I have the suspicion that the classification of Piggy, the new thriller by writer/ director Kieron Hawkes, as a horror film may not be what production company DP Films quite had in mind. However it’s depiction of social and moral breakdown set within the sprawling decay of inner city London is as unsettling and disturbing psychologically, as anything larger film companies are currently producing under the banner of straight horror.
Joe (Martin Compston) is a shy and lonely young man, who copes with his social inadequacies by hiding himself away in his dilapidated and ‘bohemian’esque north London flat. The sudden appearance of his brother John (Neil Maskell) with whom he has always shared a close bond, starts to bring Joe out of himself as the two visit local pubs and generally do what you men do. However an altercation one night whilst Joe and John are out drinking with some friends results in John’s murder by a notorious gang leader and his ominous band of thugs.
Joe is again cast into a downward spiral of self-doubt and fear until a man calling himself ‘Piggy’ appears on his doorstep one day, claiming to be an old school friend of John. Purporting to have his best interests at heart, Piggy devises a plan for the beleaguered Joe to get revenge on the gang who killed his beloved brother. However as the programme of retribution begins to play out, Joe finds himself, under the influence of the sinister Piggy, caught in a web of violence from which he cannot escape.
Piggy, a (quite literally at one point) in-your-face take on Clockwork Orange (1971) like gang culture is the direction, like it or not, that one would suggest modern horror films will have to take if they are to survive. In the era of post 80’s teenager-in-peril schlockers like Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and their attempted pastiche driven resurgence during the first decade of the new millennium with the Scream and Final Destination franchises, and a genre where creatures, alien or otherwise, now raise little more than a mild shudder, the horror of the disintegration of everyday, urban life is something which everyone can relate to and as a result at best find unsettling and at worst downright terrifying.
It will spoil little to reveal that Piggy‘s main focus centres on the retribution dealt upon each member of the gang by Joe and Piggy’s two man vigilante team – the said revenge which is frequently hard to watch. However the more disturbing aspect and one which lasts well after the film has finished, is its depiction of Joe’s own moral breakdown and his increasing isolation from the world surrounding him, including from the love and support of his long suffering ex-girlfriend Claire (a beautifully heartfelt performance by Louise Dylan).
An unexpected double twist ending, though doing little to detract from the hard hitting and visceral violence of the film or its underlying bleak theme of urban and moral decay, makes Piggy an interesting and refreshingly original entry in a tired and increasingly directionless genre.