A gigantic, half-ton, blood-thirsty wild boar is rampaging wild on the mountain, feasting on humans dead and alive. And who is responsible for this horrific threat to Sameri, the peaceful little hamlet (self-proclaimed “the Crimeless Village”), at the foot of the mountain?
Why, Japan, of course.
Seems back in the Dark Days of the Japanese Occupation, evil Japanese scientists cross-bred the local pigs with imported swine, resulting in this monstrous strain. Because, as one character explains: when species intermix, mutation follows.
Korean Blood Purity, FTW!
This tongue-in-cheek exchange also serves as a tip of the hat to the way Bong Joon-Ho’s Host planted the blame, early and firmly, for that movie’s monster mutation, on Korea’s other favorite villain, the American Military Presence. Like an equal-opportunity Scream of Korean and Hollywood horror and action blockbusters, Shin Jung-Won’s Chaw sends up clichés, stock characters, and iconic scenes all over the place.
There’s the railway tunnel getaway, the climactic set piece in the empty factory, the obligatory massive and totally gratuitous explosion, and the premature celebration that only serves as a way to aggregate victims for the monster’s next attack.
The broadly drawn characters are also all played with a wink, from the corrupt, possibly feeble-minded, definitely cross-eyed village mayor and the corrupt, officious, horse-smiled and work-averse police chief to the spunky cute girl, the crazy and yet scarily sexy shaman lady, the klepto trench-coated and sun-glassed detective, the sissy macho hunter, his gruff mentor, and the big city cop who suffers the fate almost worse than death—banishment from Seoul to the provinces.
From the movie’s beginning, when a nubile young woman with a sweet innocent face—dressed all in white and pale pink, no less—cycles up the mountain to find her dear grandfather, along winding country roads and waving fields of grasses, you’re seized with a burning desire to purchase feminine hygiene products and know you’re in the hands of a satire with its scope on the right targets and a big fat finger on the trigger. And sure enough, that adorable girl immediately meets a series of unfortunate and manslaughterly events that culminate in her being served up as the porcine beast’s first live victim.
The aforementioned mayor and police chief attempt to sweep the woman’s death aside, lest it get in the way of the upcoming weekend of “organic farming” festivities, designed to lure in gullible city slickers and their fat wallets, but as the bodies pile up, the homicidal boar can no longer be ignored, and the usual rag-tag team of more-or-less hardy souls heads up the mountain, determined to bring the monster down.
Unequal parts gory horror fest, Jerry Bruckheimer action flick, Shaun of the Dead or more accurately Hot Fuzz-y slapstick satire, and Omnivore’s Dilemna, Chaw is a steaming hot casserole studded with fatty, floating chunks of fun. It’ll make you hoot with laughter all the way through, and then, late at night, it’ll make you cry for a dad half as devoted and loving as the spangle-eyed porcine papa who rages through this gloriously inspired and most certainly drug-addled mess.
Unfortunately, movies like these, better though they are by a factor of ten than most of the summer fare served up by Hollywood this summer, don’t and won’t get picked up for distribution. As Grady Hendrix, one of the founders of Subway Cinema’s critically esteemed, lauded and beloved New York Asian Film Festival, explained last night in a sketchy bar adjacent to the extremely unglamorous Port Authority Bus Terminal, “Americans don’t want to see Asian-looking people fall in love.”
Chaw screens again Thursday, July 1st, 1:15PM at Walter Reade Theater during the New York Asian Film Festival. If there’s any way you can, go. See it, taste it for yourself. Just eat your ham and cheese sandwich first, knowing that it may well be your last.