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. Now the film comes to Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Magnolia films, under the decidedly more comic (and, given its concept, obvious) name, Chawz.
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, Chawz is a little bit like Jaws. Actually, change that – Chawz 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 Chawz 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 Chawz, 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, Chawz 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 Chawz. 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 Chawz 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 Chawz is a wildly contradictory film in many ways, which makes it even more impressive that its blend of comedy and horror actually works.
Chawz comes to Blu-ray through Magnolia’s edgy Magnet Films imprint. Magnolia have been very consistent in terms of the quality of the video transfers on their Blu-ray releases, but, sadly, Chawz may well be the company’s first mediocre offering. The image, here, is soft and somewhat flat, with a washed out color palette and muddy blacks that come across as gray in many scenes. It’s not something that will put viewers off, but those looking for the sort of eye-popping spectacle found on the Blu-ray of the aforementioned The Host will be sorely disappointed. In terms of audio, the 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio tracks (available in both Korean and English dub) is much more impressive, with a nicely immersive track that works the entire soundfield with atmospheric ambient effects and rich bass.
Extras include a lengthy three-part Making of Chawz (SD) documentary that’s nearly as long as the film, itself, and offers up an exhaustive amount of behind-the-scenes bits, cast and crew interviews, and lengthy looks at the production, from the FX works and stunts to post-production.
Other extras include a selection of Deleted Scenes (SD), Q&A Session (SD), Blooper Reel (SD), as well as trailers for this film (SD) and other releases from Magnolia (HD).
Chawz is 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, Chawz is well worth a watch.