SciFi Japan

    The Coming of CHAW

    Updates and Review of the Korean Killer Wild Boar Movie Author: Kim Song-ho Source: Various official press materials Official Movie Site: CHAW Korean box office figures courtesy of the Korean Film Council SPOILER WARNING: This article contains plot details and images from a new movie.

    One day in Sammae-ri, a small and peaceful village in Jirisan National Park that has not experienced a serious crime for 10 years, a terrible incident happens. Parts of a cruelly mutilated dead body are discovered by ecologists who are staying in the mountains to study the local wildlife. Policeman Kim Kang-su (Eom Tae-woong), newly transferred to Sammae-ri from Seoul, joins the case. The victim turns out to be a granddaughter of Cheon Il-man (Jang Hang-seon), who was once a legendary hunter. He is convinced that the girl was not killed by human hands but instead by the massive, man-eating boar called Chaw. In response, the terrified people of Sammae-ri invite several famous hunters to slay Chaw. A hunter named Baek (Yoon Je-moon) soon kills a large wild boar and is looked to be as great as he claims. But the beast that eats people is still alive on the mountain and soon makes its presence known with a vicious counterattack. Five people come together to stop Chaw’s reign of terror. The team consists of the greedy Baek, the retired hunter Cheon who seeks revenge for his granddaughter’s murder, Detective Shin (Park Hyeok-kwon) who is in charge of this case, ecologist Soo-ryeon (Jeong Yu-mi) who will takes any risk to study mutant animal species, and Officer Kim Kang-su whose mother has gone missing. The five head into the deep dark mountains… The Korean killer wild boar movie CHAW opened in its native country on July 15. As reported in the previous SciFi Japan coverage of this movie back in August 2008, CHAW was scheduled to open in Korean theaters last December. However, for reasons unknown, the movie was not released at that time. With no official notice from CHAW’s Korean production company Soo Jack Films explaining the delay, rumors began circulating that the movie could not find a distributor and that the CGI was not on par with theatrical quality levels. The Korean news site Money Today Star News reported that, at one point, there were even some negative rumors regarding Hans Uhlig, co-founder and CEO of Polygon Entertainment, the Marin County, CA-based production company handling the film’s CG visual effects. The rumor mills claimed that Uhlig did not take the company’s work for CHAW and the Korean disaster movie HAEUNDAE too seriously; even going so far as to say that he was a swindler. While none of these rumors were confirmed, they created some negative early buzz for the film.

    Money Today Star News did confirm that Independence, Inc.— a top Korean visual effects/computer animation company— had finished the FX shots Polygon Entertainment originally had done with the CG wild boar. According to the report, Independence received the CG data from Hans Uhlig and spent two months completing visual effects. About 80% of the data was said to be polished. The company also actively debunked the bad rumors concerning Uhlig and Polygon Entertainment. It was this past February when an official announcement finally came from Soo Jack Films. The production company said that foreign distribution rights had been pre-sold to more than 10 countries at The 59th Berlin International Film Festival, which took place from February 5 to 15. These countries included Germany, Austria, Switzerland, India, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Finecut Co., Ltd., a Seoul company dealing with foreign sales of the movie, told to the press that the Indian company IOF and the German company Ascot Elite were the same companies which had distributed THE HOST (Gwoemul, 2006) for their respective countries. Finecut also said buyers from the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan had shown interest in the film. Approximately three months after this announcement, publicity for CHAW finally started in May 2009. The Korean theatrical release date was set for July 15.

    As the promotional campaign started, posters, trailers and stills were released in rapid succession. Before it’s release, CHAW was publicized as a serious monster movie with some occasional moments of dark humor. The teaser poster, which was in the style of a traditional B-movie, had the darkened face of a wild boar with glowing eyes. The second poster finally revealed the full face of the boar with five of the main characters underneath, which is not so far from the familiar image of a monster movie.

    But after the advanced screenings that took place in early July, CHAW turned out to be a monster movie blended with a wild, twisted comedic element. The response from critics was mixed; they pointed out that the CG wild boar was at best puny, but liked the comedy scenes. Then CHAW’s publicity campaign started to reveal the true character of the movie. A promotional clip which was released after the opening of the movie shamelessly spoofed the popular US TV show CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (2000-present). The third poster, revealed just before release also focused on comedy rather than horror or thrills. Some of the catchphrases of the poster read: "Everyone, enjoy!" and "Thriller + Comedy + Adventure, an exquisite fusion!" Even if you don`t understand Korean, you can clearly see the changed selling point of the film from the faces of the actors on the poster. Though not a blockbuster hit, it is expected that CHAW is going to be a moderate commercial success. The movie attracted approximately 570,000 admissions on the first week of release and landed in second place on the Korean box office chart, after HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. South Korean Box Office Top 10 (July 17~19, 2009) 1. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE 2. CHAW 3. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN 4. LIFTING KING KONG (Kingkongeul deulda) * 5. TURTLE RUNS (Geobubi dalinda) 6. DORAEMON: NOBITA`S DINOSAUR 2006 (Doraemon: Nobita no kyoryu 2006) 7. THE GRUDGE: OLD LADY IN WHITE / THE GRUDGE: GIRL IN BLACK (Juon: Shiroi Rojo / Juon: Kuroi Shojo) 8. OGAMDO 9. ARTHUR AND THE MINIMOYS 10. HAPPY FLIGHT

    * Note: A sports drama, not a Korean movie about the giant ape. On the sixth day of release, admissions passed the 1 million mark, and as of July 27 (Korean date), CHAW attracted 1.14 million admissions and is in third place on the box office chart. Early assumption is that the movie may finish its theatrical run after being fed between 2 million and 3 million ticket sales. If word of mouth gets worse, it might finish before admissions reach 2 million, because this wild boar has a very powerful adversary— a tsunami. The second week of release for CHAW coincided with the debut of the disaster movie HAEUNDAE, another anticipated entry of the summer box office battle. HAEUNDAE, which opened this past week (July 22), swept up 190,000 admissions on the first day alone and went on to swallow 2 million vacationers in just five days.

