Friday, December 11, 2009

Chaw (2009)

Chaw (2009) 121 Minutes. Jeong-won Shin, Director.

Chaw is a South Korean horror/dark comedy film about a man-eating boar terrorizing the small Korean village of Sammaeri. According to IMDB, it's only the second film from director Jeong-won Shin. I was unfamiliar with all of the cast except Yu-mi Jeong, whom I'd seen previously in A Bittersweet Life. What drew me to watch the film was the concept. Killer boar terrorizes village. Yep, I'm sold. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. I love old school monster movies. Unless Syfy makes it.

The film credits open with some rather disturbing and realistic looking footage of hunters trapping and killing animals in a series of quick flashes. I don't know if the footage is real or not, it certainly looks like it is. Once that bit of unpleasantness is out of the way (I'm not a fan of real animal violence AT ALL) the film starts with a man going to take a leak at the edge of a hill before tripping and falling face first into a dug open grave. He climbs out of the hole, clearly disturbed by this turn of events and is promptly attacked and drug away by the boar, who we don't see at this point. A classic beginning to a film that is essentially a Jaws knock-off. I mean that in a good way. I love Jaws, and I tend to enjoy Jaws knock-offs. And this one doesn't take itself too seriously.

From that point, we meet the typical cast of characters. The village chief, the retired hunter, the detective sent to investigate the killings, the new cop in town, and the big game hunter brought in to solve the problem. We are also treated to some strange villagers like an apparently insane woman who insists on being called “mother” and laughs maniacally at everyone, and an odd street urchin looking child who may or may not be her son. These characters have good development and interact well with each other.

One of the things that works in this movie, strangely enough, is it's humor. I'm kind of a hard sell for horror comedy. For years I resented Return of the Living Dead for making zombies funny. (Don't worry, I got over it. But, for the record, I like my zombies to be slow, hungry, mindless hordes.) But in this case the comedy and horror elements actually compliment each other pretty well. For some reason Tremors comes to mind, not in story, but in how the horror and comedy work within the story. Some of the humor in the film appears unintentional. For example, in one scene, a group of hunters comes to the village to help track down the boar. These hunters are supposed to be from Finland, yet speak English with VERY American accents. There is some physical humor in it as well. People are always falling down in this movie. Come to think of it, boars are always falling down in this movie too.

Visually the film is nice to look at. The forest is very pretty and I like the set design. There are a few action scenes where I didn't care for the filming style that the director chose to use, but that's a personal preference. The special effects in it are pretty solid, all things considered. The gore and blood effects are pretty typical of what I've seen out from Korean cinema. The boar sometimes looks a bit odd and not very menacing, but when they are showing it running through the forest and so on, the effects are good. It's usually the close up face and mouth shots where it looks computer generated. Bear in mind that I'm particularly picky about my CGI and am a big fan of practical effects, so I am probably making more of this than I should.

Interestingly, about 70% of Chaw was filmed in California near San Francisco, despite being a Korean production. Much of the film takes place in rural areas and it was much easier to secure permission to film in the California woods than it was to film in Korea. Many of the computer generated effects were also done here in the United States. From what I've been able to find out online, the effects crew spent two years developing the boar in the film.

Snakes feature prominently in two scenes of the film, in one instance it was a computer generated one that looked rather weak. I think they would have us believe it was a Mamushi Viper that you were seeing although it looked more like a variety of rat snake to me. The other one, which was presented in the story as being a venomous snake looked like it may be a Cooks Tree Boa or something in the smaller tree boa family. I realize this probably doesn't matter to anybody but me. I have been around reptiles most of my life, and find it really annoying when a film tries to show me one snake and tell me it's another one. At least the film makers in this case used a less common snake for their “deadly snake” than a lot of films do. I've lost count of the number of films where some deadly snake that kills you in seconds is portrayed by a corn snake or boa constrictor. Even the cover of Anaconda 3 (which I've never seen and have no desire to) has a bunch of ball pythons on the cover and the main snake being featured is a Burmese Python with something looking like a computer generated rat head tacked onto it. Completely ridiculous, but I digress...

This film can't help but draw comparisons to Jaws, as I mentioned above, and the Australian film Razorback, which it's particularly reminiscent of in the final act. I've also heard of an American film called Pig Hunt, which I've not seen, and have heard this compared to as well. From what I can tell, they are very different films though, and the only real comparison to be found in it is that both involve killer pigs.

Chaw is a very fun film and I highly recommend that you guys give it a watch if you get a chance. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. So many really bad monster movies come out, it's always a good thing when one like this comes along, in my opinion.

As always, comments are welcome!

(I finally got a chance to write a new review! Thanks for the patience everyone!)


  1. Nice (and long-awaited) review Sir Trash!

    I'm intrigued, but I too fall in that category of torture-whoever-you-want-but-dont-hurt-the-animals camp, so the documentary-ish scenes may be too much of a turnoff. I'll throw it on my queue and consider it.

    I'd love to hear some recommendations on good snake films. The only ones I've seen are far from great: Rattlers (which is tripe), Anaconda (yay Voight), Frogs (yay terribleness) and Snakes on a Plane (boo for meh-ness).

  2. Emily, you have to watch Ssssss! That is the best snake movie ever! Snake /human hybrids are the way to go! Plus, Dirk Benedict is in it!

    Great review, Trash and I'm glad to have you post something again. Chaw has been on my radar for quite some time and being a big fan of giant animals gone bonkers films myself, I was dying to see it.

    Good to hear it's solid and also that the humor works too. I had heard it was somewhat funny, which can be concerning if not done right, so I'm happy the comedy was well done. Again, nice review.

  3. Sounds like one to track down. Here Pig, Pig, Piggy!!