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Film Review: Chaw (2009)

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A black comedy about the events that are set into motion in a town after a man-eating boar goes on a rampage.


CHAW (2009)
Director: Jeong – won shin
Producer: Wonsuk Chin
Cinematographer: Barry Stone
Cast: Tae – woong Eom * Yoon Jae – Moon * Yu – mi Jeong * Josiah D. Lee

Korea has been producing horror movies for decades now but it seems like it wasn’t until recently with the release of OLDBOY and THE HOST that people finally took notice. Other than these two films I can’t think of any other Korean film that made a impact on the horror genre with maybe the exception of TELL ME SOMETHING and in a roundabout way you could possibly include RINGU. Yes I know it’s Japanese but it seems like every Asian country made their own version of RINGU and it really made a impression on the whole world.

With the movie I am reviewing here, CHAW , it is THE HOST it has most in common with. It is set in a small village called Sam – Mae ri, known as the crimeless village and almost right away you can tell it has something to do with animals because of all the footage they use of real life animal hunting in the opening credits and then with the first attack you know it has to be a monstrous animal of some sort and I will just come out and tell you it is a giant Boar. Which is scary because I have heard stories about packs of wild boars chasing hunters up a tree and then start to uproot the tree to get to the hunter and we all saw those huge man eating pigs in the HANNIBAL movie!

Besides the monster element it shares with THE HOST , CHAW falls into the black comedy column as well as the monster movie category. And truth be told even with the language and cultural barrier I still got all the humor intended and of course the physical comedy as well. Plus some of the humor comes from the absurdity of the situations and the borderline blatant meanness/cruelty of some of the characters.

But I will get back to the funny stuff in a few paragraphs so I can clue you into the lead character of this giant pig film that gnaws at your funny bone. Kim – Kang soo is a cop from the big city of Seoul who is tired of the city and wants a transfer. He jokingly put his choice as anywhere, so they send him to the crime less village.

Taking his pregnant wife, who isn’t too pleased about his choice, and his mother. Now they never come out and say what is wrong with his mother, if she is retarded, senile, or just really stubborn or what but when they are on their way to the new town they make a stop along the way and Kim – Kang soo carries his mom on his back! And while they are going up some stairs she grabs at a young boy and Kim – Kang tries to restrain her as best he can! Her behavior should seem sad but it is really funny and when they get to the new town of Sam – mae -ri there is a wealth of eccentric and off kilter characters that inhabit this quaint and quirky little hamlet.

There’s the crazy lady who has “adopted” a little boy who lived with his grandma but his grandma died so this crazy lady has taken him in and smacks the hell out of him when he doesn’t refer to her as mommy. Again this is some of the mean spirited stuff but it is really funny within the context of the film. And the chief of the village and chief of police are odd in their own right as well.

I compare CHAW to THE HOST but another monster movie it has alot in common with is JAWS. Actually so many monster movies rip JAWS off in that when there is a unknown beast stalking the land, water, or even the air there are those that do not want to stir things up and cause a commotion. Or close down the beaches. In CHAW the village chief and other bigwigs do not want to scare every one away with the little fact that there is a rampaging homicidal pig running wild to disturb the people that come from all over to pick vegetables from the farmers crops. They go as far as to hire a well known hunter, a Mr. Baek, to take down the boar and again like in JAWS he does kill a pretty damn big pig but it is not the one causing all the trouble but the farmers are pleased as punch to take it at face value that they got the right bastard bovine that is responsible for all the mayhem but when folks do show up to pick produce the petulant porker strikes and takes off with a hapless victim between it’s tusks.

So it’s up to a small band of misfits and oddball hunters to hunt down the horror on hooves and fry his bacon! CHAW is mostly funny but the idea of a giant killer boar is pretty damn frightening and close to the beginning of the film there is one rather sadistic scene where a very cute girl is riding her bike home alone in the nighttime after a visit with her grandpa and she falls off her bike along the side of a hill. Soon she realizes that she is not alone and is being stalked by something mean and hungry. She wanders around until she makes it back up to the road only to be smacked dead on by a van. The driver and the passenger get out to check out what they hit and find her to still be alive. But the driver was driving drunk and does not want to get in trouble and convinces his friend to help him toss the poor injured girl down the side of the hill. They take off leaving the girl to be devoured by the boar. Man, that would suck! And it is this girls grandfather, Mr. Chun, who takes it upon himself to join the group that goes after the killer pig. He’s also my favorite character as he is a grizzled, tough old man who knows how to hunt.

Another thing I like about CHAW is that they used a animatronic pig as well as using CGI. I like old style special efx like the ones used in ALIENS, PUMPKINHEAD, GODZILLA flix and maybe some of you remember that old Australian film RAZORBACK!?!? I like something you know is in the same scene with the actors, something for them to act and react against but lately I have gotten used to the use of cgi and was actually hoping they would whip out a cgi animal. Halfway through the movie though there is a big pig attack on the villagers and it is totally computer generated and it is well done.

It’s not as good as the stuff in LORD OF THE RINGS or the HELLBOY movies but it is pretty good. Also a scene that is worth mentioning is when two of the locals are having dinner, sitting at a small table with a wok on the middle of the table with a low flame beneath it. They toss a live fish into the wok and cook it alive in oil! The fish thrashes around spraying the men with hot oil. Jeezus, these guys really like their food fresh and it was a weird/crazy thing to see, something I have never seen in a movie before.

Even though there are more than a few kills CHAW is not really that gory and that is my biggest complaint. Final verdict is I found CHAW to be highly enjoyable even if it’s not a gore filled frightfest and is more a monster movie/black comedy with a few jump scares. I would say it is worth seeking out or even buying if you like monster/ giant killer animal movies or Korean movies in the horror genre. Even the end credits are cool and fun and the very last scene involves the crazy lady who beat up her adopted kid and the hunter Mr. Baek and is just a weird scene tacked onto the end! Good times!

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