THE GIANT PIG TRILOGY: Jarv encounters Chaw!
Back in the early days of our little gathering, one of the recurring memes was prompted by the news that South Korea had produced a little film called Chaw, which promised to be stock full of carnage wrought by that rarest of cinematic beasts THE GIANT PIG. Whenever we saw the trailer for this, or news about the film surfaced in any form, all coherent conversation went out the window drowned beneath cries of GIANT PIG! Eventually, the situation arose where one of us (Kloipy) was even posting as GIANT PIG offering out threats of death to all and sundry. As the release neared, conversation turned to that we couldn’t actually think of that many examples of GIANT PIG films out there. At our count, and this is by no means definitive, we have 3: the Australian film Razorback, America’s piss poor Pig Hunt, and this, Chaw, released in 2009.
It’s about time one of us took on GIANT PIG, and I reckon I’m the man for the job because I fear nothing that I roast on a sunday. So, you porky bastard, let’s see how fared.
Disclaimer at the start: I’ve really struggled with this review. I can’t think of anything particularly interesting to say and my attempt to write in the style of GIANT PIG himself was an epic and unfunny failure. So as a result, I’m abandoning that gag and just doing a straight review with the summary from GIANT PIG at the end.
Chaw, Jeong-won Shin’s 2009 effort is clearly an attempt to recapture the magic that made The Host so much fun. He’s taken the Jaws template and applied it to the mountains in Korea and the monster in question is a GIANT PIG! This should, in theory, be seven shades of awesome. Unfortunately he’s also attached a strange and surreal vein of comedy to the film that may or may not work. Basically, think Twin Peaks meets Jaws with a liberal sprinkling of Predator. If that makes sense, which now I’ve written that sentence I’m not sure is the case.
The small village of Sameri prides itself on being completely crime free. Unfortunately for them, GIANT PIG pays no heed to mankind’s idiotic proclamations, and starts chomping on the recently interred. In the meantime, Seoul copper Kim (Tae-woong Eom), has transplanted his entire family there (complete with Senile mother) and is somewhat perturbed at the insane level of incompetence on display. As soon as GIANT PIG graduates to eating humans, Cheon discerns the culprit and it’s huntin’ time. Our local heroes (including flakier than a Cadbury’s product ecologist and other typical hunting types) gun down the porcine culprit. Except it isn’t, it’s MRS. GIANT PIG. MR GIANT PIG (all 500 Kg of him) is still out there, and now he’s pissed. Cue massacre, before our heroes hunt him down in the wild.
This is a damned strange film. Sameri is populated by weirdos such as the doll carrying nutter that borrows extensively from Sadako’s wardrobe, or the two local businessmen with a penchant for live eel. Hell, we even get treated to Korean rapping (I hope I never hear anything like this atrocity again). Nobody in this village could remotely be described as normal, and the non-pig related antics have a strong whiff of Twin Peaks to them. Kim sticks out here like a sore thumb, and just to ram the point home, the imported detective may as well be called Agent Cooper.
The thing is though, that this is a GIANT PIG film, so the star of the piece should easily be the large porker himself. Yet, he’s barely in it. For the first half of the film, we get treated to “pig-vision” which is blatantly lifted from Predator, and in the film as a whole we spend so much more time with the various social misfits that populate the town than we do dealing with the animal menace. The problem here, though, is that for the most part their antics aren’t actually interesting. Bizarre, sure, and certainly unsettling, but I’m watching this film to see a large Wild Boar commit various acts of carnage on the locals, and we quite clearly do not get this.
The comedy itself is very hit and miss. The senile mother is a massive misstep (although the detective’s reaction to the shoe in his soup is one of the funnier gags in the film), for example, as this crosses a line into cruelty towards the characters that I’m not comfortable with. Furthermore, the vast amount of the humour here is derived from slapstick gags such as the cops throwing up, or falling down a hill on their arse, which in this day and age isn’t really that funny. These scenes, incidentally, aren’t played for comedy, if that makes sense. The surreal atmosphere that permeates the film makes them, at most, uncomfortable laughs- and I’m not sure they’re that effective.
When we do finally meet GIANT PIG himself it’s a bit of a let down. The problem is that he’s composed entirely of CGI and for the most part, it’s pretty crap CGI. He’s got no sense of weight, and doesn’t seem to be interacting with his environment. This is the plague of CGI, and it is a trap that those crappy Sciffy versus movies invariably fall into. I’m not saying he’s as bad as that, because he’s far more effectively rendered than those piss poor efforts, but, really, it could have been so much better.
I could talk about the thematic ambition of the film, which does try hard to bang home a message about mankind fucking with the environment (GIANT PIG is some genetically engineered Japanese monster), or about humanity’s general stupidity when dealing with nature, but to be honest, I don’t care. I don’t watch Jaws for a message about pollution, for example, and in a film as frankly fucking odd as this one it really is a touch disconcerting. Not to mention the frequent acts of animal cruelty inflicted by our characters (the live eel, slaughtering the piglets etc) which managed to get it censored in the UK. It all just feels so out of place in a film where they lit gunpowder to cauterise a tusk wound in a major character’s arse.
Nevertheless, this is an entertaining movie, and there are more than enough Pig related moments to keep me satisfied. This is a common theme in this trilogy, that I want more pig action and less fucking around with locals, although here at least the village is so odd that there is plenty of interest to be found for most. You won’t finish this film in raptures, but by the same score it is never boring and reasonably enjoyable. Now over to GIANT PIG:
I AM HERE TO SPREAD THE WORD OF THE PIG.
I FIND IT PLEASING THAT WORSHIP OF ME HAS MADE IT TO THE FAR EAST. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
HOWEVER, THIS NEEDS MORE GIANT PIG AND LESS FUCKING AROUND WITH REJECTS FROM A LYNCH MOVIE.
NEVERTHELESS, I AM SATISFIED AND SHALL NOT WREAK MY TERRIBLE VENGEANCE UPON YOU, FOR YOU ARE ACCEPTABLE TO ME, THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE GIANT PIG.
NOW BE THANKFUL.
So, the pig digs it. It’s a strange film, but not a bad one, and it may be more successful for others than it was for me.
Until next time,