The homicidal hog movie "Chaw"
is one of those films that takes a seed of truth and grows it into Jack's beanstalk. This tall tale of horror and adventure proves to be a fine addition to the local stock of computer graphics-ridden monster flicks ― offering a believable, rather than realistic, experience that persuades the viewer with more than just flesh-gnawing gore.
Dubbed the Korean Tim Burton for the punk horror flick "To Catch a Virgin Ghost" ("To Catch a Virgin Ghost
"), Sin Jeong-won
transforms familiar settings into an atmospheric space, where the narrative is propelled by suspense, dramatic counterpoints and solid character development (including some spoofs by a most memorable madwoman).
In recent years, there have been news reports of how deforesting and dwindling food sources drove ravenous wild boars to ravage dead bodies in tombs and attack villages. It took three years to design and realize via CG ― provided by the creative team behind "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" and the visual supervisor of "Jurassic Park" ― a mutated, super-sized pig that develops a taste for human flesh.
Some of the digitally rendered images are slightly awkward, and scenes are at times loosely woven together, but rife, non-imposing humor and moments of unexpected tenderness and non-preachy food for thought make up for the artifice.
Severely mangled bodies turn up in Sammaeri, a peaceful town near Mt. Jiri that had been crime-free for 10 years.
For the first few reels, "Chaw"
unravels like you might expect a carnivorous horror movie would, with plenty of bone-crushing chaw noises that evoke, rather than directly depict, the most nauseatingly vivid images ― a crunch, snap and urgent pull into dark bushes. "Chaw"
is also the phonetic transliteration of a Korean word for an animal trap used in Gyeonggi and North Chungcheong Provinces.
The local administrators are alarmed that it might turn away the recent influx of urbanites paying high prices to pick fruit and get back in touch with Mother Nature for the weekend.
Il-man (played by screen veteran Jang Hang-sun
), a retired hunter who lost his beloved granddaughter to the horrific event, claims that a wild beast is responsible for the act. Su-ryeon (the endearingly quirky actress Jung Yu-mi
), a biologist camping in the area in search of mutated wild animals, is also convinced that there is something uncanny and very hungry out there.
The town beckons the arrival of detective Shin (Park Hyuk-kwon
), an unsmiling man with a mild case of kleptomania, and Baek (the devilishly talented Yoon Je-moon
), a celebrity hunter armed with expensive gear, tall Finnish buddies, big bulldogs and a greasy hair-do.
Meanwhile, short-tempered police officer Kim ("Hand Phone"
star Uhm Tae-woong
) is reassigned from Seoul to Sammaeri, and he reluctantly moves in with his pregnant wife and Alzeimer's-inflicted mother. When his mother disappears into the woods, Kim is forced to join Il-man, Su-ryeon, Shin and Baek for the big hunt.
The camera keeps a steady distance from the characters and gritty backdrops, but also switches to reveal the perspective of the carnivorous Chaw, showing how easily the hunter is also the hunted.
The camera also pauses every now and then ― a pig's head graces a pot at a local eatery while a human head sits upon a forensic lab. Both are remnants of an omnivore's feast.
Hunger may drive a beast to dig up a dead body or treat itself to an unconscious person. But it is ultimately the savagery of human greed that drives one to indulge in the spoils of an open coffin ― the gold ring on an amputated finger ― or human frailty that motivates drunk drivers to toss a woman's body into the fields.
In theaters July 16. 120 minutes. 12 and over. Distributed by Lotte Entertainment.