Two desperate filmmakers began a documentary about a cannibalistic-serial killer. What follows is their actual footage.
- Directed By: Nathan Hynes and Chris Power
- Written By: Nathan Hynes and Chris Power
- Country: Canada
- Released: 2007
- Running Time: 81 Min
- Links: Official Site
- Horror, Reviews
At what point does a documentary filmmaker cease to be a neutral observer and become complicit in the crimes on which he is reporting?
Long Pigs is the story of Anthony McAlistar (Anthony Alviano), an articulate and easy-going character who also happens to be a serial killing cannibal. It is also the story of a pair of young filmmakers (played by Nathan Hynes and Chris Power) who set out to make a documentary about the – as yet uncaught – McAlistar.
Initially nervous around McAlistar the two filmmakers are put increasingly at ease by his friendly and open manner and even start to buy into some of his justifications. And, as the filmmakers relax, McAlistar starts to draw them into his world and involve them in his activities so that they increasingly become accessories rather than mere witnesses.
This is underlined by a couple of interviews that are intercut with the footage of McAlistar. Superficially, these interviews provide a clinical view of McAlistar’s behaviour and a counterpoint to his claims, but over the course of them the extent to which the documentary makers are covering up for their subject becomes increasingly apparent.
Although there are a couple of quite graphic scenes, Long Pigs is not an overly gory film. The horror derives largely from the sheer banality of McAlistar’s life. He’s no Hannibal Lecter, just some slightly overweight guy who parks cars for a living and eats people for pleasure.
The writer/director team of Nathan Hynes and Chris Power do a great job here of constantly but unobtrusively bringing McAlistar’s worldview to the fore. In the same way that McAlistar draws the filmmakers into his world in order to gain acceptance, Hynes and Power draw the audience into his world to – very effectively – horrify us.
As the film progresses and the filmmakers begin challenging McAlistar on his constantly changing justifications, he becomes increasingly uncomfortable as he realises the extent to which he has incriminated himself. The film’s ending is hinted at in the opening titles but Hynes and Power do manage to incorporate a very effective twist into the grimly inevitable climax.
At the start of this review I asked about the point at which a documentary filmmaker ceases to be a neutral observer, and this is the main question that is explored in this film. But it is not the only one, as a short coda serves to amplify.
It’s not just young and inexperienced reporters that end up exploiting real horrors for their own ends. If anything, the mainstream and mass media can be far worse because they should know better. But still, every time something happens, they leap onto the bandwagon, wallowing in the depravity of it all while affecting an air of – entirely hypocritical – moral superiority.
Well written, well acted and packed with frighteningly believable characters, Long Pigs is one of the most intelligent and genuinely disturbing horror films that I’ve seen in a long time. It is also a film that very effectively asks the audience to think seriously about the way in which the media blurs the line between reportage and exploitation.