Pig Killer (2023)

Pig Killer is a 2022 American horror thriller, written and directed by Chad Ferrin. The film is a retelling of one of Canada’s most prolific serial killers, Robert William “Willy” Pickton, who is believed to have confessed to killing over 49 women (although Pickton was only convicted for 6 of those, considered second-degree murder) from the period 1980 to 2002 when he was apprehended by the police.

Due to Canadian laws regarding the release of information from an ongoing investigation, a number of details surrounding the case still remain a mystery. However, the storyline is considered mostly faithful to the actual events that took place, with only the victims’ names being changed out of respect. The film takes place on a pig farm inherited from their father, where Willy and his brother, David, have all but abandoned the family business after selling plots of land and making a fortune in the process. Willy now spends his time organizing parties and gatherings full of drugs and sex, but—unbeknownst to the partygoers—this is the perfect cover for Willy to continue to abduct, rape, and murder young women.

The story begins towards the end of Willy’s murderous rampage, as he disposes of yet another body of a young woman to his hogs, which solidifies the film’s grisly intent within the first few seconds. Although these scenes of brutality are fairly spaced throughout the film’s two-hour runtime, their vivid, unflinching nature is incredibly shocking in its depiction of violence. Yet, despite the inclusion of these scenes, Pig Killer poises itself as a character study of Willy rather than a tabloid gore film; exploring the deranged man behind the murders rather than a sole focus on these murders.

Pig Killer features a skillful level of cinematography throughout, with every scene featuring lengthy shots that linger until it is absolutely necessary to move to the next shot. These drawn-out scenes add an air of realism to the story’s portrayal, creating a voyeuristic sensation that the audience is a part of these terrible experiences. Additionally, the stylised visuals for certain story aspects, such as the close-up or soft focus shots of Willy’s rapid eye movement, successfully extract the subtext of these scenes whilst bypassing the artifice of filmmaking.

Contrary to most horror films, Pig Killer features an incredibly varied genre soundtrack; a mix of 80s pop, country, as well as some modern tracks to name a few. This diverse blend of music certainly works in the film’s favour, portraying a tone polar opposite to the visuals being displayed, often imparting comedic undertones to the film’s more savage scenes. Although this doesn’t detract from these sadistic acts, and instead this tonal difference complements each scene by augmenting its raw strength.

However, the majority of the film’s power is delivered through an amazing performance from Jake Busey (Starship Troopers), displaying a visually deranged aura in his characterization. From his rapid eye movement to slurred speech, he delivers a believably nuanced performance of a man with a broken mind, while maintaining a compelling amount of charisma. As these lapses in mental stability only make up a minuscule fraction of his personability, where the killer is portrayed sympathetically in many respects—his deranged behavior being caused by sexual and physical abuse. Despite this aspect, it is clear there is zero interest in providing an outlet of redemption for the character. As Pig Killer’s intent is to provide an accurate retelling of the people involved, as well as their crimes.

Incredibly riveting from start to finish, Pig Killer’s amalgamation of captivating, true crime story along with exceptionally grisly scenes of violence creates an underlying layer of sleaze that some may not be able to overlook. An amazing level of detail in the special effects provided by Joe Castro along with the unwavering cinematography conjures a positively realistic, albeit uncomfortable experience. Although, in spite of this, Pig Killer is an amazingly sleek piece of real crime cinema that utilses its two-hour run time constructively to form a well-paced, enjoyable experience.

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