Pig Killer (2023): A morally ambiguous dive into shock cinema

Pig Killer - Courtesy Dark Star Pictures
Pig Killer - Courtesy Dark Star Pictures /

Chad Ferrin’s Pig Killer is not for the faint of heart, to say the least. Let me put it this way:
If you assume a movie about a serial-killing pig farmer is guaranteed to be classy, then you are sorely mistaken. It also makes it morally ambiguous that this exploitation flick is based on the real story of serial killer Robert ‘Willy’ Pickton, played pretty well by Jake Busey. Though some details may be embellished, and some characters and events probably made up, what’s shocking is how much of the story here appears to be relatively accurate. That only adds to the ickiness on display.

Of course, Pig Killer is by no means the only film of its kind. For example, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer stands pretty mightily as an example of a highly exploitative serial killer flick done well. And here’s the thing about that movie: It was never the goriest movie, even when it was made. It still initially got an X rating, however, based on the bleakness of its tone and the intensity of Michael Rooker’s performance. Again, in Pig Killer, Jake Busey actually does a pretty decent job, yet I can’t say the movie entirely knocked my socks off, and it probably wasn’t intended to, either.

“Pig Killer” is gross and weird…just as intended

As I watched the movie, I pretty quickly gathered my thoughts on some of its shortcomings. Quite simply, Pig Killer is agross movie, which at times distracts too much from whatever horror I’m supposed to feel. Now, as I say that, I want to make something abundantly clear: I am actually not one of those whiny critics who has zero tolerance for offensive content, even if it’s based on true stories. While I understand those views and the squeamishness surrounding films like this, I am actually pretty thick-skinned. In fact, I don’t consider myself “ultra-PC,” or anything quite like that.

The point is simply that the almost slapstick elements of Pig Killer,  the gross-out humor, the sleaziness of the characters, graphic nudity, and all of that stuff made me sometimes forget it’s supposed to be scary. I’m not even saying it’s an unwatchable movie, even though it’s something you wouldn’t want to watch with your kids, parents, grandparents, or even your household pets. As messed up as the content is, I just never felt the tension I might feel watching a movie like David Fincher’s Zodiac, which is somehow more intense than Pig Killer, despite being more of a slow burn, and considerably less gross, even in its depictions of kills.

Is it all bad?

Pig KIller
401869 01: Robert William Pickton is shown in this undated image from a television screen. Pickton and his brother operated a drinking club frequented by bikers and prostitutes near their pig farm outside Vancouver, Canada. Pickton was arrested February 22, 2002 and charged with first-degree murder in connection with two of the 50 women who have disappeared from the Vancouver area in the past two decades. /

If anyone has read this far, they may assume I hate Pig Killer, but that’s technically wrong. In fact, oddly enough, I could totally imagine watching it again, despite hesitating to recommend this flick to others. In addition to being tolerant of crazy, offputting fare, there are reasonably memorable elements, including Pickton’s pet pig, Balthazar, who is almost like the mascot or ambassador of the movie. A person may feel a tinge of guilt after watching this movie, but surely it’ll pass. And hey, let’s face it: As the human race keeps stockpiling atrocity after atrocity, why not expect them to be depicted on screen, however well or poorly done? So go ahead and watch Pig Killer if you are so inclined.

“Pig Killer” was also written by Mr. Ferrin, and stars Jake Busey, Lew Temple, Bai Ling, Kate Patel, Ginger Lynn (who I swear I never heard of before), and Kurt Bonzell (as Pickton’s best buddy, Pat),
Watch the film’s official trailer here, if you dare!

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