Yes, Pigs! is the name of the movie I just watched. This is not a post about excitement over Wilbur or Babe, Pig in the City or anything regarding actual pigs. And yes, the exclamation point is part of the title. I'm not overly exuberant enough about pigs to justify punctuating the title in such a manner on my own.
However, I am pretty excited about the movie Pigs! It has a surreal, almost psychedelic feel, which I wasn't expecting going in, because I had little expectations at all about a 70's film possibly about pigs distributed by Troma that was for some reason in my netflix queue. It could have gone either way - I would wind up loving it and singing its praises from the balcony of my condo like a crazy person or I would relegate it to some underused portion of my brain never to be called upon again. I'm pleased to say the former wound up being true. Shall we?
The pretty, but disturbed, Lynn (director Marc Lawrence's daughter, Toni Lawrence), stabs her father after years of sexual abuse. She's condemned to a mental institution, but escapes when a nurse on Lynn's ward disrobes to fuck a doctor type and Lynn winds up stealing her outfit and car. She drives a bit and winds up at weirdo ex-circus performer Zambrini's (director Marc Lawrence) ramshackle cafe in the countryside. Exhausted and broke, Lynn asks Zambrini for employment and he eerily complies, offering her less than Ritzy accommodations in the back of the restaurant.
Before Lynn arrives we know Zambrini's up to no good, as we saw him feed a dead man to his pigs. But he's not all bad, see, since he apologizes to the corpse beforehand. "I gotta do it, they got used to human flesh. The first time it was an accident - they got loose in the field. There was a drunk in the field asleep, yeah, asleep." Did Zambrini actually kill this unfortunate fellow or did he dig him up somewhere? Director Lawrence thankfully keeps Zambrini's necro-dealings ambiguous.
No worries, Lynn's pretty deranged herself, and Zambrini quickly takes her under his wing. Sensing she's on the run, but not really caring why, Zambrini covers for her when local law enforcement (pig joke here, too easy) Sheriff Dan starts sniffing around. Seems the tags on Lynn's VW have expired and she's attracting suspicion as the pretty young lass Zambrini's been hanging around with. Zambrini's not without his own acquired suspicions however, as his two dotty old neighbor bitches, Ms. Macy and her sister, Annette, have been complaining about Zambrini and his pigs for quite some time. Ms. Macy will tell anyone that'll listen to her ramblings that Zambrini's been killing people and feeding them to his pigs. She tells Sheriff Dan, "he feeds the pigs dead people and then he eats the pigs!" to which Sheriff Dan replies, "Where does he get the dead people?" Ms. Macy's got an answer for that too and hysterically wails, "From the cemetery after he kills them!" The scenery is chewed right off the set for this hilarious exchange.
Dan then goes on to tell Ms. Macy that body has recently been stolen from the morgue, thus making Zambrini's actions even more ambiguous. However, if you want the less ambiguous, how about Lynn's growing psychopathic nature? After she's nearly raped by a amorous customer from the cafe, she invites him back round to hers the next night and castrates him in her bed. Zambrini, discovering Lynn and her now-dead suitor, calms her as she rocks back and forth, delirious and childlike. And what do you think he does with the dead body?
Things only get more deranged and out of control, spiraling into an almost incestuous feeling love story, between Lynn, a psycho teen with a daddy complex, and Zambrini, a grave-robbing body-snatching pig farmer/possible cannibal. What complicates this further in my mind is the fact that Zambrini and Lynn are father and daughter in real life - taking this to a meta textual level I haven't experienced since Asia and Dario. Zambrini and Lynn never kiss or embrace or do anything on screen that would lead you to believe there is a sexual relationship between them, but they're both so odd, and the dynamic between them so instantly weird, it's hard not to imagine something happening. What confounds this further and takes it to a new level of perversity is that Sheriff Dan implores at one point of Lynn, "are you related to the Great Zambrini?" to which she responds with a resounding no. But Dan's a love rival, having already made his affections known to Lynn on more than one occasion.
It's almost as if Zambrini has become her surrogate father, and because I'm a pervert, and Lynn's been raped by her daddy, it's hard to not think of Zambrini possibly doing the same. There is one particularly hellish sequence in which Lynn is experiencing a nightmare. We see Zambrini enter the darkened room (the print that I watched was horrible - so sometimes it's hard to tell what is going on) and advances across to her bed where she lies sleeping. As we think the rape is imminent, Zambrini makes sure she's asleep and begins slashing her face repeatedly with a straight razor. The camera spins out of control and we're treated to the cacophonous squeals of pigs distorted and amped up to the point of utter madness. That being said, it's a great scene.
For a film titled Pigs! I haven't really talked too much about them thus far. They are a constant fixture here, what could even be referred to as harbingers of death and madness. They certainly mirror the madness Zambrini and Lynn both experience. We see them push their dirty snouts through the rickety gates of the pig pens, we hear their high pitched squeals that wind up just sounding savage. Lynn's screams are often merged with the pig squeals at opportune times during the film, causing much discomfort for the viewer. Not just aurally, but visually as well. Because when Lynn goes crazy, the camera goes crazy.
It makes you feel almost high. That, and the film is neither set here nor there. It's somewhere in the desert, the local economy seems to consist of Zambrini's pig farm and an oil rig, and there aren't that many residents. The fact that most townspeople at least have some kind of idea what Zambrini is up to, but then nothing is really ever done about it, smacks of a surreality. He's allowed to continue in with his grisly business, without anyone challenging him. Weird, right?
But you know, I might be reading to much into it. Yeah, pigs conventionally symbolize greed or uncleanliness, but I don't think director Lawrence lingers too long at a symbolic level. In fact, as I mentioned previously, the pigs, while an overarching presence throughout, could have been left out entirely and the movie could have functioned just on Lynn's burgeoning and continuing madness and killing spree.
And hey, look, a female killer! How unusual. But I've bored you enough for now. Watch Pigs! although I will warn you, some of the 'action' does drag. But it's got a great noise-like score, Toni Lawrence is chilling as Lynn, Zambrini's effectively creepy, and there's a whole lot going on beneath the surface of this forgotten unconventional slasher. Too bad for the unfortunate tagline on some alternate box art I found - 'If you go down to the woods today, you're in for a pig surprise.' Wow, it doesn't get any worse than that. Now that fucking tune is in my head. The film can also be found under the title Daddy's Deadly Darling.