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 Boarfrom 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.
My catch-up posts are now complete, and I can start with my planned regular schedule. The catch-up posts I consider mostly for my own use, just to have a record of what I watched up until this blog was running. Going forward, I hope to be more public facing.
I plan on posting monthly roundups on the 1st of each month. Rather than highlighting some movies and listing the rest, I want to give each movie some attention (although I won’t have a lot to say about some).
I’ll also post roundups of non-List movies on the 16th of each month. There’s plenty of those I want to talk about too. As for other kinds of posts… I’m open to ideas. Something weekly would be good.
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979, Werner Herzog, West Germany)
So beautiful and so creepy. Klaus Kinski is from another world—which makes this a fitting tribute to Max Schreck’s superlative performance. As a remake, this movie achieves the best possible result: making me love both movies more.
Nang Nak (1999, Nonzee Nimibutr, Thailand)
Tragic ghostly romance. Beautifully realized in its 19th-century Thailand setting.
Puppetmaster (1989, David Schmoeller, USA)
Leech lady alone puts this movie in the “highlights” section, but the rest of the movie does my girl justice.
Tell Me Something (1999, Yun-hyeon Jang, South Korea)
A detective follows gory murders through dark and rainy streets while trying to connect with the woman connected to all the victims. It’s an intricate mystery in which the scares and emotional heft carry the story forward, while burying fleeting clues to the grittier details throughout. There’s a lot to be digested in multiple viewings.
The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009, Tom Six, The Netherlands)
I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch this, and I don’t have to watch anything I don’t want to! However, I also felt that it got enough attention to make it an important part of 2009; it’s also one of the flagship “torture porn” movies, which is arguably the biggest trend in 2000s horror. And I’ll admit to a morbid curiosity. But what sealed it was when a reviewer I like sang its praises. At that moment I was like, god dammit…
I’m glad I didn’t kid myself into thinking I was going to enjoy it, because it is not an enjoyable movie (plenty of movies aren’t meant to be). I appreciate its self awareness, being a movie about the kind of sick fuck who would make a movie like this, drawing a straight line between the director and mad scientist. Tom Six definitely knew what he was doing with it.
The Mummy (1999, Stephen Sommers, USA)
I knew I needed a palate cleanser after Human Centipede, so I queued up the Brendan Fraser classic. Not much to say about it… While maybe only adjacent to horror, it’s still part of the legacy of mummy movies and its visuals and scares stand on their own. Still as fun as ever.
The Return of Swamp Thing (1989, Jim Wynorski, USA)
Lake Placid (1999, Steve Miner, USA)
Survival of the Dead (2009, George A. Romero, USA)
Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959, Bernard L. Kowalski, USA)
(This is #4.) Undoubtedly the weakest of the five Final Destinations, but still sits comfortably in the series as pure deathly spectacle. Same director as #2, meaning both have the same self-reference, fake-outs, and the Rubiest Goldbergiest deaths. (#1 and #3 are the more serious and effective ones, and #5 takes all the best elements from the previous four and runs a victory lap.)
Operation Pink Squad 2 (1989, Jeffrey Lau, Hong Kong)
A fun and raunchy ensemble comedy about four policewomen going undercover in a haunted apartment building.
Gemini (2009, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Japan)
I haven’t looked into this movie since I watched it, and what remains is a chaotic mess of surreal ghosts and amorphous events on a solid backbone of duality. My lasting impression probably isn’t representative of the movie itself, and this is mostly a note to myself to watch this again and read up on it.
Grace (2009, Paul Solet, USA)
It seems like such a simple premise for a horror movie: an infant needs to feed on blood. A bottle of blood. Fly paper hanging like mobiles. Perfect images from an excellent execution of that premise. Very gross and personal.
Uncomfortably close movie in both its subjective cinematography and subject matter. Spends time putting you into the protagonist’s head so you can experience how he gives in to Nazi propaganda. Brilliant and terrifying.
Legend of the Mountain (1979, King Hu, Taiwan)
Beautiful, haunting, mythic story set in the Song Dynasty.
The Haunting (1999, Jan de Bont, USA)
Sorry to split this from its sibling House on Haunted Hill, but the dry, precise humor, big spooky house, and Nell and Theo’s bi energy win me over.
A Bucket of Blood (1959, Roger Corman, USA)
There are so many American sci-fi and horror movies from the 50s that feel so sanitized by the Hayes Code that any that subvert it stand out even more. Regardless, this is a black comedy that feels lived in and untethered to its decade.
The 4th Floor (1999, Josh Klausner, USA)
This was a real delight and a movie I’d never heard of before it showed up on the list. It’s a super slow psychological horror mystery about a woman (Juliette Lewis) who is terrorized by an unknown neighbor. The movie walks a line between making the other tenants of the building cartoonish weirdos and too-easily-believable creeps.
Lady Terminator (1989, Jalil Jackson, Indonesia)
An infamous scene-for-scene ripoff of Cameron’s Terminator, yet it’s grounded in Indonesian mythology in such a way that make it incomparable to Cameron’s. Guaranteed to please at parties.
House on Haunted Hill (1999, William Malone, USA)
Friday the 13th (2009, Marcus Nispel, USA)
A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989, Stephen Hopkins, USA)