serial killers are awful monsters who have been all too celebrated by pop culture. The things that they do and the people that are affected by their actions do not enjoy seeing these people gain any sort of “celebrity”. Long Pigs doesn’t celebrate the idea of the serial killer, rather it shows you how their charm and finesse is a mask that hides their evil. Power and Hynes tackle these ideas with an intelligence that is rarely seen. Yes, we get the gore that so many of us enjoy, but it’s not typical. Watching the killer chop up his victims like a well-versed butcher makes the violence far more disturbing than zombies eating brains. It’s the almost dull manner in which Anthony dismembers his victims that makes it such a potent form of visual horror. This can be attributed to some masterfully handled effects that aren’t overused and thus made far more impact on the viewer. The abrupt, gonzo-like attacks are alarming. You are so wrapped up in the character development, that when violence occurs, it’s like a kick in the stomach. And that’s where true horror should come from to begin with. I’m the first guy to defend the shit out of gore films. I love gore for gore’s sake. But this isn’t one of those movies. There’s a strong character development that makes up the arch in the story and don’t forget: What characters are being developed are bad guys. So, there’s a built-in fear with that, alone. Then to couple that with strategically placed violence, and you have a terrifically made horror film. There’s moments of dark humor that are brought together with real moments of drama…but they all reside under a sturdy roof of fear. Make no mistakes, this movie’s realities are what make it so damn powerful.
As 2010 carries on, we will undoubtedly be blessed with many horror films that will tickle our fancy. There will be immediate hits that will quickly come and go, but Long Pigs has the ability to stay. There’s a subversive quality that gives Long Pigs the opportunity to go down as a cult film. There aren’t beautiful people, hit soundtracks, or giant celebrity appearances. Instead, you get a film that is bold enough to just be-it puts all its prowess out on Front Street and you’re forced to sort through the myriad of emotions that the filmmakers throw at you. That boldness, that make “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”, “Nekromantik”, and “Man Bites Dog” legendary, is the same boldness that Long Pigs was made with. This film is getting plenty of attention on the festival circuit, with good reason. Consider this movie highly recommended. It’s a film worth every penny you’ll spend on it. The horror gods are smiling down on us in 2010…and Long Pigs is the gift they’ve bestowed.