Hogwood: A Modern Horror Story is a short documentary about factory-raised livestock, specifically pigs. The British activist group Viva infiltrates Hogwood Farms and films the appalling conditions they discover the pigs to be living in. The dead are lining the hallway, the sick or about to pass on, roam the narrow corridors, while other pigs cannibalize them out of sheer desperation for sustenance.
The founder of Viva, Juliet Gellatley, states that she has never seen such poorly kept conditions in all her years doing this. The pigs are covered in filth, and piglets walk over their decaying siblings as infected pustules on legs drip everywhere. She and her team call the authorities, but the farmers who run Hogwood show them only choice locations. So, Viva takes to protesting in front of the farm’s largest buyer, Tesco. The clips shock several customers but do not change the grocery chain’s supply chain at all. Will Viva be able to enact the humane changes for the pigs they hope for?
Directed by Tony Wardle, and narrated by Jerome Flynn, Hogwood: A Modern Horror Story in most respects, does live up to its title. The images captured on the farm are horrid, as is the fact that Viva is not allowed on the property when the authorities show up to investigate. That means the farmers can show the powers that be whatever they want, with no witnesses to confirm things. It is as frustrating as you’re imagining and, without spoiling anything, the ending does not offer much hope.
“…Viva infiltrates Hogwood Farms and films the appalling conditions they discover…”
For viewers not in the United Kingdom, Wardle does an excellent job explaining certain regulations or agencies, such as the Red Tractor, and why they are essential. It helps to establish the uphill battle of bureaucracy Gellatley faces. While the tone is not exactly consistent, the documentary is most informative, appropriately angering audiences.
However, Hogwood does have a major flaw holding it back from greatness. That problem is Billy Cowie’s Enya-like score, which only stops blaring its thematically dissonant tunes in a few scenes. When someone speaks, the music is so overpowering that it’s hard to hear the subject properly. But overpowering here or there is not too big a deal. No, the dealbreaker, if you will, is that the music’s ethereal lightness and sweeping choral arrangements undercut the horror on display. Imagine watching the awfulness of a pig eating one of its own, who died from an infection, while a heavenly, delightful, breezy instrumental comes on over the speakers. Well, that odd scenario is how most of the documentary’s music comes across. It actively diminishes any chance of shock and horror, aka the entire point.
It is too bad that the music of Hogwood: A Modern Horror Story fails on every level and never matches the tone of the movie, as the rest of the production is quite good. What Viva discovers is disgusting, and their calls for accountability and change are admirable. Wardle does a bang-up job of laying out all the important players, and the runtime moves quickly. Still, with a runtime of only 34-minutes, and because it is eye-opening and informative, the documentary is worth watching once. Its biggest problem is just how close to greatness it is while being so far at the same time.
"…the documentary is most informative, appropriately angering audiences."