If you read/watched “The Lord of the Flies” and wished the boar had too little character development and deserved a spin-off TV series* at the least, then “Chaw” will be right up your street.
“Chaw” is about a giant man-eating boar attacking the residents of a small Korean village. Not entirely original, but it’s still refreshing to see an Asian horror film that isn’t concerned with either:
a) I’m really pissed off with those people that beat me up and put me in prison so I’ve replaced my arm with a machine gun, I shoot missiles out of my tits and I shit grenades. You can call me Prisoner Samurai K9788 Princess Metal-Mega-Attack Girl.
b) I was just trying to watch porn when some crazy bitch with long hair came out of the TV and now there are loads of asthmatic kids with eye-liner hiding in my closets and my phone and email are all trying to kill me.
Luckily, “Chaw” is more in line with “The Host” and is a simple trek through classic monster-movie conventions with a large lump of pig-dung-sized humour thrown in for good effect. The plot surrounds a city cop being drafted to a small village, clearly expecting to relax and do little work, until of course a fuck-off great pig starts eating everyone.
“Chaw” shares similarities with many other creature features – particularly “Brotherhood of the Wolf” and “Lake Placid” – and due to its reluctance to stray from generic conventions it remains an unassuming, uncomplicated and straight-to-the-point monster-mash that is consistently funny, exciting and even quite frightening (especially if you hate pigs). Inevitable comparisons are going to be made with “The Host” (as I did earlier) because they’re both Korean and about giant monsters – but “Chaw” is slightly different. Whereas the gigantic monster in “The Host” rampaged through a city and was more akin to Godzilla, the pig in “Chaw” holds more similarities with the down-sized creature features of the seventies and eighties, like “Jaws” and “Alligator”.
“Chaw” works much in the same way and follows the same linear structure of films of this genre – opening kill sequence, followed by jovial character introductions, another kill sequence, followed by investigation and a few more kills, finally ending in climactic chase sequence. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. However, the film is not your typical ‘throwback’ (I don’t like that word), as it adds a few unique and invigorating elements to the pot (bellied-pig).
The most effective additional aspect of the film is its use of comedy. Within the first ten minutes we’re treated to a hilarious sequence in which a group of police investigate a crime scene on a really steep hill; now I don’t know about you, but I think people falling down hills is funny – and clearly so did the filmmakers. The film is not an out-and-out comedy, but just when things are getting a bit too serious or fraught, someone will pull a really stupid face or the crazy witch lady will turn up – and everything is ok again. Unfortunately for some (I didn’t mind it too much), the comedy does veer into surrealism at times, such as when the dog belonging to a hunter who has been hired to catch the boar starts talking to him, or the side-splitting end credit sequence which I won’t ruin here – lets just say the guy with the corn was the best moment in the whole film.
Aside from Korean people pulling silly faces, there’s a great deal more to love about “Chaw”. The acting is top-notch, if a little over-pronounced (it fits the tone) and every character has their own traits and tendencies which certainly makes for relatable viewing. The directing and cinematography are also of a high quality, with action sequences competently filmed and moments of a more serious nature handled with an understated air.
But what about the PIG? Well, it’s actually rather good. Knowing that “Chaw” didn’t have the biggest of budgets, expectations weren’t held high for the monster – possibly a good thing, as when it makes itself fully visible it’s in fact quite impressive. It’s mostly a CGI creation, and although its digital origins are obvious, it still packs a punch and is certainly as good, if not better than the monsters featured in certain bigger budgeted films – “Golden Compass”, I’m looking at you.
Overall, I find it hard to think how “Chaw” could have been any better, as it has everything that you could want in a monster movie, plus extras that make it even better. Extras that unfortunately weren’t transported to the DVD – which gives us a measly trailer. It would have been great to see some behind the scenes exploration of how the boar was made – but alas, you’ll have to make do with the film, which is luckily most definitely worth the price of the DVD alone.
*On a side note, I’ve sent a pilot script to Fox called 2 ½ Boars. I’ll let you know if anything comes of it.
Jeong-won Shin (director) / Jeong-won Shin (screenplay)
CAST: Tae-woong Eom … Police Officer Kim
Yoon Jae-Moon … Hunter Baek
Yu-mi Jeong … Su-ryeon
Josiah D. Lee … Detective #1
Earl Wayne Ording … Hero Dog
Hyeon-hwa Heo … Mi-yeong