    South Korean Box Office Top 10 (July 24~26, 2009) 1. HAEUNDAE 2. HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE 3. CHAW 4. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN 5. LIFTING KING KONG (Kingkongeul deulda) 6. DORAEMON: NOBITA`S DINOSAUR 2006 (Doraemon: Nobita no kyoryu 2006) 7. MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D 8. TURTLE RUNS (Geobugi dalinda) 9. JUMP BROADLY (Guggadaepyo) 10. HAPPY FLIGHT SciFi Japan will cover HAEUNDAE, currently the number one movie of Korea, very soon.

    CHAW Review

    CHAW is like `RAZORBACK stuffed with JAWS and THE HOST`. The plot of the movie is so traditional and cliché-ridden that, if you are a monster fan, you may feel like you just came back home. You could also make a list detailing several scenes borrowed from other monster movies, especially those latter two mentioned above.

    This town, Sammae-ri, is a plain, small mountainous village. The village chief is in collusion with a greedy capitalist to invite tourists by opening a weekend farm. After Chaw the killer wild boar crashes the party big time, the chief calls in some professional hunters. They are a haughty bunch of hulks, equipped with an array of flashy artillery, who promptly hunts down a wild boar. Everybody seems to be happy except our heroes. The old hunter of the village, who has lost his granddaughter to Chaw, cuts open this boar`s stomach and finds no human body parts. It is a wrong pig. Then, the real one comes back and the action begins... or does it? The story is filled with so many strange and twisted situations that you just keep laughing and laughing while it lasts. Sometimes this creates a sense of absurdity since the film will have a serious scene and then, right after that, a slapstick moment comes along. You can also pick out some parodies, mockery or toilet humor from time to time. A couple of examples: There is a party held after those flashy hunters caught the wrong wild boar. Baek Man-bae*, the head hunter played by Yoon Je-moon, KNOWS that this is not the boar his team was after. During the party, he feels uneasy because he was not honest with the villagers. Then, one of the hunting hounds sitting beside Baek TALKS TO HIM IN FINNISH and ACCUSES him of being dishonest (in the movie, Baek trained in Finland and his team consists of Finnish hunters).

    Another scene has our five heroes in a hut. Zoologist Soo-ryeon (played by Jeong Yu-mi) uses a camcorder to film the rest of the group as they examine a boar dropping. Then she yells, "Cut!" and tells them their expression of emotion was weak so she has to tape the situation again. They do it over, now with a much more exaggerated manner. There are many, many such examples of the wicked humor this movie has. Director Shin Jeong-won seems to be enjoying twisting and dumping the clichés of monster movies. And I honestly cannot tell if those cracked-up audiences are really amused or seriously ridiculing the picture. I am not saying that comedy is inappropriate in a monster movie. JAWS, THE HOST and a number of great monster movies have a wonderful sense of comedy. In the case of CHAW, it is not devoid of some really humorous, comic moments. And some people will agree that those moments sometimes give the movie a much-needed freshness. The major problem of CHAW is that most of the wild boar scenes are crappy. That CG boar is by no means a quality presentation. I can`t believe that it cost 2.5 million dollars to make that digital mess. Some of physical effects, including the special makeup effects, were better, but they were scarce.

    Worst of all is the editing. The action scenes were so poorly executed that you cannot follow the characters` motion, and many of them lacked establishment shots. They just don`t fit with the comedy parts of CHAW. To me, as a monster fan, it is not just a disappointment, but an insult. *The name Baek Man-bae is also a pun. It pronounced as the same way as the Korean words meaning `one million times`.


    CAST Eom Tae-woong: Police officer Kim Kang-su Jeong Yu-mi: Soo-ryeon Jang Hang-seon: Mr. Cheon Yoon Je-moon: Baek Man-bae Park Hyeok-kwon: Detective Shin

    STAFF Director: Shin Jeong-won Executive Producers: Hong Ji-yong, Chin Hee-moon, Lee Jin-hoon, Hwang Moon-soo Producer: Park Kyoung-duk Screenplay: Shin Jung-won Cinematographer: Kim Yong-chul Lighting Director: Song Jae-wan Editor: Choi Jai-keun Production Designer: Jung Sung-gun Special Makeup: Lee Chang-man, Lee Myoung-ok Wardrobe: Kwak Jung-ae Original Music: Kim Jun-seong Sound: LIVETONE Production Year: 2009 Country of Production: Korea Running Time: 121 minutes Language: Korean Gauge: 35mm Color: Color Production Budget: $5.34 million US

    For more information on CHAW please see the previous coverage here on SciFi Japan:

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