A Feral Hog Double Feature with BOAR and CHAW

If you live anywhere near twitter, then you’ve been reading about feral hogs lately.

A tweet from @WillieMcNabb from August 4, 2019, that says "Legit question for rural Americans - How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?"
A tweet from @WillieMcNabb from August 4, 2019, that says “Legit question for rural Americans – How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard within 3-5 mins while my small kids play?”

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.

The poster for Boar.
The poster for Boar.

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.

The poster for Chaw.
The poster for Chaw.

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.

A shot from Chaw in which a farmer glares offscreen, in a shot that looks like it could have come from any number of western comedies from the 2000s.
A shot from Chaw in which a farmer glares offscreen, in a shot that looks like it could have come from any number of western comedies from the 2000s.
The old hunter talks to the detective in a restaurant in Chaw; this scene sure looks to me like a 90s sitcom or soap.
The old hunter talks to the detective in a restaurant in Chaw; this scene sure looks to me like a 90s sitcom or soap.
The village elder discusses the boar crisis with the police. The hand-held camera in this scene was, again, evocative of The Office and similar shows.
The village elder discusses the boar crisis with the police. The hand-held camera in this scene was, again, evocative of The Office and similar shows.

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.

A boar piglet give the camera side-eye in Chaw's closing shot.
A boar piglet give the camera side-eye in Chaw‘s closing shot.

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