Wild Boar Hunting: Episode 1
A man’s sudden stroke of good fortune takes a turn for the worst when one bad decision after another plunges him ever deeper into a living nightmare. But exactly how many wrong choices does it take to cross the point of no return?
EPISODE 1 WEECAP
We open on a morning to be remembered, as a group of farmers living in a small village encounter both a problem and a life-changing miracle. The problem is a familiar one: a wild boar has once again decimated their crops, and they fear it will soon spawn even more crop-destroyers if it hasn’t already.
As for the miracle, our protagonist, YOUNG-SOO (Park Ho-san), starts his day with a winning lottery ticket and a family trip to Seoul to collect.
Young-soo and his wife, CHAE-JOONG (Kim Soo-jin), are so grateful that they exuberantly treat the whole village to a feast with some of their winnings. Meanwhile, their stoic son, IN-SUNG (Lee Hyo-je), has to be prodded to join the festivities.
In fact, In-sung sort of hides inside the house until another high school student arrives with his grandmother in tow. This boy is named HYUN-MIN (Lee Min-jae), and as soon as he and In-sung lock eyes, something unspoken passes between them. They greet each other with smiles, but it feels a bit forced. We don’t have much to go on just yet as to what that might be, but we are given some helpful insight into the village dynamics that could be affecting them.
For one, Hyun-min’s grandmother, OK-SOON (Yeh Soo-jung), suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and views the whole village with suspicion. According to her, they collectively robbed her blind and set her fields on fire, and are just waiting for the chance to do it again.
Since Hyun-min is Ok-soon’s sole caretaker – and an upstanding kid to boot – In-sung has to bear the pressure of comparison in every aspect from grades to looks to personality. But something about the way Min-hyun freezes and glances over his shoulder when he overhears the parents making these comparisons suggests there may be a lot they don’t know about him.
In any case, the party goes on merrily enough until it’s interrupted by a nearby disturbance: that wild boar has attacked a village dog. Young-soo and some of the other men run out with makeshift weapons in hand. But when they spot the boar in the distance, they all stand transfixed, staring it down while it stares them down.
Enough is enough. As soon as they can get their hands on rifles and permits, the men head out on a boar hunt. They find it, too, and Young-soo is in a great position to take the killing shot. Maybe it’s the sun in his eyes, or maybe he chickens out at the last minute – either way, he hesitates so long that when he finally pulls the trigger, he misses, and the boar takes off running again.
Some of the others are ready to call it a day, but Young-soo is determined to make up for his mistake. As he presses deeper into the woods alone, a sudden rustling of underbrush spooks him. Despite his fear (or maybe because of it?) he’s not about to let the opportunity pass by a second time. Young-soo raises his gun and shoots into the bushes. And whatever he hits lets out a distinctively human grunt.
Now he’s done something far worse than letting the boar escape, and he’s so stricken he can hardly move, let alone confess to the others what just happened. Stammering out excuses about missing the shot a second time and sudden stomach pains, he fumbles his way through the ride home. There, he locks himself in his room, desperately trying to convince himself he must have been mistaken.
Young-soo wakes up in the middle of the night, but the nightmares that startle him awake are nothing compared to the one he finds himself living… because In-sung hasn’t come home. And Young-soo’s already-terrified mind is suddenly certain he’s killed his own son.
He races back to the woods in a panic. On the way, he comes face-to-face with none other than that boar, crushing his last shred of hope that he might have misinterpreted a boar-grunt as human. All he can do is carry on with his search in the pitch-black woods, shouting In-sung’s name as he gets increasingly lost and the trees get increasingly sinister and twisted.
After a long night tormented by even more nightmares, he makes it out of the woods, having found no sign of In-sung or anyone else. He returns home, only to learn that In-sung isn’t the only one missing. So is Min-hyun, and based on student and faculty accounts, their teacher believes they’ve run away from home together.
Chae-joong accompanies the teacher to talk to Ok-soon. At first, Ok-soon argues that Hyun-min definitely did come home yesterday, but eventually the realization that he is in fact missing crashes over her.
Everyone scrambles to search for the two boys. Chae-joong distributes flyers throughout the town, but a torrential downpour forces her and the other villagers to head back home. As soon as they leave, two figures in school uniforms, their faces obscured by umbrellas, emerge from hiding and slip unnoticed down an alley.
Meanwhile, a police officer assures Young-soo and Ok-soon that the boys were seen leaving school together and tracked for a short distance via security cameras. Since they haven’t shown up on any other cameras or public transportation, and since there’s only one road out of the village, they must still be close by.
That’s not especially comforting to Young-soo, though he does his best to hold himself together. But that night, he finally breaks. Sitting down across from Chae-joong in the dark, with the pouring rain reflected on their faces, he tells her everything. They both break down in sobs.
But oof – that was a dream, too. His secret is still his alone to bear. As he steps outside for some air, his phone rings. It’s a restricted number, and when he answers, he’s met with the sound of heavy breathing. Then a distorted voice says, “I know why you’ve been searching the mountain every day… I know you killed someone.”
Oooh, I like this. Wild Boar Hunting isn’t fast-paced or blatantly scary; rather, it’s slow and unsettling, with a simmering sense of danger that gradually increases in intensity as Young-soo’s circumstances and emotional state get worse and worse.
That last dream sequence took my breath away twice over – once while it was happening and then again when it wasn’t real. I have a feeling the lines between what’s real and what’s in Young-soo’s head are only going to get blurrier from here, and the longer he keeps everything to himself, the worse everything is going to continue to get.
Normally, I’d find it difficult to connect with a character who continually chooses to do terrible things. But there’s something very human about trying to fix your stupid mistakes so hastily that you make even more stupid mistakes with even worse consequences.
Of course, now the question is, what were the actual consequences? If not In-sung or Min-hyun, who – if anyone – did Young-soo kill?