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South Korea 2009

Horror, Comedy

Shin Jeong-won

Eom Tae-woong
Jeong Yu-mi
Park Hyeok-kwon
Yoon Je-moon
Jang Hang-seon
Heo Yeon-hwa
Jeong Yoon-min
Ko Seo-hee
Ha Yoo-i
Moon Jong-hoon
Kim Gi-cheon
Jo Moon-ee
Kong Ho-seok

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Story: In the little town of Samaeri there hasn't been a crime for years. But just when officer Kim (Eom Tae-woong) is transfered from Seoul to the rural town, there is a new case. A corpse has been digged up and desecrated and shortly thereafter the culprit proves to be interested in living victims as well. Detective Shin (Park Hyeok-kwon) who is also working on the case gets to know from the hunter Cheon (Jang Hang-seon) that the culprit is no human. A gigantic boar is striking terror into people's hearts and acquired a taste for human flesh. In order to put a stop to the beast a few elite hunters lead by Baek (Yoon Je-moon) are ordered to the town and they actually bring down a huge boar in no time. But it's not the real evildoer they got as the town finds out in another attack. Now it's up to the investigators, Baek and the researcher Byeon (Jeong Yu-mi) to go into the nearby mountains and kill the animal once and for all. However, this doesn't prove to be as easy as expected...

Review: You only need to read part of the synopsis to know that you are in for a real cheap B-movie treat here, which surely won't find any fans when it comes to its ridiculous plot. But what if the movie is quite aware of its B-movie charms, even forcefully uses it to its advantage and refines the whole thing with a good portion of humor? "Chaw" does exactly that and therefore becomes an unusual mix that apparently has been severely influenced by "The Host" and can be fun in a really odd way. Of course, "Chaw" can't compete with Korea's most successful movie just mentioned, but it also doesn't try to do so. For that the special effects are too cheap and the B-movie flair too obvious, anyway. The film makes use of typical horror elements, some of them we even know since "Jaws", and forces them on the viewer in such a way that you can only see them as a homage at best or maybe more likeable as a not so mean sideblow. "Chaw" pokes fun at the genre-works in its very own way by working with the same formula, yet delivering it with a wink. Maybe the movie's biggest strength.

One of the problems is the fact that the film is divived into to parts. The first part seems more like a crime movie than anything else. Granted, a crime movie with some wacky humor, as it becomes striking in the first scene, too, in which the investigators tumble down the same slope over and over again, but the scenery, the rural town, and its residents strongly remind us of movies like "Memories of Murder". Naturally, it never comes even near its greatness, but when at the end the protagonists get to a tunnel that also played a key role in the aforementioned movie we also wonder if the film maybe hasn't even been shot at the same place.
The introduction is done quite well and even if there are too many characters of which some are put into the movie's focus suprisingly late and can't claim to be drawn out really well you still can sympathize with some of them. The initial investigation is as pleasent to watch as is the little guide through the lives of the rural town's inhabitants.

Sadly, "Chaw" falls into a hole from the second part onwards, and this of all times when the actual hunt begins. The pacing gets upped towards the end, but it remains without a doubt that the film could haven been edited more carefully. The film's two hours running time aren't justified anyway and here would have been the right place to cut the flick down. The way it is, however, we only get questionable walks through forests and dialogues that are seemingly as unimportant.
As already said, it's especially the focus lying on the characters that's extremely uneven. The researcher, having a supporting role at first, suddenly changes into the heroine alongside Officer Kim as the hero. The hunter Baek finds his way into the movie very late and some characters like the cranky and creepy female hermit who wants to be called "mama" only seem to be thrown into the movie to bring some more color into it. Still, those kind of inserted additions feel awkward and also create an alienating feeling in the viewer.

Which brings us to the humor. Director Shin Jeong-won has already created a horror comedy that was incredibly abstruse, genre-wise not to be classified and because of its odd humor was surely no horror film, "Sisily 2km". A fun ride this movie could be nonetheless, at least in some way. The same goes for "Chaw". The humor sometimes hits right on the mark and at other times the jokes will simply make you roll your eyes. However, this time Shin manages to bring to bear the horror a bit more. Whereas there is no real fear created in the typical sense but rather more tension. For example when the assembled residents are suddenly attacked by the gigantic boar or during the showdown. This is even the more fascinating if you consider that this movie is by no small degree a black comedy, which is also reflected in the pretty wacky characters. But "Chaw" at times makes fun of the genre by also taking itself more serious, therefore working out as a horror flick surprisingly well, only to point out to the audience what absolute nonsense it is that's just making it sit on the edge of its seat.

There may be critics who think that all this might just be too gentle interpretation delusion, but how else would you explain "Chaw", especially if you know Shin's debut work? The special effects are sometimes a bit ridiculous which naturally only adds to the B-movie ambience, the film is presentend in a bumpy fashion, the characters are two-dimensional, yet also likeable in an odd fashion and towards the end the film loses itself in a superfluous epilogue which is supposed to prove after the rather serious finale that the movie doesn't want to take itself serious. All of this makes "Chaw" technically an unclean matter, it's also written questionably and at times it's alienating. Yet, it remains without question that Shin's film has good entertaining value, especially when you consider that you wouldn't have thought to get something like this from a film with that plot. At least that's how I thought, which is why I was positively surprised. Nevertheless, "Chaw" isn't for everyone's taste. Still, an interesting horror comedy, that's actually worth a look.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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