Chaw -- Film Review
EmptyBottom Line: By-the-numbers creature feature fun for some.
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BUSAN, South Korea -- If you mixed a little bit of "Razorback," a dash of "Black Sheep" and a whole lot of "Jaws" together, the result would look like "Chaw," a comedy-horror cut from the same cloth as those films and a mostly amusing, if derivative, bit of genre fun. Specialized festivals will come calling, and theatrical release could be limited to Asia, but careful marketing could help "Chaw" find a life on DVD with the geek set.
"Chaw's" setup is familiar: Kim Kang-soo (Eum Tae-woong, "Forever the Moment") is a cop from Seoul who's reassigned to the small "crimeless" village of Samaeri. Byun Soo-ryun (Jung Yu-mi, "A Bittersweet Life") is a budding zoologist researching animals in the wild a la Jane Goodall. Chun Il-man (Jang Hang-sun) is a retired hunter living in seclusion, who has a complicated history with his more media-friendly apprentice Baek Man-bae (Yoon Jea-moon). A series of animal attacks, which turn out to be by a giant man-eating boar, makes the village leaders nervous just ahead of an organic food fair expected be a financial windfall. If you've seen Steven Spielberg's shark attack movie, you know how this ends.
"Chaw" stays well within the parameters set down by this particular sub-genre without adding anything new to the soup. There are more than a few segments and stock characters lifted directly from "Jaws," but "Chaw" never quite realizes the dread or creates the kind of tension Spielberg did -- and to be fair that's expecting a lot.
Some judicious editing would have helped move things along quicker and jettisoned the more extraneous plot points, allowing for the spotlight to stay on the monster. That's when the film works best: There's oodles of squishy sounds, squeals from the dark and lots of rampaging beasties (director Shin Jung-won never skimps on the boar) to satisfy the demands of horror -- even if some of the CG is dodgy (this is the clumsiest mutant animal in movie history). But in a film like this, that's not really a bad thing.
"Chaw" (which is probably supposed to recall "Gnaw") is hit and miss with its comedy elements. Fans of slapstick, toilet humor and other lowbrow chuckles could get a kick out of the pratfalls here. But for everyone else it could be aggravating at best. One cop tripping down a slope at a crime scene is acceptable; six is over the top. Also coming down on the irritating side is Soo-ryun offering to "cook and entertain" in order to tag along on the final hunt. What else would the token girl be able to do? The less said about the "Finnish" hunters Man-bae brings along to help the better.
Venue: Asian Film Market -- Pusan International Film Festival
Sales: Finecut Co., Ltd.
Production company: Soo Jak Films
Cast: Eum Tae-woong, Jung Yu-mi, Jang Hang-sung, Yoon Jea-moon, Park Hyuk-kwon
Director: Shin Jung-won
Screenwriter: Shin Jung-won
Executive producer: Kim Sung-yong, Song Kwang-ik
Producer: Park Kyung-duk
Director of photography: Kim Yong-chul
Production Designer: Jung Sung-gun
Music: Kim Jung-seong
Costume designer: Kwak Jung-ae
Editor: Choi Jai-keun
No rating, 122 minutes