Shin Jung Won introduces us to a new breed of terror with Chaw, a quirky Korean thriller in which a mutant killer boar terrorises a small village. Yes, you read that right, a mutant killer boar. Uhm Tae Woong (Forever the Moment) and Jung Yoo Mi (Family Ties) lead the unlikely team of hunters on a quest to bring the fur-ious (sorry) beast down, mixing horror, adventure and slapstick along the way.
Ecologist Soo Ryeon (Jung Yoo Mi) discovers the body parts of a girl in the mountains, and Officer Kim Kang Su (Uhm Tae Woong) is assigned to the case. He’s just arrived from Seoul because he jokingly put ‘anywhere’ on his transfer request form. Cheon Il Man (Jang Hang Seon), the victim's grandfather, is convinced that the culprit is a giant man-eating boar, and a rescue mission kicks into action when Kim's mother goes missing in the woods. Kim, Cheon, Soo Ryeon, hunter Baek (Yoon Je Moon), and detective Shin (Park Hyuk Kwon) head into the wilds, but will they make it out alive? More importantly, why have they made the boar so goddamn charming?
Chaw is at its best when it plays the comedy drama card, and director Shin Jung Won seems far more interested in quirky character interplay then he does rampaging doom. He fills the screen with over-the-top characters, each with their own peculiar mannerisms, occasionally milking it to the point of distraction. The performances are strong but I can’t honestly say I bonded with any of them. Its not like I went into the movie expecting realism – it is after all a movie about a giant killer boar – but the characters were a touch too cartoon-ish for me and I soon lost interest in their dim-witted plights.
Quirky is all-well and good but it can also become a little grating, especially when your movie is pushing a two-hour running time already. That said, there are some amusing moments to be found within Chaw’s cavernous innards and the offbeat nature comes with an alluring dose of charm. If you’re in it for the carnage then you’re coming away disappointed, Chaw fails to convince at every turn, adding nothing to an overcrowded marketplace. The problem is, the giant killer boar is too damn cute. It’s so big and furry, at one point I thought it was going to roll over and start purring.
The CGI lacks conviction too. I would never expect a Korean movie to rival the work of Hollywood but a little more money would have helped. Some of the chase sequences – particularly in the daytime – lose momentum because of it. There’s a lack of blood, carnage and mutilation too, somehow it just doesn’t fit with the other half of the movie. Light, breezy, slapstick vs. Bloody carnage and mass destruction; Chaw fails to find the right balance and only ever convinces on one playing field.
Think of Chaw as a horror movie and you will wonder what all the fuss is about. Go into it expecting well-written comedy drama and the light is most definitely brighter. At two hours long it might test your patience, and the comedy styling wont work for everybody, but Chaw does have its fair share of quality moments (giant killer boar anyone?) and fans of Korean drama will find plenty to enjoy.
Horror fanatics will probably return to The Host for inspiration - a film that knows how to mix peculiar characters, outlandish comedy and convincing monster mayhem. The Host would have slapped Chaw down in seconds. AW