If you live anywhere near twitter, then you’ve been reading about feral hogs lately.
Every meme we’ve ever known has been refitted with feral hogs. With such a saturation, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to watch 2009’s Chaw, from Korea. I had another killer hog movie in my watchlist as well: 2017’s Boar from Australia.
Boar‘s strength was its delightful cast and the screentime it devotes to letting them banter and hang out with families and communities. This human half made the movie enjoyable, when it otherwise would have been unremarkable. The action and monster scenes were devoid of sense of space, which was a pity as they didn’t rely wholly on CGI for the monster, but it still felt like it didn’t exist with the characters on screen.
Chaw is something special. Like Boar, it gives a lot more screentime to the human stuff than any typical monster movie, but in a way that makes it a different movie. What makes it stand out is how the human scenes are filmed like American comedies: shots look like they’re out of The Office, with the handheld camera panning to catch peoples’ reactions, while other scenes look like sitcoms.
These scenes that are filmed like comedies are usually serious, while the action and monster scenes have the physical humor and slapstick I’ve learned to expect from Korean horror. The whole movie is lowkey hilarious, with some real good laughs. If there are any Korean cultural cues from these comedy shots, I’m way too outside of Korean culture to be aware of them. (Or it could be that this camerawork isn’t particularly western, and that I’ve just built my own associations here.)
The title, according to IMDb trivia, is a transliteration for a dialectal word for trap. That gels in obvious ways with the hunters chasing the boar, but there are also themes through of people being trapped in different parts of life: careers, marriages, cities, villages. It’s all tied up in a story of a cop being transferred to a village steeped in its history of ecological damage and poaching; for much of the movie, the boar attacks feel incidental to this.