Following up their most recent dip into the Troma back catalog, Luther the Geek, Vinegar Syndrome bring us another look at country living with Pigs. And, much like Luther before it, looks can be deceiving. While there is plenty of weirdness and carnage involving our titular swine, this isn’t the creature feature that you may be expecting, working much more as a bizarre psychological profile of a sick mind. Think of it as the Mason Verger origin story.
Even for something seemingly so defiant to genre conventions, it’s only natural that Pigs starts out with a young woman thrust into the middle of nowhere and looking for a place to plant some roots. And she just happens to be an escaped mental patient who was committed to a hospital for murdering her father. Which makes her the perfect match for a farmer that has a stable of pigs who eat people, especially when she starts offing men who remind her of daddy. It’s sort of like Motel Hell by way of The Witch Who Came In from the Sea, which is the genre mash-up that everyone has been hoping for.
For as crazy as it does get, it never goes too far. Writer/director/star Marc Lawrence is clearly having a great time playing the deranged pig farmer and also crafts the film with a surprisingly subtle hand, never letting the excess take over. Even if we want it to. Pigs ends up working well as a companion to Luther the Geek, even beyond their shared Troma lineage. Both are surprisingly delicate albeit hard to watch profiles of sick minds and both are far better than their marketing (or reputations) would suggest. Time for that barnyard double-bill.
Vinegar Syndrome have brought Pigs to Blu-ray for the first time and it looks pretty great. The sourcing here is interesting as both a 35mm interpostive as well as 35mm theatrical prints had to be used, presenting the film in Lawrence’s director’s cut. I expected the typical drops in quality from a presentation like this, but I was surprised at how seamless it all is which is a testament to the quality of VS’s work. There’s a healthy, organic layer of film grain present throughout. Colors are faithful – but this isn’t a very vibrant film – and blacks are solid. Damage is surprisingly minimal, especially given that projection prints were used. This is the best that this film has ever looked on home video.
If having the film in HD and uncut wasn’t enough, VS have heaped on the supplements here leaving nothing on the table. We start with an audio interview which is basically a commentary track, featuring cinematographer Glenn Roland and VS’s Joe Rubin. It’s surprisingly not really about Pigs for the most part, focusing much more on Roland’s career overall. It’s still a really engaging listen and there’s a lot of genre cinema history touched on that fans of this type of thing should eat up. “Back on the Menu” is a 14 minute interview with Toni Lawrence who plays the female lead in the film. The conversation mostly concerns working with Marc Lawrence who happened to be her father and how grueling the shoot was. “Somewhere Down the Road” is a chat with composer Charles Bernstein, mostly about his craft in general. We get two alternate openings and an alternate ending. All are worth a watch but differ pretty greatly in tone from the final film, bringing things into especially sleazy territory. Lastly, we have a couple of theatrical trailers and a gallery of promo artwork.
Pigs was likely rented a lot by viewers who expected something entirely different than what it was back in the Troma VHS/DVD heyday. Time has fortunately been very kind to Marc Lawrence’s film, which works as well as a psychological thriller as it does a piece of impassioned regional genre filmmaking. It’s uncomfortable, unconventional