BiFan 2024 Review: PIG THAT SURVIVED FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE, Grimy Korean Animation Offers Punchy Eco-Horror Parable

Contributor; Seoul, South Korea (@pierceconran)
BiFan 2024 Review: PIG THAT SURVIVED FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE, Grimy Korean Animation Offers Punchy Eco-Horror Parable

Hur Bum-wook announces himself as a talent to watch with his furious and deranged animated eco-horror parable Pig That Survived Foot-and-Mouth Disease.

A cross between early Yeon Sang-ho animation works like The King of Pigs, Bong Joon-ho's Okja and Watership Down, the film opens amidst Korea's foot-and-mouth epidemic of 2010, during which over a million pigs were culled to halt the spread of disease. Beyond the sheer number of animals being slaughtered, many were dismayed by the government's method of extermination: burying the pigs alive in mass graves.

Hur's film guides us straight into this scene of chaos as thousands of bewildered pigs are heaped on top of each other before mounds of dirt are poured over them. Within the increasingly claustrophobic confines of this nightmarish grave, the film focuses on one terrified member of the herd.

Later, as rain pummels the grave following the massacre, one hoof breaks through the earth. The same pig rises like a battered phoenix from the mud, echoing the rise of Lee Byung-hun's protagonist halfway through Kim Jee-woon's action-noir classic A Bittersweet Life.

Meanwhile, nearby, a soldier suffers brutal humiliation at the hands of his cruel superiors, who beat him black and blue, and relieve themselves on him. One night while on patrol, he cracks, shoots one of his aggressors dead and escapes into the dark forest.

Following a stormy night, both the pig and the soldier undergo fantastical and freakish transformations, with the pig becoming half-human and the soldier turning into a tall and hairy monster. The pig-human falls in with a pack of starved and wild boars while the former soldier is befriended by a suicidal young woman.

Just as in stories like Watership Down, the corrupting spectre of humanity encircles the forest and as it closes in, tighter and tighter, the film's monster protagonists and the boars are driven to madness.

Hur doubles down on the familiar motif of humanity encroaching on a natural space with his fantastical conceit, which causes the corruption to sprout from within as well as without. Aiding these themes is the grimy design of the creatures and Hur's refusal to beautify anything about their plights. Much like Lady Macbeth and her "damned spot", the monsters are constantly covered in dirt, as if permanently soiled by the sins of humanity.

The only thing holding back Hur's feature debut is a tendency to let his rapacious imagination get the better of him as it tends to overwhelm the point he is trying to make. The images and themes of the film are very clearly set up from the get-go but after dazzling us with his aggressive and deranged imagery, Hur doesn't neatly move his metaphors forward. The narrative lumbers on for a little too long and the threads of its monsters aren't satisfactorily coalesced, though the story does end on a suitably downbeat note.

Filled with indelible images and fuelled by angry purpose, Pig That Survived Foot-and-Mouth Disease is a compelling debut from Hur and another work that highlights the unique qualities and potential of Korean indie animation.

The film enjoys its Asian Premiere at the 2024 Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival.

Screen Anarchy logo
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here to report it, or see our DMCA policy.
BiFanKorean animation

Around the Internet