Pig Death Machine
Runs Fri., Jan. 10–Thurs., Jan. 16 at Northwest Film Forum. Not rated. 84 minutes.
Ah, the blessings of Kickstarter. Just because you can get a movie funded doesn’t mean you should make that movie. Underground filmmaker Jon Moritsugu and his wife/co-writer/leading lady Amy Davis want to say something about food safety and the hazards of eating meat, and they take an amusingly gonzo approach to the subject, but Pig Death Machine is still fatally undercooked. Pork parasites infect the brain of ditzy Cocojoy (Davis), miraculously raising her IQ like Flowers for Algernon. Working at the same restaurant that served her, crazy plant lady Lipton (Hannah Levbarg) eats some of the tainted swine, which gives her a very different condition: Suddenly she can hear the pleading voices of captive plants, which beg her for water and attention. (In one funny scene, blades of grass yelp in pain when she walks across the lawn.)
The lo-fi aesthetic and punk-rock score hint at the class divisions of Santa Fe, where Cocojoy cleans motel toilets and Lipton eats scraps from her menial kitchen job. Then the newly brainy Cocojoy earns a fortune at the casino (unfortunately unseen), installs herself in a posh hotel, and begins studying for some unspecified purpose; meanwhile Lipton tries to find the source factory for their psychoactive pork. Yet their tales never really converge; there’s no culprit behind their conditions, and ultimately no point. Moritsugu’s flashes of surrealism and animation give Pig Death Machine a whimsical, dreamlike quality when the subject, industrial meat production, deserves a more nightmarish treatment.