Asian horror is one of my personal favorite genres and has been creeping more and more into American culture by remakes and just by curious film enthusiasts out to see something new and exciting. Exciting is just what I would call really good Asian horror films. Exciting, and…well, extreme. Three different directors from three different countries band together for Three… Extremes, a collection of horror films that attempt to take the genre to a whole new level.
The first film in this group of three is Dumplings from the Chinese director Fruit Chan.
An aging woman (Miriam Yeung Chin Wah) is obsessed with finding a way to bring back her youthful look. She finds help with Mei (Bai Ling) and her home made dumplings, which have been known to have a physical rejuvenating quality. What this woman doesn’t know is the secret ingredient that Mei uses for her dumplings, and the means that she goes through in order to please her customers.
Dumplings is one of those movies that actually got to me, and even worse made me lightheaded. This is, without a doubt, one of the most uncomfortable films that I have ever sat through. Fruit Chan isn’t as much of a horror director as the other film makers in this anthology, but he succeeds in such a way that I was actually very surprised. What really helps this segment along is Christopher Doyle’s work as cinematographer. Doyle combines gritty and sophisticated lighting to really show a contrast in the different locations. This is a disturbing trip into a hell that I’m not too excited to go to again any time soon. Unfortunately for me, Dumplings was also released as a feature separate from this anthology and I’m curious enough to check it out.
The next film in the anthology is by Korean director Park Chan-wook titled Cut.
A famous director (Byung-hun Lee) is known not only for his talent when it comes to film making, but also for being a very nice and accommodating man. After a day of filming, he comes home to find his house completely empty, save for an intruder who knocks the director unconscious. Waking up on the set, the director finds himself face to face with the intruder (Won-Hie Lim) and his two hostages: the director’s wife (Hye-jeong Kang), whose fingers are glued to the piano, and a small child. He is then forced to play this stranger’s sick game to determine who is walking out of this in one piece.
Out of the three short films, this one if my favorite for a lot of reasons. Park Chan-wook’s use of camera movement and editing really makes this unique. Along with the nice camera and editing work, the set design is really awesome. It’s this off kilter gothic kind of set that just doesn’t seem quite right, and I mean that as a compliment. Finally, despite it being a horror film with a strong element of torture, it is also darkly comedic. This has a lot to do with the editing, but also Won-Hie Lim is also a great vocal and physical actor that we are frightened by his madness, but can’t help laughing at him. Cut stands above the other two and will not be forgotten.
Finally, from Japan, we have Takashi Miike and his segment, Box.
Kyoko (Kyoko Hasegawa) has been having a horrifying dream of being buried alive. As if her subconscious torment wasn’t enough, she has been haunted by the ghost of a little girl, thought to be her long lost sister, Shoko, who shows up in her apartment complex. In order to understand these dreams, Kyoko must search deep within her memories to those that have been locked away. The cerebral quest takes her to an all too familiar place where she has to face the demons of her past head on, all the while learning that her night mares aren’t too far from the truth.
Out of all of these short films, I’m really disappointed to say, that this one didn’t really do much for me. I’m upset about this because I really enjoy Takashi Miike as a film maker, and I know that he is capable of horror on a much grander scale than this. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a beautiful movie to look at with really nice contrasts when it comes to the lights and the darks. Unfortunately, the story is told in such a way that it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the shorts. It plays out as sort of a head trip, with very little that is extreme about it. One scene played out like some of Miike’s best work, but I had a hard time not only following this one, but staying interested.
Three… Extremes is almost a perfect anthology film, with only the final segment really dragging it down. In that way, it really feels uneven because of the high intensity of the first two, and than the slow, cerebral pace of the final one. I almost wish that it was ordered in reverse order. Maybe than the movie wouldn’t feel so sloshy. Still, to any extreme horror fan, Three… Extremes is a must see.