• Pig Pen

    Released by: Dire Wit Films
    Released on: February 17, 2017
    Director: Jason Koch
    Cast: Lucas Koch, Vito Trigo, Nicolette le Faye, Josh Davidson, Helenmary Ball, Michael Brecher, and Steven Walker
    Year: 2016
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    I could tell Pig Pen was going to be an unpleasant and unrewarding movie when the first two rapid-cut minutes of amateurish skateboarding and non-actors saying “dude” a bunch of times concluded with our unappealing lead character Zack (Lucas Koch) getting told by a random yuppie scumbag to “go home, you white trash piece of shit”. Already I wanted to shut the DVD off, chuck it into the nearest garbage can, and take a walk around my neighborhood on a warmer-than-average sunlit winter afternoon, but I felt it necessary to stay the course and finish the movie for the purpose of writing this review.

    I should’ve taken that walk, in retrospect. Some reviews just aren’t worth it.

    Wayward teen Zack lives a meaningless lower-class life in a rat trap apartment with his junkie mother (Nicolette le Faye) and her menacing brute of a boyfriend Wayne (Vito Trigo), or at least he used to. Flashbacks reveal that his home life went straight to hell – do not pass Go, do not collect $200 – the moment his mom brought Wayne into their lives, and Zack chose the life of a runaway rather than become a ward of the state. Unfortunately for the poor kid, this sometimes compels to do things he otherwise may never have done in order to survive the streets. The past and the present are overflowing with violence and moral degradation. Everyone Zack meets is either a criminal, pervert, or psychopath, and that bastard Wayne is all three rolled into a single sadistic package. The justice system will never punish him for the horrors he has inflicted on Zack and his mother, so it looks like Zack will have to do the job himself before Wayne harms anyone else.

    When Pig Pen mercifully wrapped up after 85 excruciatingly grim and gruesome minutes, I felt more depressed than I already did. If that was the intention of director Jason Koch (father of lead actor Lucas) and his co-writer Mark Leake, then mission accomplished, gents. Here is a movie that tries so hard to be a gritty tale of life on the outskirts of society and the impoverished and desperate people who inhabit those fringes, then failing at that it attempts an awkward transition into a gory revenge yarn akin to the torture porn horror flicks that cluttered theaters and video stores for the first decade of the 21st century. I’m talking gallons of dark blood, kitchen floor crucifixions, severed limbs, and splattered brains in a twenty-minute orgy of prosthetic effects mayhem that concludes with a scene that should be one of great triumph for our hero Zack but is just a set-up for a twist ending that desires to be shocking and tragic but is just intentionally hilarious.

    If I’ve spoiled a little too much about the “plot” of Pig Pen, trust me, I’m doing you a favor.

    Koch gets performances from his cast that are at best functional, with some actors trying harder than others. The best of the lot, and the only actor I recognized for previous films, was Vito Trigo. I remember Trigo as the unhinged antihero of Drew Bolduc’s delightfully offbeat sci-fi comedy Science Team from 2014 and he was excellent in that role, so I knew he would acquit himself very well as the abusive monster Wayne, a man so vile and full of himself that he had his name tattooed on his neck (a neat little touch that made me laugh). Lucas Koch’s dead-eyed, monotone performance as Zack doesn’t do the movie any favors; his acting lacks the humanity and charm to make the character one to root for and with whom we could empathize despite what he must do to make a life for himself. The weirdest performance was given by Michael Brecher as a raspy-voiced loon named Fred who gives Zack a ride and expects unsavory acts from him in return.

    Pig Pen is full of odd characters like Fred who seemingly come out of nowhere and are given several minutes of screen time to spit, swear, and chew up the Baltimore locations where the movie was filmed while the story Koch was supposed to be telling is repeatedly kicked to the curb. It creates a disorienting feel that detracts from the harsh realism of the world we thought we were looking at for a while and leaves us waiting for the next random mental patient to pop up and burn up more precious time in front of the camera while the director figures out his next move. When the violent finale arrives, by then it’s too little, too late for the modest body count and phony carnage to have any significant impact on Koch’s disjointed, hackneyed narrative.


    Pig Pen comes to DVD from Dire Wit Films in a standard-definition transfer presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. All in all, picture quality is decent and reflective of the movie’s low-budget origins and handheld digital cinematography, but it can sometimes look too crisp for its own good. Visibility is often strong as most of Pig Pen was shot at night or in low-light conditions (though the exterior action can occasionally be difficult to make out in the darkness), and the colors are muted. The English Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is a mixed bag, however. The dialogue can often sound tinny and distorted like the movie was really a surveillance video, which could be because it was primarily recorded on set, but the music is mixed well and doesn’t always overwhelm the spoken parts of certain scenes. No subtitles have been provided.

    The only extra feature is a selection of trailers, but due to an authoring defect with the DVD, I was not able to access them.

    The Final Word:

    Pig Pen is a depressing, unfocused, and incoherent film that was constructed from the cannibalized components of far better features and hopelessly squanders the meager talent occupying both sides of the camera. The DVD from Dire Wit Films has decent video and acceptable audio going for it, but don’t expect anything else.