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Originally published Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 3:07 PM

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‘Pig Death Machine’ cooks up unwatchable underground hash

A zero-star movie review of “Pig Death Machine,” an underground film about what happens when two people eat tainted pork.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review (0 stars)

‘Pig Death Machine,’ with Amy Davis, Hannah Levbarg. Directed by Jon Moritsugu, from a screenplay by Davis and Moritsugu. 82 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.

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Despite the aggressive title, “Pig Death Machine” lacks shock value. Or any other kind of value.

On nearly every level, it’s unwatchable hash. But the director and co-writer, Jon Moritsugu, has a following that somehow recently earned him a Chicago Underground Film Festival “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

His muse and co-writer, Amy Davis, plays a blowzy Santa Fe dimwit who gets a brain boost when she consumes a piece of contaminated pork. Her IQ suddenly jumps from 79 to 150, though it’s hard to tell the difference between before and after.

Also affected is a sloppy botanist (Hannah Levbarg) who communicates with plants after an encounter with tainted pork. There isn’t much more to the story, which is rigged to convey a simplistic message (a variation of “Frankenstein”) that’s visible from miles away.

Their adventures are filmed in a shaky style that’s a deliberate throwback to the bad old days of 1980s digital cinema. Stop motion and garish color are used, and so are low-tech special effects, but to little advantage. The movie comes off as an homage to the accidental ugliness of another era.

Moritsugu has been compared to John Waters, which is an insult to Waters, who has reserves of wit and charm that seem utterly foreign to a film like “Pig Death Machine.” Moritsugu, whose earlier films include “Scumrock” and “My Degeneration,” seems to exist in another universe.

John Hartl:

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