Chaw is a movie about a giant killer pig. Do you really need more?
Chaw is a recent Korean film from director Shin Jung-Won that screened as part of the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival. Why is it called Chaw? I don’t know. It’s Korean. We may not need to ask such questions, because there may not be an answer. The only word we have in America that makes any sense of the word Chaw has to do with chewing tobacco, and that product has no correlation with this movie.
Apparently, in Korea there is a very real problem with wild boars. Their territory is being encroached by development, and so as a result of these belligerent animals being displaced, farm animals, pets, and even people have been attacked. So one could conceivably read Chaw as a commentary on modern events. One could do that. But why must one justify their enjoyment of a giant killer pig movie by referencing its timeliness and environmental conscience? And why must one refer to oneself as “one”? One sounds just a little bit pretentious. Anyway: Chaw.
The story of Chaw is blatantly, blissfully derivative. A young policeman with a ripe pregnant wife is re-assigned to a mountain village that is famously “crimeless” (anybody else here seen Hot Fuzz?), and of course the body count starts rising. Much like the Mayor of Amityville, the cloddish town officials are hesitant to close down the mountain, until the death toll becomes too big to ignore. At that point, they call in a big game hunter (who looks like All-Star ex-Yankee Hideki Matsui) and a super-team of monster-trackers hits the trail.
Most of the movie’s action is cribbed from Jaws, almost shockingly brazenly so, although there are direct swipes from Aliens, Predator, Razorback, Sleepy Hollow (!), and Jurassic Park (the whole bit with the footsteps causing water to ripple). It’s like Jaws, only doubled and enhanced – the young scientist character that we Americans remember Richard Dreyfuss for is recast here as a cute chick (improvement). The pony-tailed Matsui hunter guy isn’t the only Quint-like character in Chaw (there’s also an old recluse with a personal vendetta against the beast), and he even arrives with weirder quirks. What I’m telling you is that he talks to his dogs. What I’m really telling you is that his dogs talk to him. His pair of hunting dogs, Mighty and Mickey, get killed by the giant boar, and then later appear in hallucinations and demand revenge.
I’m going to stop here and declare that if you’re not at all interested in a Korean remake of Jaws that swaps out the shark for a giant killer pig and has a talking ghost dog in it to boot, I don’t know what to tell you. You might be on the wrong website, and you’re certainly reading the wrong writer. I loved this movie. It’s crazy, it’s silly, it’s way too long for what it is, it’s well-photographed, it’s sharply satirical, it’s occasionally really dumb, and it has the most bizarre and unnecessary post-script sequence in recent memory.
(SPOILER: After the monster pig is vanquished and the sequel is set up via a Leone-style close-up over a baby pig’s vengeance-crazed eyes, we find out what has happened to a character we previously assumed was dead. He’s trussed up and tortured in a Fatal Attraction kind of scenario by a peripheral eccentric character, which just makes one more random reference for this movie to add to its checklist.)
I’m so glad I got to see Chaw. I’d seen many comparisons to The Host beforehand, but it’s much sillier than The Host, a movie which has a pretty good sense of humor to begin with. Chaw has its own anarchic sense of humor, and a giddy enthusiasm about movies in general and giant killer pigs in particular. I wish that more movies would take themselves less seriously, the way this one does. It’s a whole lot of fun.
And there, I got through this entire review without a single bacon joke.