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Chaw

Year: 2009
Production Co: Polygon Entertainment
Director: Jeong-won Shin
Writer: Wonsuk Chin

There's a school of Asian cinema – particularly Korean, although you see the same thing in classic Japanese movies – where subtlety and restraint seem concepts as foreign to spiced cabbage and raw fish once were to Western diners. And though millions of Kurosawa fans around the world can't be wrong and it's completely a matter of personal taste, it tends to rub me the wrong way.

It might be something particular to Asian languages because they tend to be more clipped and harsh, but when they're spoken with urgency or terror on screen, actors who are full of energy tend to come across as slightly hysterical.

Whatever the reason, I found myself wanting to like Chaw a lot more than I did, especially because of the long shadow cast by one of my favourite creature features of all time, Razorback.

It's at least billed as a horror comedy – the buffoonish antics of some of the scenes and characters were pretty infantile and if it had been the director Jeong-won Shin's attempt to shoehorn levity into what he thought was a serious horror movie it would have been very cack handed.

The story isn't at all deep. A giant boar that lives in the forested mountains above a sleepy little South Korean town has started attacking and killing townspeople, and they're all living in fear.

We see the lives and lots of a disparate group of people (a cop transferred there from Seoul, a stoic detective bought in to solve the killings, a grizzled old hunter and his cool-as-ice protege and two enthusiastic young biologists) before they come together to track down and do away with the best.

No such luck on it having the handmade charm of old school puppetry or animatronics, it's a CGI show all the way when the monster shows up. But it's not the worst VFX you've ever seen, and the film has the appropriate level of build-up and payoff around seeing the creature in full – although now it's been such an established convention after this many decades, it'd be hard to get that wrong.

Interesting side note. it took me forever to track it down because for the longest time on my list I had it written down as 'Chawz' – because of the original Korean title of 'Chaw' it never showed up in searches on streaming services. Magnet Releasing in the US, in their wisdom, decided to make a Jaws pun when they did an English language market version.

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