After the huge international success of 'The Host', it was perhaps inevitable that another South Korean film-maker would try to emulate it's monster movie/comedy mash-up. And lo and behold, here is Shin Jeong-weon's 'Chaw' (allegedly pronounced 'Chow' for reasons too Korean to go into), a comedy monster movie which sees residents of a small mountain village being munched on by a ravenous giant boar.
The mountain village in question in Sameri, which is famously crime-free and the place where big city cop Kim Kang-Su (Eom Tae-woong) gets transferred to. He takes up the case when ecologist Soo Ryeon (Jeong Yu-mi) finds the half-eaten remains of a young woman. Suspecting a wild animal is responsible, famed hunter Baek (Yun Je-mun) arrives in the village in order to track down the murderous beast, whilst the towns officials worry about the effect on the tourist trade.
So, yes, 'Chaw' is a little bit like 'Jaws'. Actually, change that – 'Chaw' is a lot like 'Jaws', with a remarkably similar structure, down to the killing of a smaller animal first and its stomach-splitting autopsy. But not only 'Jaws', in 'Chaw' you'll find left-overs from everything from 'Razorback' and 'Predator' to 'Hot Fuzz'. The good thing though, is that whilst you can't help but have a feeling of deja-vu whilst watching 'Chaw', the film itself is just as aware of this as you are and sets about simply having as much fun as possible whilst sticking to the clichés.
More so than 'The Host', 'Chaw' is much more comedy than horror, spending more time making policemen fall down steep hillsides and having crazy old women popping up for no real reason, than it does showing a beasty ripping humans to pieces. Whilst that may disappoint gore-hounds, if you simply want to be entertained for a couple of hours there is plenty to recommend 'Chaw'. It's intelligent enough to know when to be silly and when to hold back on the laughs, and thankfully never resorts to clever-clever winking at the camera.
Which is not to say that 'Chaw' is without monster action – indeed it boasts a terrific attack on the village hall mid-way through that is funny, furiously exciting and features a reasonable amount of the red stuff. And there's a lengthy factory chase at the climax, which would be the best thing about many other monster films, but is actually a somewhat disappointingly generic conclusion to a film which bizarrely manages to be crazily inventive around its generic familiarity. I know that's a contradiction, but then 'Chaw' is a wildly contradictory film in many ways, which makes it even more impressive that its blend of comedy and horror actually works. It's by no means a perfect film, in particular it feels around half an hour too long, sticks a little too rigidly to the 'Jaws' structure, and suffers from a less than convincing monster when it finally shows itself, but it is a lot of fun and that counts for a lot. It may not be as good as 'The Host', but then 'The Host' doesn't feature a talking dog, and if for no other reason, 'Chaw' is well worth a watch.
The UK DVD comes from Optimum on R2/PAL DVD only and features a strong anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, Korean 5.1 or 2.0 sound mixes, and optional English subtitles. Extras are limited to a trailer and, err, scene selection, but on the plus side it is not a premium priced release.