“Razorback” meets “Jaws” in the blackly comic horror outing “Chaw,” in which a giant wild boar dines on humans in the South Korean countryside. This smartly scripted nod to B-movie conventions, which also throws in references to “Predator” for good measure, is a tasty crowdpleaser for auds of all stripes, with midnight fest legs and juicy ancillary potential. Mid-July release has racked up a toothsome 1.25 million admissions locally in its first three weeks, and has already sold to 15 countries.
Title (pronounced “chow”) is supposedly a dialect word for an animal trap used in the central and northwest parts of the country. More conveniently, the English transliteration also evokes that of Spielberg’s shark thriller, as does its general outline — an early kill mistaken for the real thing, a local official worried about the impact on tourism if news of the murders seeps out.
Setting is the small village of Sameri, populated by the usual collection of gruff locals and weirdos — including a madwoman (Go Seo-heui) with a baby doll — and surrounded by a forest where something evil lurks. As the body count gradually rises and a retired hunter’s cute granddaughter (Jang Hang-seon) becomes the latest victim, the preening Det. Shin (Park Hyeok-gweon) arrives from Seoul to investigate. Also in town is short-fused cop Kim (Eom Tae-woong, the main character in “Handphone”), who’s been reassigned from the capital and is staying with his heavily pregnant wife (Heo Yeon-hwa) and crazed mom (Park Hye-jin).
After the hungry hog arrives unannounced at a premature celebration of its death, Cheon, Shin and Kim finally team up with a younger pro hunter (Yun Je-mun), and a young ecologist (Jeong Yu-mi), to hunt the critter down and find Kim’s mom, who’s gone AWOL.
The construction and the characters are knowingly generic, but the protags’ personal quirks and mildly goofy interplay maintain human interest until the monster’s next appearance. Park is good as the shades-wearing Mr. Cool detective who can’t stop pilfering other’s possessions; Yun aces as the arrogant, high-tech hunter who’s the polar opposite of vet stalker Cheon; and a deglammed Jeong likable as the geeky researcher who wants to record everything on her digicam.
Helmer Shin Jeong-weon mines some of the same small-town material he did in his macabre comedy, “To Catch a Virgin Ghost,” but delivers thrills when the occasion demands. Martial score ups the adrenaline at crucial moments, and creature effects, though cheesy, do the job.
The pic was partly shot in California, where Polygon Entertainment also worked on the visual effects.